How to Make Kielbasa and Cabbage: A Polish Family Recipe
Kielbasa and Cabbage
Kielbasa and Cabbage: A Family Favorite
My mother's family made the journey from Poland to America during the Great Depression. Although they carried with them only a few material possessions, they brought a wealth of their regional Polish culinary knowledge. My grandmother was an excellent cook, and, fortunately for all of us, many of her recipes and techniques were handed down through the generations.
One of our favorite recipes is kielbasa and cabbage, a simple, hearty dish that pleases a crowd without breaking the budget. True to my grandmother's tradition, we make this pleasing meal when the weather is cold and the onions and cabbage are going into storage for the winter. In my grandmother's day, this would also be the time of year for butchering and making homemade kielbasa.
Where to Find Kielbasa
We don't make our own kielbasa these days. Instead, we use quality, commercially prepared kielbasa such as the Hillshire Farm brand. Their product line includes several varieties of Polish kielbasa including "lite" and turkey. Most supermarket chains carry at least one Polish kielbasa brand.
Now and again we do enjoy shopping in our local Polish markets for their homemade varieties, but because these special sausages are so expensive, we enjoy them only on special occasions. When we do splurge on homemade kielbasa, we simply heat, slice, and serve with horseradish for a rich, zesty appetizer.
Would you like to make your own kielbasa? Take a look at John D Lee's recipe for making homemade kielbasa.
Now, let's get to the recipe!
How To Slice the Cabbage
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups white or yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 1/2 pounds fresh cabbage, cored, quartered, and finely sliced
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, finely diced
- 2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and finely diced
- 1 pound kielbasa, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Sautéing the Onions
A Full Pot of Cabbage Ready for Slow Cooking
- Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot or dutch oven.
- Add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Add half the thinly sliced cabbage and all of the apple and garlic. Toss with the onions, cover, and turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring two or three times to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Add the rest of the cabbage. Mix all ingredients well, cover, and let cook for an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Add the sliced kielbasa and the black pepper. Mix ingredients thoroughly, cover, and let cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- The kielbasa and cabbage are done when all the cabbage is cooked through and soft, and there's a fair amount of liquid in the bottom of the pot.
We can't stress enough the importance of long, slow cooking. The low heat and extended time cause the ingredients to release their water and fat, essentially creating a meat, fruit, and vegetable stock that unifies the flavors and aromas of the ingredients. If this dish cooks too quickly, the ingredients will become dry and tough and the hearty, earthy taste will be compromised.
Yield: Approximately eight one-cup servings.
Are You Cooking for One?
Don't hesitate to make this recipe just because you usually cook only for yourself. Freeze cooked and cooled kielbasa and cabbage in single-serving containers that are freezer-proof and microwaveable. When you are hungry for a hot Polish meal, defrost, heat, and enjoy!
Our favorite way to eat kielbasa and cabbage is to ladle it out over a bowl of hot salted and buttered egg noodles. Equally delicious and satisfying with this hearty, fragrant dish are garlic mashed potatoes from annemaeve's kitchen. For rich, red color and a sweet and tangy flavor, serve a side of heated Aunt Nellie's Harvard Beets. Another beautiful and sweetly flavorful accompaniment to this meal is a serving of steamed, buttered carrots. And don't forget some fresh rye bread to use as a pusher and to sop up the tasty juices.
By the way, we've never heard of or known a child who doesn't like this dish. If you prepare kielbasa and cabbage for very young children, be sure to cut the meat slices into smaller pieces.
Recipes appearing in Sally’s Trove articles are original, having been created and tested in our family kitchens, unless otherwise noted.