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Kielbasa Jalocowa - Kielbasa with Juniper

Written By Culinary Pen on Saturday, July 19, 2014 | 8:28:00 AM

I've talked about my love for juniper in the past, and it's still in full force.  When I saw a recipe in the Marianski brothers/Gebarowski book for Kielbasa Jalocowa, I just had to try it.  Not just because it used juniper, but also because it was from Southern Poland, where the land is more hilly and mountainous going up to the Tatry Mountains.  This leads to both shrubby juniper bushes, the raising of sheep, and hunting of game.  So while the recipe was still largely pork, the authors explained it was not uncommon to find lamb, duck, or wild game in these regional kielbasa.
Pork and Lamb Kielbasa
Now, I actually made this kielbasa twice over the last two months.  The first time I made it with 20% lamb meat, with the rest being pork.  The instructions suggested a small amount of ground juniper berries being added to the meat (3g juniper for 5kg meat), plus, mixing whole juniper berries/branches in with the smoking wood chips.  This was to give the meat an enhanced juniper aroma, as well as a pronounced dark color, perhaps from the additional resins in the wood?

The resulting lamb kielbasa was great.  Just a little bit of lamb flavor peeking out.  But my issue is that it didn't really taste of juniper.  I use wild-harvested juniper and it always has a great flavor, so my doubt wasn't with the berries being old or stale.  But juniper can be a love-it/hate-it ingredient, like cilantro, hot peppers, or anchovies; perhaps the recipe was too conservative in its juniper proportions for my tastes?

So I made the kielbasa again.  This time, I wanted to try some duck in the kielbasa.  A friend had given us an old duck that was lame after being attacked by a predator.  I butchered the duck for this kielbasa. The meat was very dark and firm, but there was not much fat on the duck.  I added the skin of the duck as well, to help add extra fat.  Finally, as a internal garnish, I coarsely ground a duck breast through my 3/4" die.  This produced large chunks of duck breast and fat.  The rest of the keilbasa weight was made up of finely ground pork.  To up the juniper flavor, I jumped up to 14 grams for 2.5kg of meat.

After it came out of the smoker, I was pleased to find a pronounced juniper flavor in the Kielbasa Jalocowa.  Piney, resinous, and wonderfully intense, it was just what I wanted.  Unfortunately, the duck breast had taken on a bit of a mealy texture with the extended cooking and smoking.  I thought the duck breast would maintain its tenderness, especially in the rich and fatty mix of the kielbasa forcemeat.  But it just felt like small pieces of dry, overcooked chicken breast studding the kielbasa.

So, when I am ready for batch #3, I think I've got this recipe down: pork, lamb, plenty of juniper.  I'll leave the duck behind for now.

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