Ooh Sa Sa, Kielbasa

Kielbasa means sausage in Polish and not a specific type or style, but in the United States and in particular around the Great Lakes region, kielbasa is pork sausage, often pre-smoked, in two standard forms. Either about the diameter of a quarter and “U” shaped or a single link. You can get them from Milwaukee-based  Klement’s or Usinger’s (or if you are lucky, locally from your favorite butcher). Or you can get it from these guys, the inspiration for our title, with their version of a childhood chant. Where ever you procure your kielbasa, here are two variations of Polish dishes to maximize your enjoyment of them.

Polish Sausage1

We initially intended to prepare the Klement’s kielbasa traditionally and serve with grilled onions and pickle with some stone ground mustard, but the lure of bigos is too strong. Bigos is in the same food family as Alsatian choucroute or any number of German preparations of smoked meats with sauerkraut. So we elected to go with smoked kielbasa heated over sauerkraut to which we had added smoked pork and smoked pork lard. We served it topped with caramelized red onions, tomatoes and the requisite pickle. The pretzel bun is toasted, buttered and then smeared with stone ground mustard.

Polish Sausage

So let’s pretend you don’t eat all of them in one epic feast, a few left-over smoked kielbasa are ideal in this next preparation:

Polish Bean Stew

Kielbasa and White Beans

16 ounces dried white beans
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 bay leaves
1/2 cup smoked lard (or butter)
3 smoked kielbasa links, sliced
28 ounce can tomatoes
1 Tbs. dried marjoram (or similar dried herbs)
4 cups low-salt chicken broth (see discussion below)
Salt and pepper

Goat cheese and fresh dill for garnish

We choose to quick-soak the beans, which involves covering them in water in a large pot and bringing to a boil for 2 minutes and then allowing to cool for an hour. See this discussion of soaking which pretty much covers anything we could say on the matter. We quick-soak to minimize cooking time in the oven, if you do not pre-soak, you may need more broth than indicated above. Drain the beans and set aside. In a large pot over medium heat, place 1/2 cup lard. We had lard from a pork shoulder smoked a few weeks prior and it adds a wonderful flavor, but you can use butter and perhaps a bit of smoked salt if you have it handy. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, cooking until starting to brown, then add garlic and kielbasa. Cook until kielbasa begins to render fat and caramelizes on the edges then remove from heat.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large earthenware pot with a cover, place the beans, tomatoes, and herbs. Add kielbasa mixture to earthenware dish and splash pot with chicken broth to remove any browned bits, then pour all chicken broth over the beans. Cover and bake until beans are tender but still retain structure, about 2 hours. The cook times can vary greatly based on the size and type of earthenware dish as well as the approach taken to the beans. Keep adding more water or broth as they cook to keep moist, but not soaked, along the lines of cooking a risotto.

This is ideally made a day or two in advance and refrigerated to allow flavors to blend. We served this topped with goat cheese blended with chopped fresh dill and a hearty sourdough bread with butter.

Polish Bean Stew1

A soul-satisfying, hearty winter stew with the added tang and creaminess of the dill and melting cheese. A delicious starting point for inspiration of new dishes in our Great Lakes Cuisine tradition. The only regret, no ice-cold glass of Tyskie alongside.

The Next Beers to Make Milwaukee Famous

Inage: Coasters Rule

Beginning in 1902 and for about 40 years, Schlitz Brewing Company was the largest brewer in the world. And it was brewed just blocks away from Pabst Brewing Company, which was once the second largest. By the later half on the century, they were both overtaken by Miller Brewing, based just 2 miles away. Global beverage industry consolidation and shifting tastes have taken their toll on Milwaukee’s reputation as the brewing capital of the world. Though Miller Brewing is still based in the city, the merger with Coors, and the subsequent re-organization on a global scale has diminished it’s attachment to the city of it’s birth. There are a number of well-establish, great craft brewers in the city (Lakefront Brewery and Sprecher Brewery have been proudly carrying the banner for the last few decades), a new generation of craft brewers and taprooms may finally bring Milwaukee squarely into the craft brewery revolution. Better late than never, I guess. Hopefully, this next generation revitalizes the city’s well-deserved reputation as a Brew Town. We thought a quick run down of the activities of 2016 would be helpful to our readers:

MobCraft Beer, which crowdsources it’s beer selections, will appear on Shark Tank on March 11th, 2016. Mobcraft is planning to open a brewery and taproom in Milwaukee summer of 2016. Founded in Madison in 2012 by Henry Schwartz, Andrew Gierczak and Giotto Troia, they make some of the funkiest, coolest brews around and the nature of the operation makes many of them one-off creations. The national exposure should be awesome for them.

