My Polish Deli Haul

The liturgical calendar with its seasonal religious holy days/holidays is the warp and woof of Roman Catholicism. After 27 years of being a Catholic before trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone in 1983, I had had my fill of following the liturgical calendar, but I don’t begrudge my fellow believers who enjoy the seasonal religious holidays. I’m also not a fan of using the word, “Easter,” for the commemoration of Resurrection Sunday since it may possibly have a pagan connection (although the presumed connection to the pagan fertility goddess, Ishtar/Asherah, is not an open-and-shut case as some assume, see here), but it’s not my hill to die on, either.

Anyway, last Thursday, Easter/Resurrection Day was coming up and for any Pole that means getting some “fresh” kielbasa. Many of you are familiar with the delicious smoked variety of Polish sausage/kielbasa, but you may not know about the fresh, unsmoked biała (“white”) version. Growing up, my family always had fresh kielbasa for the holidays. So delicious. But it’s hard to find. Fresh kielbasa was occasionally available at our local big box grocery store, Wegmans’, but I haven’t seen it there in long time. No big loss. Their version of fresh kielbasa isn’t all that good, anyway. The word “pedestrian” comes to mind when thinking about Wegmans’ fresh kielbasa. You see, a Pole is very fussy and discriminating about their fresh kielbasa. Nope, my aim was to drive to the Polska Chata (pronounced pole-skuh ha-tuh, “Polish House”) deli/restaurant in Irondequoit to pick up a couple of pounds of fresh kielbasa because I knew from experience that theirs was excellent.

So, on the Thursday before Easter/Resurrection Day, I first took a trip to the Dybowski Authentic Polish Market (photo above) on Hudson Avenue on the fringes of Rochester’s old Polish Town neighborhood. Dybowski’s has a much larger variety of Polish food items than Polska Chata and I had a few things in mind. The place was busier than downtown Warsaw with Rochester Poles preparing for Easter/Resurrection Day dinner. I bought two cartons of Krakus brand zurek (“sour rye soup”) and two bottles of Vavel (Americanized version of the Polish Wawel) brand black currant juice aka czarna porzeczka nektar. Both zurek and black currant juice are very popular in Poland. Both food items are so delicious. I also couldn’t resist browsing Dybowski’s impressive sausage display. They have about ten different varieties of smoked kielbasa in addition to many other types of Polish-style meats. I ended up buying two large links of cherry wood smoked kielbasa aka kielbasa wisniowa. I also noticed they had two varieties of fresh kielbasa, but I was determined to pick up my biała sausage at Polska Chata.

Above: Polska Chata deli/restaurant

I then got in my car and drove the two miles to Polska Chata and they were packed with customers as well. The deli/restaurant changed hands in 2018, but I was hoping they still offered the fabulous fresh biała kielbasa that the previous owner, Margaret Gorniak, had shipped in from Toronto. No such circumstance. As I stood in the long line, I noticed several customers requesting fresh kielbasa and the owner retrieving frozen…ach…FROZEN fresh kielbasa from the back freezer. Two problems, 1) fresh kielbasa should never be frozen, and 2) the kielbasa looked mediocre, like the stuff Wegmans’ sells’. It certainly wasn’t the sausage imported from Toronto that I bought in previous years.

So I got in my car and drove back to Dybowski’s. I asked the young pana behind the display cases, which of the two fresh biała varieties she recommended. She suggested the big, fat variety produced by the Winding River Meat Company (Bloomfield, NJ, Joe Krzyworzeka, proprietor). The kielbasa actually resembled my previous favorite imported by Margaret G.

I drove home with my Polish stash and a couple of hours later I prepared my fresh biała kielbasa. Unlike smoked kielbasa, you don’t pan fry fresh kielbasa. My mom always boiled it, but I subsequently learned from “old country” Poles that there’s only one way to cook fresh kielbasa and that’s to put it in a pyrex baking dish with about a half-inch of water, cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 350F for 45-60 minutes.

Mój, o, mój! My, oh, my! The fresh biała kielbasa from Winding River was sooooo good. The best I ever had. My wife concurred that it was the best she had ever tasted. Very little fat. Mild. No grizzle. The cherry wood smoked kielbasa wisniowa was also good, but I couldn’t detect the slightly sweet flavor it was claimed to have.

Well, my Polish fresh kielbasa excursion adventure definitely had a happy ending. I’ll be going back to Dybowski’s in a month or two for another Polish fix.

Note: Fresh kielbasa is served with freshly-ground horseradish.

Above: My Polish deli haul: Back row: Krakus zurek sour rye soup and Vavel Black Currant Juice. Front row: fresh biała kielbasa and cherry wood smoked kielbasa wisniowa.
Above: Some of the varieties of smoked kielbasa on display at Dybowski’s
Above: A large variety of food goods imported from Poland line Henry Dybowski’s store shelves

19 thoughts on “My Polish Deli Haul

    1. Thanks for reading, Bruce! Boy, oh, boy. So good. Indescribably delicious. But please keep this between you and me. I don’t want my internist to hear about my sausage gorging.

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  1. I always associated Easter more with the AngloSaxon pagan sabbat Ostara which celebrates Eostre the goddess of spring and New Beginnings. I occasionally catch myself using Easter in conversation but when I speak to believers to wish them a happy day I use Resurrection Day.

    Those sausages sound delicious!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for sharing the best of these ethnic flavors. Brought back memories of working with my partner Wrobleski for many years. During long hours he would get some kielbasa and fresh bread and we’d have a little feast.
    I’m hungry already! Thanks Tom!

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  3. We shopped at Wegmans when we lived in PA. We enjoyed shopping there but we found that their meet wasn’t of the best quality. It’s interesting how we love the foods we grew up with. My father made homemade Italian sausage. Slow cooked in a tomato sauce it was fork tender. We loved it! Fresh kielbasa sounds interesting and yummy. What we find in the supermarket can’t compare to the stores that sell authentic ethnic foods. If my dad didn’t make the sausage at home we would get it from the Italian pork store which was equally as good. Good post Tom!

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    1. Thanks, Cathy! Wow! Your Dad’s homemade Italian sausage had to have been delish. I always crumble up some Italian sausage into my spaghetti sauce when I make that. You’re so right about food from ethnic shops being the best.

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  4. Wonder what kielbasa tastes like! These kind of ethnic delis are things my wife and I like to visit though there’s not much Polish ones near us but there’s a lot of Italian and Armenian ones. Wonder if there’s less of this in your local groceries because there’s less people being aware of this Polish food among younger generations.

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    1. Oh man! A smoked kielbasa dog cooked on the grill beats a hot dog hands down, and you know I like hot dogs.
      Yeah, I’m sure the demand for fresh kielbasa at Wegmans’ has declined with the passing of generations. It was stocked regularly before the pandemic hit.

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      1. Yup, for the two Polish delis in Rochester, the cost of importing the food goods from Poland are going to be spiking. It’s actually amazing we have the two Polish delis here in Rochester at this point because all of the Poles fled the old Polish Town neighborhood and the few Polish associations that are left are running on fumes.

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