For those unfamiliar, Kishka enjoys great popularity within Eastern Europe cultures and refers to a variety of sausages that are traditionally a blend of meat, grain and seasonings stuffed into a natural casing that is typically an intestine. Not so bad, right? Good. I'll go on.
This sausage is most commonly made with an organ meat such as "liver" and a variety of grains such buckwheat or barley. It is a favorite amongst Polish communities across the United States and it's regularly enjoyed sliced and fried with onions and potatoes and served at breakfast. Okay, perhaps I detect a murmur of a stray "yuck" or two with the mention of liver, but for the most part, I'm sure most of you are still hanging tough in the "not so bad" column. If that's the case, I think it's time I stop dancing about the proverbial bush and get right to the point.
Kishka is a peasant style ring sausage that can be a blend of pork, pork snouts, pork liver, meal, barley, buckwheat, spices, and oh yes, pork or beef blood. Yes, that's right. It's a blood sausage. And here comes that tidal wave.
Look, before you label me with the "Oh, gross!" tag, let me say there are far worse things the average American consumes over the course of a day than a meal that lists “blood” as an ingredient. Frankly, if most of us could ever get past our aversion to the very thought of eating such a thing, we would avail ourselves to one truly great taste experience.
I understand - it's a cultural thing and since few of us have ever encountered it before as an everyday food, it perhaps, seems odd and off-putting. But by the same token, most of us have our own regional favorites that others outside our area wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole.
Here in New Jersey, the almighty Taylor Ham reigns king. It is a breakfast staple that is legendary within the state's boundaries. But can anyone tell me exactly what it is other than a pork product so deeply shrouded in mystery, it cannot even legally be labeled as “ham”?
And don't you South Central Pennsylvanians snicker at the Garden State's obsession with odd eats. During the decade I lived in the mid-state, it was hard to deny Scrapple ruled the roost. What is "Scrapple" you non-Pennsylvanians may ask? Well, it is a lovely blend of pork offal - head, heart, liver and other goodies that are boiled to make a broth. Once cooked, the bones and fat are removed and the meat is reserved while cornmeal is boiled in the broth to make a mush. The meat is then minced and reintroduced with seasonings. The entire slop is then placed in loaf pans and allowed to cool. Once it is sliced and fried, and topped with a drizzle of maple syrup, it transforms into breakfast meat bliss for those in the center of the Keystone State.
And then there's the immortal words of Joe Pesci, “What's a grit?” Anyway, you get the point.
I'll agree, Kishka may not for everyone. But neither is broccoli rabe or sushi or tofu or a cheeseburger, for that matter. My point is, if we just venture out of our culinary comfort zone every now and then, we just may be surprised.
Here, I've sliced it and fried the slices in my favorite cast-iron pan with a bit of butter. You can also bake the ring in a shallow pan, covered. I've chosen to serve it here beside Red Cabbage and with an Apple-Balsamic Puree. The acidity and sweetness of the puree provides a nice counterpoint to the richness of the sausage, and acts as the perfect dipping sauce.
Anyway, if you decide to give it a try, I'm sure you'll find it well worth the adventure.