Ukrainian cuisine is full of delicious dishes but one that really stands out to me is the good old Ukrainian sausage. Ukrainian classical writers like Nikolai Gogol exalted this sausage in their stories and novels and many holiday tables in Ukraine - like during Christmas and New Year celebration - to this day are graced by this deliciousness.
What's in the Ukrainian sausage?
Ukrainian sausage is the epitome of 'simple is often the best' adage. It contains pork, salt, pepper, bay leaf and garlic. That's all. Most flavor comes from the garlic - there can be a lot of it here! - and pork fat. The amount of fat is not more than in many other sausages, only about 20-25%. The difference lies in how this sausage is cooked - it's oven-roasted. A lot of fat will melt adding a ton of flavor, like when you cook bacon. You don't get that same flavor when cooking sausage over low heat - like kielbasa - where you try your best to not let any fat melt.
Garlic is another source of flavor. Some recipes that I've seen use a whole head of garlic for the amount of meat in this recipe. You heard me, one big head, not one clove. That's a lot! I modified the recipe based on feedback to have a moderate amount. You can always add more next time if you desire. After cooking, most of the harshness will go away though, leaving only the enticing savory garlicky flavor. If you love garlic, you will love this sausage.
The garlic is liquefied in a mortar with salt, pepper and bay leaf. Don't change this, this is where the unique flavor of the Ukrainian sausage comes from. You can't just press the garlic. No! You have to process it in a mortar. You can press it initially to make things easier but you must finish in a mortar.
This sausage can take any meat from very lean to quite fatty. If you use lean pork - like loin - add some back fat or pork belly. If you use pork shoulder for example, there is no need to add more fat. Pork shoulder is about 25% fat so the sausage will be perfect made with just it.
How do you make Ukrainian sausage?
The process is super simple. You don't need a meat grinder, the meat and the fat are cut into small pieces, which are then stuffed into larger hog or beef casings of about 38-40mm in diameter. Can you use smaller standard hog casings? Yes, the typical 28-32mm hog casings will work too. But this sausage is traditionally made with larger casings given that the meat is cubed, not ground. It just looks better in larger casings when you cut it. It's also easier to stuff larger casings - remember, in old days sausages used to be stuffed manually.
The meat pieces are small enough to pass through a standard 3/4" to 1" stuffing tube without an issue. I use my 5lb manual LEM sausage stuffer for this sausage which works fine. It's best to have someone help you crank the stuffer handle while you look after stuffing the sausages. I stuff them moderately tightly, then prickle with a needle to remove air pockets.
A 2.5lb batch of this sausage will give you enough to make one spiral which will fit in a standard 11" cast iron pan. I pan-sear this sausage over medium heat on the stovetop on both sides, then send it into the oven preheated to 325F to finish cooking. The sausage is done when the internal temperature reaches 160F. This will give you a very juicy, flavorful and insanely delicious sausage.
If you want to finish cooking the sausage on the stovetop, you can do that too. After searing, drop the heat to low, add a little bit of liquid or beer to create steam, cover the pan with a lid and cook for about 15-20 minutes. That's how I cook my fresh sausage - check out my bratwurst pan-cooking method, it works really well.
With what do you serve Ukrainian sausage?
Your imagination is the limit. Mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, pan-fried potatoes... those would be more traditional sides. I like serving this sausage with rice, quinoa, potato salad, bread - anything you'd serve BBQ with. This sausage is very good cold too. Chill it in the refrigerator, slice and make a sandwich with it. It's very good. Or reheat (air-fryer, grill, skillet, or oven) and enjoy with your favorite side dish. Pan-fry a few slices and serve with scrambled eggs for breakfast. It's better than Jimmy Dean sausage if you ask me.
How to store Ukrainian sausage?
This sausage does not have pink salt in it so it doesn't have a very long shelf life. Refrigerate it for up to 5 days. If you want to keep it longer, chill, vacuum seal and freeze.
In villages in Ukraine, they used to, and some people still do, bake this sausage longer to remove more liquid out of it, then place it in jars and top it up with liquefied fat. The fat solidifies and prevents spoilage bacteria from getting in. These jars would then be stored in cold rooms. I would not recommend this method out of safety considerations, this is just an interesting fact about this sausage.
- 2 lbs lean pork see notes
- 1/2 lb pork back fat or pork belly
- 3-4 cloves garlic see notes
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 bay leaves
- 2 1/2 tsp kosher salt heaping
- 6 feet beef or hog casing 38-40 mm in diameter
- Cut the meat and fat into 3/8" to 1/2" (about 1 cm) pieces.
- In a mortar or by hand, break bay leaves into small pieces.
- Peel and press garlic into a separate mortar. You may use whole cloves but it will be easier if you press it first.
- Add salt, bay leaf pieces and ground pepper to the garlic.
- Pound with a pestle until some garlic is liquefied and the mass looks wet and homogeneous.
- Add the garlic to the meat in a large mixing bowl.
- Mix well until the meat is sticky, about 5-8 minutes.
- Stuff the seasoned meat into 38-40mm hog or beef casings. Tie the sausage on both ends and form a spiral. You can also make a few smaller sausages. Prickle the surface with a needle to eliminate air pockets.
- Heat two tablespoons of butter with a tablespoon of olive oil in two cast iron or carbon steel pans.
- Sear each sausage over medium heat until you see good browning, about 3-4 minutes.
- Using a spatula and your other hand, flip each sausage and continue searing for another 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer to an oven preheated to 325F and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the sausage registers at least 160F inside.
- Remove from the oven, carefully transfer to a large cutting board, let rest for 5 minutes, slice or cut into pieces and serve with your favorite side dish.