One of the nice things about being in Afghanistan (yes being in a war zone can heve a plus side at times, you hear about these in this blog). I travel a lot dealing with force protection and cover an area of operations that includes the Polish Army contingent, as well as 1st Infantry Division units.
So, one of the plus sides of being here is meeting people from all over the world, as well as from Afghanistan itself (yes, there are good people from Afghanistan, they are not all Taliban). I met Michal Dabrowski at a tiny firebase that I go to regularly. He is a Polish civilian medic who goes out on patrols with the soldiers and tends to their health overall, not just battle wounds. Based on the years of training he has, I think he has the education of a physician’s assistant versus that of a US EMT.
In any case, he speaks English very well and I can barely say anything in Polish, a very difficult language for native English speakers. He also has a love for cooking and almost became a chef. His brother is a chef in Poland. A few of the Polish soldiers who speak some English have talked to me about various things, including their pride in their heritage (Poland used to be the biggest kingdom in Europe, was the home of the Teutonic Knights, originated tons of foods that most people in the world associate with other countries, the brutal Katyn Forest massacre of 1940, how Roosevelt and Churchill sold Poland down the drain to Stalin at Yalta and many other topics).
These are all very interesting perspectives from both older Poles who remember communism and the younger soldiers who were born afterwards. They are very proud of their food, and Michal and me regularly talk about recipes and he tries to educate me on Polish dishes, particularly that keilbasa as Americans know it is not real keilbasa. This includes the link (most common) variety. But, what really intrigued me was the keilbasa in a jar (Michal’s recipe, there are zillions of varients).
Kielbasa ze sloika (Kielbasa in a jar)
1 kg boneless pork
1 kg boneless beef
1 kg fresh bacon
1.5 – 2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon marjoram (Michal puts more than one)
1 tablespoon vegetable broth
4 tablespoons gelatin
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1.2 liters water
The cuts of pork and beef are up to you. This was(is) a poor people’s food, so low quality cuts are fine. Trim fat if you want less fat or use leaner meat.
Mix everything except water and run through meat grinder. Michal recommends using 8mm holes for grinder. After grinding, add water and mix well by hand.
Put in small jars (say, pint Mason jars) and leave at least 2 cm at the top open. The fat will rise to the top. Close jars and put in pot of water completely submerged.
If small jars, simmer for at least 2 hours, if larger jars, simmer longer, up to 4 hours.
I plan on making this when I get home for R & R. I am assuming it looks like one of those disgusting sandwich spreads in a can. But, if you look at the ingredients, it is anything but that. It sounds delicious. Michal uses the fat that comes to the top and any gelatin, as well. The kilbasa can be spread on bread (please, use decent bread, this is not Wonder bread swill), sliced and eaten cold or heated or used like any other keilbasa in any recipe. Use your imagination. This is keilbasa, it just isn’t in links. Michal says the gelatin makes a great bread spread.