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A krakowska is a hard Polish sausage made of pork, typically heavily seasoned with garlic and other spices. The word “krakowska” literally means “of Krakow” or “from Krakow” in Polish. Krakow is a city in the south of Poland, and krakowska sausage is believed to have originated there in the 1600s. The sausage is a variety of kielbasa — the generic term for any Polish sausage. It is sold fully cooked and is typically eaten cold, but can also be sliced and fried.
Krakowska sausage is traditionally made by pressing prepared pork tenderloin into a thick casing, usually at a diameter of at least three inches. The tenderloin is typically lean, and is seasoned with garlic, peppers, and spices, usually for several days or weeks before casing. Once stuffed, the sausage is roasted. Roasting traditionally happens over a wood fire, but many modern sausage shops and sausage factories instead oven-roast the sausages, sometimes using hickory or other chips to impart the traditional smoky flavor.
The sausage arrives to consumers fully cooked, though like all meats, it still must be refrigerated. It is usually eaten cold, sliced on sandwiches, on salads, or on a cold-cut plate with other sausages and cheeses. The sausage also yields well to frying, and some cooks will fry thin slices in oil, usually with onion, as a side dish.
Although originally local to Krakow, krakowska has become a sausage frequently served across Poland. It is an important part of Polish cuisine, both nationally and internationally. Many Polish delis, restaurants, and food shops around the world stock krakowska.
Krakowska is a traditional part of a Polish Easter celebration, particularly in and near Krakow. It is also a feature of many Polish Christmas markets, either sold fresh for use in home Christmas celebrations or prepared hot in food stalls as a snack for shoppers. The sausage is also enjoyed more casually. Polish expatriates and Polish food aficionados abroad in particular eat krakowska year-round, at any occasion.
As of 2010, there were no strict requirements on the ingredients or marketing of krakowska. Although the sausage is typically made with lean pork and heavy garlic and spices, a sausage not meeting these specifications may still be marketed as “krakowska.” Neither does the name function as a geographic indicator. The name says that the sausage traditionally originated in Krakow, but it need not be made there — or even in Poland at all — in order to bear the name.