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Blood is not water, but it could be a sausage | Kaszanka, a Polish version of blood pudding

ByDaria Malinowska

Nov 29, 2022

Kaszanka is a blood sausage made mainly of buckwheat or barley groats mixed with, well, pig’s blood. The exact ingredients as well as the way it is served may differ regionally. Apart from the base ingredients, the stuffing typically also includes pork fat and offal, such as livers, lungs, or rinds. On a day-to-day basis, you may eat kaszanka with a side of sauerkraut, fried onions, a slice of bread, or even apples. In summer, when the barbecue season begins, it lands among Polish kiełbasa, szaszłyki (skewers), and karkówka (pork neck) on the grill.

Uncertain origins

Allegedly, kaszanka came to Poland through Silesia around the 17th century from either Denmark or Germany. One of the accounts often cited when talking about the origin of kaszanka comes from Jan Chryzostom Pasek, a Polish soldier and baroque memoirist who visited Denmark in 1660. He writes:

When they kill an ox, a hog or a ram, they do not waste the smallest drop of blood, but they pour it into a vessel; having stirred into it barley or buckwheat groats, they stuff the bowels of the killed animal with it, brew it all together in a pot and wrap it like a wreath on a big bowl and like so they put it on the table at every dinner and eat it as a great specialty…”.

As you probably deduced from the long sentence quoted above, this “specialty” was a novelty for the author even in 1660. Kaszanka miraculously stood the test of time. It got so popular that you can buy it in the meat section of almost every larger store in Poland.

A not-so-peasant dish

Although kaszanka is commonly perceived as a peasant dish, it was more often featured on the court’s tables. In the 17th century, the old-fashioned name for kaszanka, kiszka, referred to both an animal intestine used as sausage casing as well as the whole product itself. The stuffing was a mix of, for instance, capon (castrated rooster) or deer meat with rice, or calf entrails. However, not only the land animals could end up as sausage since a fish version also existed. No matter what kind of meat was inside, all of them were poached in broth, baked, or fried. It wasn’t until a few hundred years later that recipes for kaszanka or kiszka in today’s sense of the word appeared.

A popular pre-war author, Maria Disslowa, writes that the stuffing of kiszka kaszana (a kiszka made of groats), or krwawa kiszka (blood kiszka) was a mix of buckwheat groats, pork neck, blood, pork fat, and marjoram. Some people replaced the groats with buns (in Silesian żymlok). Kiszka was then sweet and spicy at once since to the aforementioned base people often added eggs, milk, raisins, lard, and black pepper. Around a hundred years ago, such were the specialties enjoyed by Polish aristocrats.

When it comes to the poorer strata of society, kiszka was a rarity at best, a special dish that enriched a bit their monotonous menu that consisted of meals based on potatoes, cabbage, noodles, or groats. Usually, people prepared it during pig slaughter time, an important event for the locals. Then, the fresh blood was mixed with all the offcuts: fats, and offal, and stuffed into the pig’s intestine. Nothing went to waste.

Variations

International

Around the world, many cultures have their own version of blood sausage.

The most famous is black pudding, an integral part of breakfast in the UK. Germany’s blutwurst is pre-cooked, dried, and sometimes served with apple sauce. Rice grains replace the groats in the stuffing of Spanish morcilla and Portuguese morcella. You can encounter similar versions of blood sausage in countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, and Ecuador. There, people often prepare them on a barbecue and not only season them with local spices, but also pair them with chocolate, peanuts, and dried fruits. In Mexico and Nicaragua, you will find it under the name moronga and in Chile, ñache. On the other hand, Koreans at times make their sundae (or soondae) using a combination of glass noodles and barley, which supposedly soak up the dark blood. The other ingredients include kimchi, perilla leaves, and soybean paste.

National

Silesian krupniok

In principle, it is very similar to kaszanka. The only difference might be the thicker casing. In post-war Silesia (as well as in other regions), people bred pigs in their home gardens. Times were tough, so neighbors often helped each other raise them. When the slaughter period came, it was time to repay them for their help. This is how krupniok rose in popularity. There is no single recipe for it, similarly to kaszanka. Some people add only buckwheat groats, others barley groats. Some recipes call for fresh onion, others for fried one.

Potato sausage

Who resents even the thought of blood, let alone of consuming it, can try the less-hardcore version of blood sausage: roasted potato sausage from Podlachia (north-eastern region of Poland). Some might say that it is a blood(less) brother of kaszanka as it resembles the “classic” version, but the filling consists of potatoes mixed with bacon, onion, or ground meat.

Therefore, it seems that the words of Mikołaj Rej, the father of Polish literature, could be altered in the following way:

Among other nations let it always be known

That the Poles are not geese, have a /blood sausage/ of their own. (Translated by Michał Jacek Mikoś)

And more than one version of it, actually. No matter which one you will try, it is sure to be an interesting experience.

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