Bavarian Bierhaus Brewpub plans to open spring 2016 on the grounds of the former Bavarian Inn. The brewery will be located in the beer hall and will be able to produce eight different beers at one time. Created as an independent operation after several German breweries declined to move forward. let’s hope the independence allows for some creativity to flourish as we already have Old Town Beer Hall in Germantown and the Old German Beer Hall in downtown Milwaukee which both feature Hofbrau products. It’s worth noting that the Bavarian Soccer Club has hosted an annual Oktoberfest on these grounds for years which served the second tastiest spanferkel in the city (top honors go to this Bunzel’s Meats), so they have a tradition to live up to at this site.

Westallion Brewing Co. is planning to open spring of 2016 in West Allis, WI, a southern Milwaukee suburb. Erik Dorfner, brewmaster and formerly with Lakefront Brewery, expects the brewery’s signature beers to be a Scottish Ale, a Vienna Lager, a Pilsner-style and a Hefeweizen, and hopes to offer seasonal and historical beers as well.

Enlightened Brewing Company is expanding at their 2018 South 1st Street location in Milwaukee, to open a tap room and increase production space. Hoping to open in spring or early summer of 2016. They have played around with American Wild Ales, Belgian Blondes and a Dark Wheat, but the standard offerings are an American Pale Ale, a Common Ale, and a Stout.

Black Husky Brewing, a microbrewery originally from Pembine, WI and brewers of a number of creative spruce-infused beers, will open a taproom at 909 E. Locust St. and convert the building at 2872 N. Bremen St. into a brewery. They will be located in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, which is also home to Lakefront Brewery, a tremendous training ground for many of the local brewers in Milwaukee.

Third Space Brewing plans to open a production brewery, a tasting room and an outdoor beer garden in summer of 2016 in a re-purposed factory at 1505 W. St. Paul Ave. which is near the Marquette University campus. It will be lead by Kevin Wright, a brewer who spent six years at Hangar 24 Craft Brewery in Redlands, CA.

City Lights Brewing is planning on opening in the old City Lights building at 2200 Mt. Vernon Ave. in summer of 2016 with brewery operations separated by a glass partition from the tasting room as well as a special event space and an outdoor beer garden. The historic buildings, which overlook the Menomonee River, were designed at the beginning of the 20th century by noted architect Alexander Eschweiler. First offerings will likely include summer and winter India Pale Ale styles, and a Brown Ale, according to Jimmy Gohsman, brewmaster.

Good City Brewing  will open summer or fall of 2016 at 2108 N. Farwell Ave. with a 17-barrel brewhouse. Co-founder David Dupee of crowdfunding platform CraftFund, said the brewery will start out at about 2,000 barrels per year, under leadership of brewmaster and co-founder Andy Jones, formerly the plant manager at Lakefront Brewery. The planned line-up includes an IPA, Double IPA, and Imperial Stout variations, and most offerings will be vibrant, hop-forward versions.

Pabst Brewing Company new owner Eugene Kashper will try to revive the historical beer recipes with new small-batch beers based on Pabst’s archived recipes. Most, if not all, will be made by other brewers, but a taproom is planned in the historic renovation occurring in the Pabst development here in Milwaukee. The location is reportedly the former First German Mothodist Church on the historic Pabst campus, which had been used by the firm as a community gathering location after the church no longer used the building. It has great history and great architecture so it will be great to see it re-open as a beer hall. Also, the holding company that includes Pabst also includes Stroh’s and Schlitz. It would wonderful to get each of those brands going in Milwaukee once more.

Finally, Milwaukee Brewing Company will be taking over the former Pabst warehouse on the same campus, giving them a substantially larger footprint. They offer some of the most innovative brews coming out of Milwaukee right now (I’m looking at you O-Gii!) so a major expansion is great news for the Milwaukee beer scene.