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Smoked Kabanos Sausage

by Victor @ Taste of Artisan

One of the most popular Polish sausages and likely the finest sausage stick in the world.

Kabanos sausage on a cutting board next to a knife.

The name kabanos, or kabanosy in Polish, comes from the word ‘kabanek’, a nickname given to young fat hogs. This sausage is really, really good. If you ask my kids what the best sausage in the world is, they will say kabanos without hesitation. For me, it’s a toss between kabanos and my absolute favorite, swojska kielbasa. That says a lot. For some reason it reminds me of dry cured sausage. Perhaps this is the result of low heat cooking followed by drying.

Close up of cut kabanos sausage.

Batch size

The recipe is for 5 kilos or 11 lbs of meat. You may think that it’s a lot, but its not. By the time drying is done, the sausage will have lost almost half of its green weight. Once your family members find out how good it tastes, it will vanish in a matter of days, trust me. I’ve seen it happen.

Kabanos sausage hanging from a smoke stick.

Meat and grind for kabanos

Pork shoulder is the best cut to use for this sausage. It has just about the right ratio of lean to fatty pork required for this recipe. In the original Polish government kabanos recipe lean pork is ground through 8 mm grinder plate and fattier pork through 5 mm plate. These sizes aren’t readily available here so I chose to use 1/4″ (6 mm) and 3/16″ (4.5 mm) grinder plates. You could probably get away with 3/8″ (10 mm) plate for lean pork but I think what makes this sausage taste so good to me is its finer grind.

That said, if you don’t have the patience to spend time separating all the lean pork from fattier pork, and wanted to just grind it all through 3/16″ (4.5 mm) plate, I’d say go for it. There isn’t that much of a difference between the 4.5 mm and the 6 mm plates. Just remember to trim off all the extra fat and the sinews.

Smoking

It’s easy to over-smoke this sausage due to it’s size and the use of thin sheep casings. I once smoked it for 4 hours, got a beautiful color, but the sausage had an almost overwhelming smoky smell. The original recipe calls for 1 hour of smoking. I’ve done 1 to 2 hours of smoking and consider those acceptable. So, which is it? One hour if you smoke with heavy smoke, 2 hours if smoking with thin smoke. Use your judgement.

As far as wood goes, oak, hickory or alder wood are all fine for this sausage. My favorite for kabanos is hickory.

Kabanos smoking in a smokehouse, smoke coming out.

Baking

Every Polish sausage recipe ends with ‘bake for 20-30 minutes at 165F – 175F’ or something like that. Those timelines rarely worked for me. It usually takes hours, depending on sausage thickness. Casings will shrink and harden. I rarely do that any more. Instead, I poach. The results are perfectly acceptable and predictable. I really does take 20-30 minutes to bring internal temperature to 154F this way, stress free.

Kabanosy in warm water poaching.

I use a 36-qt stainless stock pot with a basket. It’s as effective and convenient for sausage making as it is for crawfish boils, which our family loves. It easily fits 10 lbs of sausage.

Taking kabanosy out of water in a basket.

Drying

Kabanos will be perfectly safe to eat, and will taste fantastic, right after you take it out of the stock pot. Once you chill the sausage, it will taste even better. But let it hang in a cooler for a week, and it will be like an entirely different sausage. It reminds me of dry cured sausage. Fantastic!

Kabanosy hanging on a stick in front of brick wall.

Close up of cut kabanos sausage.

Homemade Smoked Kabanos Sausage

5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, lunch
Cuisine: Eastern European, Polish
Keyword: kabanos, kabanosy, sausage sticks
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 days
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 518kcal
Author: Victor

Ingredients

  • 2000 g lean pork (class I) no more than 10% fat
  • 3000 g pork class II no more than 30% fat
  • 66 g kosher salt
  • 11 g Cure #1
  • 7.5 g black pepper coarsely ground
  • 2.5 g nutmeg
  • 10 g sugar
  • 2.5 g caraway
  • 2 cups ice water

Instructions

  • Cut the meat into 2" (5-6 cm) pieces, mix with the salt and Cure #1. Place in a container, cover and refrigerate for 48 hours.
  • Grind the lean pork (class I) through 1/4" (6 mm) plate, and pork class II through a 3/16" (4.5 mm) grinder plate.
  • Mix the ground meats, with the seasonings, adding two cups of ice water.
  • Stuff firmly into sheep casings or young hog casings not bigger than 22 mm. Form links and tie with a butchers' twine, or leave as a continuous coil. Prick any visible air pockets with a needle.
  • Dry in a cooler for 12 hours at 35F - 43F (2C - 6C), or for about 30-60 minutes at room temperature. You can also dry in the smoker at about 110F - 130F without smoke for 20-30 minutes, until the skin feels dry.
  • Smoke at 140F for 1 hour, until the casings develop dark brown color, followed by 20-30 minutes of baking, until the internal temperature reaches 154F (68C).
  • Instead of baking, you can poach at 161F - 165F for 15 - 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 154F.
  • Dry at 53F - 64F (12C - 18C) and 75-80% RH for 5-7 days, until 45% total weight loss.
  • Store in a refrigerator.

