Saturday, 13 November 2010

A Sausage by any other name

My family describes me as a sausage eater. Since the Polish word 'kiełbasa' unambiguously covers both their equivalent of the English sausage and many types of roughly sausage-shaped cooked meats, such as kabanosy, I am not absolutely sure what they mean, but I think they refer to frying/grilling sausage. I know that I am being ridiculed - my preference is compared to my dislike of 'healthy' boiled carrots, and it goes along with ridicule of the greasy English Breakfast. (Before you jump to the defence of this institution, remember how many Polish women have worked as waitresses in England.)

After an initial, short period of wistful longing for the English sausage, I started shopping in Polish hypermarkets and discovered kiełbasa surowa (raw-meat sausage), which, not only relieved me of my longing, but even made me wonder why I had liked English sausages. The closest I had had in England were chipolatas from the local butcher's in Necton, Norfolk - they were full of meat. When I lived in Warsaw's Jelonki, the six local hypermarkets and many other supermarkets gave me an irresistible choice, but I am more restrained out in the rural suburbs. So, a rare visit to Auchan (Piaseczno) re-aroused my interest: I picked up a handful of different flavours.

I first had Mexican sausage (ie chilli flavoured), but since it inspired me to write this only after having cooked and eaten it, I don't have pictures or details. Most enjoyable as a sandwich, with Mika, the dog, getting the bits that poked out too much from the sides. Well, some of them.

The sausage with pepper is shown below. The ingredients were 68% class 2 pork, 30% class 2 beef, spices and herbs (salt, pepper, nutmeg/mace, marjoram, cumin, garlic and chilli). It is a thick, non segmented sausage. After grilling, it is chunky, moist and full of meat, with a good peppery taste. Per kilo price 12 zl, roughly £2.75, depending on exchange rate. Great. (The curvature of the natural skins means that they can't be shallow fried properly, but I always grill anyway. Mind you, the fat alone brings back tantalising memories of the days when bread and dripping was still a healthy and appetising supper, so just one tiny bit to explode the taste buds, and then in the bin.)

'Mergezy', below, is a Polish version of merguez, a North African sausage. It's made from 78% class 2 beef, 20% lamb/mutton, natural spices (no definition), lactose, dextrose and natural flavouring. This is a thin, finer-ground sausage, which comes out drier than a pork sausage. It has a nicely lingering, rather than hot, spicy flavour. I especially like the mutton element, which is as close as I get to eating lamb here. It is especially nice as a home made version of an English-style kebab (with hot chilli sauce and without cabbage). The cost is 16zl, perhaps £3.75, reflecting the high cost of lamb.

I think Auchan also do garlic, rosemary, herb and plain meat (pork, and pork and beef) versions. My local Tesco (Pruszków) is too small to have a consistent range but they do occasionally have some versions other than plain meat.

How do prices compare with the UK? I have little information on fair comparisons, especially since Polish versions contain more meat, but refers to Tesco Finest Traditionally Made Pork Chipolatas - 85% pork as being a worthwhile supermarket sausage. The large sausage version of this costs £5.29 a kilo. Flavoured versions cost more. Even Tesco Butcher's Choice Pork Sausages - 56% pork - cost £4.34 per kilo.

Details of sausages sold in Tesco in the UK.


Jacek said...

By the sound of it, being ridiculed doesn't affect you at all and good for you. I also get ridiculed (well at least did in the past) for my eating preferences/habits I had brought with me from the motherland. Needless to say, it is all water off a duck's back to me. We live for those little pleasures! Mine is gorging on inordinate amounts of “ptasie mleczko” and “torunskie pierniki” I get from the local Polish store here (coming from Torun an additional factor preventing moderation). In the end I always get nauseous ... but never have any regrets.

Paddy Ney said...

Steve I had a question I wanted to run past you. I am going back to Wroclaw to see the in-Laws before I head back to the UK for Christmas. I thought I would cook my newphew and niece, who haven't tried English food yet, an individual toad-in-the-hole (recipe here in case you're interested Do you think any of the sausages you've mentioned here would work well with this? The biggest problem for me in making this dish in Poland is choosing which uncooked sausage should go with it. Thanks, Paddy