Saturday, March 31, 2012


Yesterday was filled with such amazing hours, women, (oh, and one male), instruction, fun and joy.  I drove to Bratenahl, to Kathy's home.  There assembled her mom (my Aunt Natalie), her sister Lisa, brother David, and cousin cousins.  It was the day set aside to teach me how to make Kielbasa.

But first things first.  We were picking numbers for the Mega Millions.  Naturally, I had no idea how to do this.  So one was an AUTO and the other were just numbers I selected randomly.  One had to be 16 because by year's end we will have greeted 2 new grands...bringing the number to 16. I doubt any of us there really believed we would win but it was the Polish Kielbasa Cousins start of the day.  I arrived without money but will send my $2 on....We all apparently lost but whomever took on my 'loan' does not deserve to take on my 'debt' so i will be sending the cash to whomever.  Thanks!

Standing guard over this huge tub of meat was David...who had the difficult job of putting his hands into the cold meat and mix in all the seasoning Kathy would add.  This was 41.5 pounds!

Kathy learned this skill at her daddy's knee...Uncle Ted Swintek.  He told her that the recipe was his mother-in-law' grandmother....and because Kathy's hands were the same size as grandma's these were the ones used to determine how much of each seasoning was needed.  I was going to compare my hands to Kathy's but got too entranced too rapidly and forgot.  I'm counting on having more times together and will do it later.

Next came the seasonings.  Garlic, water, salt, pepper, Accent, and whatever else anyone would want.  Using her hands to measure is something called NE OKO...or something like that.

Then came the mixing.  The meat is really cold and you really need to KNEAD the ingredients well.  You wouldn't want to bite into a hunk of pepper, would you?  This was David's job..he had the brute strength, powerful hands, and experience to do this...but I had to try. Mainly because I wanted to see how the meat felt and how it didn't stick on my hands.  Periodically, Kathy would pour some water in and over her brother's hands. You want to do this so that the meat gets to not stick to your hands very much.

When this was completed, it was time to rinse out the casings (which I called intestines but was reminded that it sounds better if we say casings...and Kathy was does.  But these are real 'casings' not synthetic casings).  Water is run through each very long casing and then all are submerged in water, kept in water so they don't dry out.  Not only does this make them clean but helps you to see that the casings are whole, with no splits.

Then the casing is attached to the wetted horn of the sausage maker, gently pushed back.  A knot is tied in the last and then starts the process. We made a nice size link of kielbasa to test.  Water was boiled and the kielbasa cooked til done.  This is done so that we can taste and determine if the seasoning is fine or if it needed to be changed.  This go-round, it was perfect!  A funny moment needs to be recorded here.  We were all seated around the table while Kathy cut the sausages into small rounds, placed about 5 on the first plate, handed it to Natalie and told her to "Pass the Plate",  She speared a piece with her fork and handed it to me.  I did likewise...only to be ridiculed gently about being she wanted us to pass the whole plate as it to David. We were each to receive our own plate.  Poor David.  He got the least amount. But anyway...that's how traditonal ways of making sausage as well as traditions of silliness get started.  This is LuLu...who understands English and Polish and some Italian. Typical pooch, she sat faithfully at Kathy's feet, awaiting to share some of the kielbasa.

In the video above, you can see Kathy placing the casings on the horn and Natalie getting ready to crank out the meat.   First I took my turn at cranking the mill, evenly and slowly so as to allow the meet to come through evenly and slowly filling the casings.

Then it was my turn to try out holding the casings so that no extra air enters as the meet comes through the horn,  I think it was Natalie's job to keep the sausage turning into the circle.
Now, Natalie cranked and I continued to make more rings.

See how lovely this ring turned out.  And yes, you add a knot at the end of the ring as you did at the beginning.

The little bit of sausage meat that was left was scraped out and made into a few patties to be eaten for breakfast the next morning.  Natalie wraps them up in plastic wrap.

 Aunt Natalie sorted through all the rings of kielbasa that were packaged into freezer bags and placed in this very large box.  Everyone took home eat, to freeze, to enjoy.