Nutrition

Calories: 518kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 82g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 258mg | Sodium: 2740mg | Potassium: 1521mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 5mg

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8 comments

Karl December 10, 2019 - 4:51 pm

Hi Victor, just ran across your web site. Some vary good looking sausage recipes. Several are a must try. I have a question for you about water bath for the sausage. How do you hold temp? Do you use a Sous Vide? Thanks Karl
PS Nice looking smoke house. Did you build it?

Reply
Victor @ Taste of Artisan December 10, 2019 - 5:38 pm

Hi Karl, thank you for the compliment. I did sous vide a few times initially but since then have found a better way, IMHO. Now I use a 36 Qt stockpot with a basket. It fits a lot of water which results in high thermal mass. Say, if I heat the water to 167F, add 10 lbs of warm sausage right out of the smokehouse, after 20-30 minutes the water and the sausage temperatures equalize at around 156F-158F. Works like a charm, and there is no need to maintain the temperature. I’ve made 7-8 batches like that so far and the results have been pretty consistent. Thinner sausages like kabanos need about 15 minutes at this temperature. Thicker – 30-35 minutes or so. Very thick – I haven’t tried those yet but I am sure it’s doable as well, perhaps heating water to 175F and extending the pouching time.
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About the smokehouse, yes, I built it myself. I posted many details here:
https://eggheadforum.com/discussion/1221799/my-smokehouse-laid-a-green-egg

Reply
Karl December 11, 2019 - 5:49 pm

Thanks for the quick reply. Working on the Kabanos now.

Reply
Victor @ Taste of Artisan December 11, 2019 - 6:20 pm

My kids say it’s the best sausage they ever had. I made a new batch a week ago, half of it is gone, before it had a chance to dry. It’s very addictive, like jerky. Makes a great snack.

Reply
TJ December 9, 2019 - 5:03 pm

Your kabanos sausage looks fantastic. What about using collagen casings instead of natural sheep casings? Will you get the same results?

Reply
Victor @ Taste of Artisan December 10, 2019 - 1:35 am

Thanks, TJ. Yes, you can use collagen casings of similar size. I’ve used them to make a couple of batches. They are not bad… they are quite enjoyable and shrink nicely as the sausage dries. They are noticeably thicker compared to sheep casings but it’s not a turnoff for me. They are much, much easier to work with though. Sheep casings break if you are not careful or slow enough, collagen casings are much more forgiving.

Reply
Steve November 24, 2019 - 1:42 am

Victor, I’m with you in terms of cooking sausage. I’ve run into issues with kielbasa when it’s cold, and the sausage in the middle of the smoker is 150 and the sausage closer to the walls is nowhere close.

I think I’m going to try cold smoking everything, and then finishing in the oven. At least in the winter.

I’ll see what happens

Steve

Btw, we had a lovely breakfast today of home smoked salmon and your cream cheese. It was pretty great.

Reply
Victor @ Taste of Artisan November 24, 2019 - 2:13 am

Hi Steve, good to hear from you. The problem with the sausage you are describing has two potential causes: 1) the smoker is not insulated, the walls are cold, 2) no baffle that would distribute smoke and heat evenly. I’ve struggled with those issues in the past. Rearranging sausages during smoking helps, but to a point. Insulating and installing a baffle (see below) is the best way to go.
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Heat baffle in smokehouse
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Finishing in the oven works well but also takes a while at 175F – 195F. Fat starts to melt at 150F. Long times in oven at over 150F are not good for preserving fat. You may see casings start getting greasy. Convection speeds things up but also causes casings to get tough. This mostly goes away after a day or two in the fridge though. I like poaching the best so far, and I see this method also often used in official Polish sausage production recipes. No grease on casings. I like it.
>
Glad to hear you that like my cream cheese recipe. I’ve been experimenting with a couple of eastern European cheeses, also making my own sour cream, kefir… delicious. Asian store nearby sells whole salmon for quite cheap, $2.57 per lb. The fish is smaller than your typical salmon, takes more effort to scale and filet but I can’t complain. We often make gravlax with it but I want to cure and cold smoke too, just need to find time for this.

Reply