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Photograph: Martha Williams

Thirteen kinds of Polish sausage

Learning to tell your kabonasy from your krupniok opens up a whole new world of encased meats for fans of Polish sausage.


1. Kiełbasa myśliwska (keow-BAH-sah mish-LEEV-skah) Kielbasa is the general term for sausage, and mysliwska means “hunter,” a reference to the idea that smoked and dried sausages such as this one (which is all pork, with a touch of juniper) are perfect travel companions for hunters because their lack of moisture keeps them from spoiling and they can be eaten at room temp.

2. Surowo-wędzona (soo-RO-voh ven-ZO-nah) Surowo means “fresh” or “raw,” and wedzona means “smoked.” The name is somewhat confusing, because technically it’s not a fresh sausage; it’s been cold-smoked, meaning smoked at a lower temperature, yielding a moister texture closer to raw meat but safe to eat as is. Still, most people will heat these through then eat them warm.

3. Krupniok (KRROP-nee-ahk) This Silesian term for blood sausage is interchangeable with kiszka, although locally, kiszka tends to have a higher barley-to-pork-blood ratio while krupniok is noticeably darker, with more blood than barley. Both are traditionally sliced and pan-fried.

4. Kiełbasa surowa (keow-BAH-sah soo-RO-voh) Unlike the surowo-wedzona, this sausage earns its surowa designation honestly and it is indeed raw. The traditional preparation is to boil it whole (the natural casings are edible) either alone or in a soup to finish off the cooking process just before eating.

5. Kabanosy drobiowe z Kury (kah-bah-NO-see dro-bee-YO-veh zee KOO-ree) Kabonasy is the general term for stick sausage snacks (think Slim Jims but better), drobiowe means “chicken” and z Kury means “from Kury,” which is a village in Poland. In a nutshell, this is a chicken stick sausage made according to a recipe from someone native to Kury.

6. Kabanosy (kah-bah-NO-see) Stick sausage snack made of pork, which is seasoned with salt, garlic and a touch of caraway then smoked and dried for a somewhat hard consistency.

7. Kabanosy pikantne (kah-bah-NO-see peh-KAHNT-nay) Stick sausage snack with a bit of extra crushed pepper to make it “spicy,” i.e., pikante

8. Parówki cielęce (pah-ROOV-key che-LEN-tsay) Parowki are the frankfurters, or hot dogs, of the Polish-sausage world: They’re comprised of finely pureed bits and pieces, they’re not smoked, and they should be boiled (without their plastic casings, of course) just before eating. Cielece means “veal,” which is generally only seen in sausages of this form.

9. Kiełbasa weselna (keow-BAH-sah vuh-SELL-neh) Weselna means “wedding,” and some say this style of double-smoked pork sausage used to be the preferred choice to serve at weddings. These days, it’s simply a signifier of intense smokiness and a touch of garlic flavor.

10. Parówki wieprzowe (pah-ROOV-key vee-up-SHOW-veh) Wieprzowe means “pork,” so these are simply pork hot dogs, which should be boiled but typically aren’t eaten on buns.

11. Krakowska parzona (krah-KOVE-skah pah-ZHO-nah) Krakowsa is a reference to Krakow, the former capital of Poland (which really has nothing to do with the flavor) and parzona means that this sausage is primarily steam cooked then lightly smoked, making it less smoky and more hamlike, ideal for slicing and eating with bread and mustard as an open-faced sandwich.

12. Jałowcowa (jah-wuv-SO-vah) This smoked and dried pork sausage’s name refers to “juniper,” which is crushed and added to the pork mixture before it’s encased and is also tossed into the smoker during the smoking process, lending a subtle piney flavor.

13. Wiejska (vee-AY-skah) The closest translation of the name means “a rural one,” in other words, country-style. This smoked pork sausage packs more of a garlicky flavor than others.

All of these can be found at Andy’s Deli (5442 N Milwaukee Ave), but other good sausage spots include Bobak’s (5275 S Archer Ave), Wally’s Market (3256 N Milwaukee Ave), Kurowski’s Sausage Shop (2978 N Milwaukee Ave), Joe and Frank’s (7147 W Archer Ave) and Gene’s Sausage Shop (5330 W Belmont Ave).

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