The English have blood pudding, the French have boudin noir, the Germans have blutwurst, the Spanish have morcilla. Sausage containing blood is an old and nearly universal foodstuff, part of the peasant food tradition of using every bit of the animal. (We recently brought you the Italian pigs’ blood chocolate pudding that’s made especially for Easter.) These blood sausages are generally made by simmering blood with fatty meat until the blood has reduced enough that it will completely congeal upon cooling.
Polish blood sausage is called kiszka. (More accurately, it’s called kaszanka, which is a type of kiszka, or sausage. But in the US, kiszka seems to have become an accepted nickname for kaszanka.) In any case, it’s a much loved comfort food. The fat, dark length that I bought today was homemade by the good folks at Jubilat Provisions, where they also cure and smoke their own kielbasa and ham, and make their own headcheese, liver pate and tripe stew.
The guy behind the counter said that this kiszka was made with cow’s blood, pork and buckwheat. I asked him how he suggested serving it, and he said that although some people eat it cold, many people boil it–add it to boiling water, quickly shut the heat off, and let it sit for five minutes; or slice it and fry it into a hash with onions; or just put it in some “silver paper” and put it in a hot oven for 20 minutes. He said that last method was his favorite, so that’s what I did. An entire length, about a pound, only cost $3.
To the left: that’s what the kiszka looked like cold. I took a bite. It tasted a little under-seasoned and overwhelmingly of marjoram. Above, that’s what it looked like when it came out of the oven, transformed. It became very soft, a luxuriously fatty mush, the dark mixture seeping out of the casing. The earthy flavor of the buckwheat and the sharp mineral taste of blood, plus plenty of black pepper, balanced out the marjoram. Tiny bits of fat and buckwheat gave it texture.
A popular 1950s polka, written by Polish-born musician Walter Dana, is called Who Stole the Kiszka? The lyrics go like this:
You can have my shinka
Take my sweet koscheeke
Take my plump perogi
You can even have my chernika
Take my long kielbasa
Double entendres from the 50s are so cute! (Shinka is Polish slang for ham; chernika are berries; I don’t know what koscheeke is. Anyone?) The song ends with the line: “But please, bring back my kiszka!”
There’s a recipe for kiszka from polka enthusiasts here.
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