Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Blame it on the Kielbasa Nova

On Monday I was asked by my co-workers, "So, Beej, what did you do this weekend?" I casually shrugged and said "Oh, I went to my dad's house and made kielbasa," as if this is something that everyone does all the time. I said it in a tone that I reserve for "Oh, I went to the movies," or "Oh, we hung around the house."

"You did what?" co-workers asked.

Making kielbasa is something that my family does at least once per year. When I was a kid we'd gather at my grandfather's house--located in a scary neighborhood in Springfield, MA. His kitchen smelled like natural gas and garlic on the day that we made kielbasa. And every time I smell that combination, it reminds me of when I was a kid and watched the blue flame emerge under a pan on his stove. Dziadzu (Grandpa in Polish, pronounced ja-JOO) had a smoker in the basement of the 2 family house he owned. A Hispanic family lived on the second floor, and I remember my cousins and I playing with Mario, the little boy who lived upstairs, while my parents, Dziadzu, and my aunts and uncles made kielbasa.

Years later we made kielbasa at my Uncle Joe's house. Joe had the smoker in his shed in his back yard. My cousins and I ran around and played all day while my parents, the aunts and the uncles ground the meat, stuffed it into casings, set it to smoke in the smoker, and drank vodka. Then one of my aunts would take a sausage from the smoker, and cut it up so that all the kids could have a piece of it.

Making kielbasa on Saturday was surreal for me. I watched my nieces and nephews play in the backyard, and I taught them a few of the games that I played as a child when my parents were making kielbasa. Todd ground the meat with my sister and my sister in law. They took a handful of it and fried it up so that they could test the recipe, just as my aunts and uncles had done. My sister and Todd stuffed the meat into the casings, while my nieces and nephews carted tray after tray to my brother who was tending to the fire in the smoker in the shed.

I sat in front of the smoker, watching the thermometer and drank a few Mike's Cranberries. We laughed and joked. I stood in the doorway and listened to the kielbasa sizzle with one ear, and my nieces and nephews play in the other.

After about 3 hours the kielbasa was done. I carried a fresh link into the kitchen, peeled it and cut it up. I called out to the kids, and they descended like vultures. Before I knew it, the cutting board was empty, and I counted my fingers to make sure I still had 10. Dad cut up a few pieces in the shed and picked up his vodka laden drink,"You need to have fresh kielbasa with a chaser."

Here's the raw kielbasa, waiting to get smoked.

This is the ominous looking smokehouse that my dad designed and built. Dad's a very inventive machinist. He built those doors himself. Behind the doors he has a retractable arm that the rungs of kielbasa rest on. The whole arm assembly swivels so he can rotate the kielbasa so they will cook evenly.

Almost done. You can see the swiveling retracting arm mechanism here. Dad built that whole thing himself.

The smoker is deep enough to fit several rows.

Fresh smoked kielbasa. 20 of these bad boys are now in my freezer.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Awesome family traditions, PLUS kielbasa at the end.

Beats the hell out of our hog-slaughtering get-togethers! :D

March 18, 2009 at 7:18 AM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

Well, we've had those too. We've done the pig roast on a rotisserie that Dad made, seemingly, out of common household items. LOL

March 18, 2009 at 7:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved this post, but the thing I loved most about it was "ominous-looking smokehouse." I immediately had Texas Chainsaw Massacre thoughts. Are you sure that kielbasa was made out of pig or cow and not the nieces and nephews that were naughty last year?

March 18, 2009 at 7:53 AM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

So, how would the Polish Chainsaw Massacre work out? For starters, there's be no blade on the chainsaw.

You know, not all my nieces and nephews were in attendance. I did do a headcount 1-2 times that day and didn't see any discrepancy. Hmmm...

March 18, 2009 at 10:59 AM  

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