Beyond the religious and spiritual significance and a sense of rebirth, when I think of Easter, I think of ….
Floppy-eared bunnies and fuzzy yellow chicks. And baskets overflowing with colorful eggs.
And, one more thing. I think of kielbasa. Kielbasa? Yep, kielbasa.
While linguica and chourico are the heavy hitter sausages on SouthCoast, my roots are deep in kielbasa.
Austrian on my Dad’s side of the family, Polish on my Mom’s, I grew up with this Eastern European favorite.
Funny thing is that while it ultimately won over my taste buds, for a long time, it wasn’t my favorite. Even though I tended to see a lot of it. That’s because kielbasa was a staple at many a holiday gathering of either my mother’s or my father’s clan.
And always at Easter.
To digress for a moment, we had two. Easters, that is. My Grammie Pawlak was Russian Orthodox which observes a different religious calendar.
So, along with having kielbasa at our own Easter dinner, we’d have it again, usually a week or two later, at Russian Easter. (Which, BTW, this year is next Sunday.)
If anything, kielbasa played an even more prominent role at Grammie Pawlak’s table. While the too-pretty-to-eat decorated eggs were the star … before coloring them, Grammie and Aunt Anne would dip pins into melted wax and draw intricate designs … kielbasa held center stage meat-wise.
An Easter dinner without ham was unlikely, but an Easter dinner without kielbasa was unthinkable.
Fast-forward to me in my own home, which for some years now has been Holiday Central. Along the way, I’ve adopted a number of traditions, both from Hank’s family and my own.
For one, I cook my Thanksgiving turkey (always a fresh one, like Dad had) in a Reynolds “brown bag” (which Dad swore by.) For another, when I make potato salad, I mimic my Mom-in-law’s Pennsylvania Dutch style (yellow mustard, a splash of vinegar, celery seed and a spoonful or two of sugar are among her secrets.)
And then, of course, there’s the kielbasa. While I occasionally include it in my Christmas buffet, that’s not always a given. What is, though, is kielbasa on Easter.
Since I remember Grammie serving hers at room temp, my practice is to cook it the night before (boiled, not baked or fried), then slice it up into rounds. Not too thick. Not too thin. Using paper towels, I’ll sop up some (but not all) of the “juice.” Grammie believed a little grease was good for you and since she lived til almost 96, who am I to argue with her?
After that, I tuck it into the fridge overnight then pull it out in time to take its rightful — and prominent — place on my table.
Because it wouldn’t be Easter without kielbasa … and all the treasured memories it brings back.