Nolechek's Polish Sausage FAQ: Wisconsin's Fourth-Generation Smokehouse Talks Kielbasa, Polish, & Old World Sausages
Let’s take some time to address one of the age-old questions of our time…and no; it’s not, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” The question today is, “What is the difference between polish sausage and kielbasa?”
Well, folks, it is pretty cut and dry. Kielbasa is simply the Polish word for “sausage”. The word “sausage” can mean many different types: fresh bratwurst, smoked bratwurst, breakfast links, bologna, kishka, the list goes on and on. It’s a category of meat products made from combining ground or whole muscle raw meat with other ingredients like water and spices. Most sausages are then stuffed into a casing that can be natural or synthetic, and the sausages that aren’t stuffed are formed into patties, like Nolechek’s breakfast or bratwurst patties. At Nolechek’s, our smoked kielbasa varieties are stuffed into 100% natural hog casings.
Polish Kielbasa is a type of smoked sausage that is famous in Polish culture and has a distinctive garlic taste, along with other flavorings like cloves, marjoram, and smoke. And of course, the options are endless when it comes to serving this versatile sausage. It goes great with sauerkraut, red cabbage, mashed potatoes, or rice; and is enjoyed in soups, stews, sandwiches, or casseroles. Preparation is simple, as polish sausage is typically fully cooked, so cooking is a breeze. It is great grilled, simmered, or seared. Polish sausage or kielbasa can be made with pork, beef, chicken, lamb, or turkey. Traditional Polish kielbasa is typically made using pork or a combination of beef and pork.
With five varieties to choose from, Nolechek’s Hickory Smoked Polish Sausage does not disappoint and is popular with our customers year-round, especially those of Polish descent. At Nolechek’s, we use a combination of beef and pork to create a rich flavor base that is complemented by our blend of spices and 100% natural hickory smoke. Our most popular variety is our Hickory Smoked Polish Sausage with Garlic. We also offer garlic with mustard seed for those that enjoy a textural element; old fashioned coarse ground with garlic; or a plain polish sausage with no garlic, which allows for the richness of the beef and pork to shine through. And for those that enjoy sauerkraut, Nolechek’s Hickory Smoked Polish Sausage with Sauerkraut is one to check off your bucket list. Yup, the kraut, along with the perfect amount of brown sugar and caraway seed, is in the Polish! How easy is that?!
Slovenian sausage is a unique specialty kielbasa that Nolechek’s started making for the Slovenian community in the Willard, Wisconsin, area back in the 1960s. Made with beef and pork, this sausage doesn’t disappoint with copious amounts of garlic and black pepper, just like the Slovenians like it. Andouille (pronounced “ahn-DOO-wee”) is southern-style sausage popular in Louisiana Cajun cuisine that’s made with lean pork butts that are coarsely ground. It packs a punch with red and black peppers and garlic and is a great addition to soups, stews, gumbo, or jambalaya. Both specialty sausages are smoked using 100% natural hickory smoke, right in our family’s smokehouse.
When Bill, Sr., started developing recipes shortly after returning to the family business in 1952, Thorp Brand Polish Sausage was one of the originals developed at Nolechek’s Meats. Before spice companies blended private recipes and sold them in pre-mixed units, the spices were kept in the freezer and before each batch the unit would be measured out according to the batch size and mixed in a spice tumbler. The product would be stuffed, twisted into links by hand, and then placed in the original 8’ x 6’ smokehouse at Nolechek’s. After smoking, the product was placed in a separate steaming room because the original smokehouse didn’t have the ability to produce humidity, which finishes the cooking process. Back then, batches were small because the technology to vacuum seal product wasn’t available. The original garlic variety was the only option available and was sold out of the case in retail.
While we do things on a larger scale today at Nolechek’s, our commitment to quality and the integrity of the process has remained the same. Our kielbasa – or Polish sausage, if you prefer – is special not just because the taste, texture, and overall experience of the product is delicious, it’s special because of the story behind it. Nolechek’s has been crafting sausage products for 70 years and we take pride in the fact that to this day we offer the same flagship products that were developed in the early years, made with the highest quality cuts of meat and spices. We’re grateful to be a part of our fans’ traditions and memories that revolve around food because that’s been the foundation of our family for four generations.