 Lisa opted to kibuttz and walk the dog, and in the end did the yeoman work of cleaning out the machinery, to be put away until next time it's needed.

As we sat around the family Kathy took out some family pictures to prove to Natalie that she was not adopted as her older sister and cousin had told her once when she was very little (do all siblings do this?  my children did!) and caused her to cry.  Then this picture was taken out and his story was told. This is my grandmother's brother, John Oleski (I thought the last name was also spelled Olecki) who at 14, lied about his age in order to go to war.  When it was discovered, he was made a cook and somewhat protected...but he returned afterwards with a head of white hair due to Mustard Gas.
 This is the back of the photo...noting that he was 14 when he enlisted, and also that he gave his sister away at her wedding.  John was born in the US. I also learned that my grandmother might have been 2 years old when she arrived in the US from Poland.

I know Kathy thinks I need to 'get a life' because I so looked forward to this day.  But really, I loved it.  I came right home, ordered myself a butter bell so I could be part of the incrowd and then looked up this wonderful sausage maker. I found one on eBay.

But I remembered that Natalie says her KitchenAid has a sausage making attachment. I wrote to Hank to see if his does. But I also found one that would attach to my Bosch.

Am I manic?  Am I crazed? Oh yes...I'm tellin' you, it was SO much fun! I love to learn things  and I love to be with friends and family.  And for me, having all these wonderful cousins around, so near, so friendly is a special gift. Not only that, these are people who grew up together, who love each other, who can tease each other but always have kind words. A-MAZING (Aunt Natalie gave Lisa a pin of a picture of Kathy when she was a youngster and Lisa insisted on wearing it. Consequently, Kathy put up a picture of Lisa when she was the Queen of the Polish American Veterans, crown and cape and all, standing with her parents).  And just plain courtesy ran through every comment and joke.  Hopefully this wasn't just for me..that it IS them...I think it was too normal.

 And guess what...there was mentioned getting together to make perogies.  You know that I know how to make perogies, that I do and I have made perogies...even at the library and had my hands featured on the newspaper's videoblog. Oh, and one more thing.  Wanna know what  Kathy sang at one point while filling the casings?

Someone stole the keeshka
Someone stole the keeshka
Someone stole the keeshka
From the butcher shop

Who stole the keeshka
Who stole the keeshka
Who stole the keeshka

Someone call the cop

Round, firm and fully-packed
It was hanging on the rack
Someone stole the keeshka
When I turned my back

Who stole the keeshka
Who stole the keeshka
Who stole the keeshka

Someone call the cop

You can take my shinka
Take my fine kilbase
You can take my pierogi
But give me back my keeshka

Who stole the keeshka
Who stole the keeshka
Who stole the keeshka

Won't you bring it back

Yaschel found the keeshka
Yaschel found the keeshka
Yaschel found the keeshka
He hung it on the rack

He found the keeshka
He found the keeshka
He found the keeshka

Yaschel brought it back


Lin Floyd said...

sounds like a fun filled family traditions day!

Cara said...

fun times!

gremhog said...

I am posting this from the Kielbasa Kween herself Kathy. She sent this to me as an email: Cousin Susan:

I still can't figure out how to leave a comment on your blog so I thought that I would send an e-mail instead.

I read the blog and loved how you got all the details about kielbasa making. (including passing the plate to taste the test link). Lulu made the blog too.

I have to admit that yes, you saw us as we usually are--a little goofy and ready to laugh at ourselves. If not, we can always laugh at each other. We do that too.

Hopefully you and Robert have tried the kielbasa and found it tasty. Lisa and her family have already tried some and enjoyed it. Natalie and George tried theirs as well and George called to talk to his favorite relative but settled for me. As for us we will save our first ring for Easter Sunday. Again, it's that tradition for us.

Thank you again for your bread, it was fantastic with a nice hot cup of tea for breakfast. Kudos.

I really had a nice time chatting and working and hope that you did too. You seemed so excited that I bet you will be making your own sausage sooner than later.

Have a wonderful Easter surrounded by family and friends.

Your cousin, now and always...


Jocelyn Christensen said...

Which grandmother?

This looks like great fun and the photo of John is beautiful!

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