Dick and Bob Chubon
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Klobasa or sausage
common Slovak staple, as is the case throughout
the central European
region, including such other countries as the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and
Essentially, klobasa is the generic sausage term in the Slovak
language. Kielbasi, kilbasa, and Polish
sausage are some of the
A typical recipe for the Slovak sausage can be viewed by
In the distant past, Slovak families
commonly made their sausage
at home, especially for Christmas and Easter, with each
adding individual touches to suit their taste.
The "individual touches" probably account for the variations evident today.
Recent generations largely have come to accept the convenience of an ethnic
butcher shop or section of a supermarket for whatever related fare they
offer. Little do they realize how much of their heritage they are
letting slip by when they forgo making the sausage at home. Although the
number clinging to the klobasa making tradition has dwindled, it remains a
vibrant part of Slovak-American life for many.
The Chubon family klobasa
making tradition dates back to immigrants Peter and Rose, who brought their
recipes and cooking style with them from 19th century Slovakia. We
know they made klobasa at the Lamont, PA farm, where the family recipe and
process were learned by son Pete (our dad) during his youth. Dad
carried on the tradition for more than four decades until his health
deteriorated. The tradition is now being carried on by some of his
children and grandchildren. For these Chubons, making, sharing, and
eating klobasa at Christmas and Easter is, perhaps, the most enduring
reminder of their Slovak heritage.
When Grandparents Peter
and Rose left Slovakia and eventually moved to the Lamont farm in 1919,
there was little refrigeration available as it was during the
pre-electrification era. Salt curing and smoking meats was a common
means of food preservation, along with canning (fruits and vegetables),
drying (mushrooms), and fermentation (sauerkraut). This circumstance may
have played a critical role in the direction family klobasa making has
taken, because ours has always been a smoked variety. It is likely our
grandparents learned the smoking process in Slovakia, and continued the
practice in this country as a routine part of their relatively
self-sufficient farm life. In fact, their smokehouse was still usable
when mom and dad moved to the Lamont farm following grandfather's death in
At the end of World War
mom and dad opened a slaughterhouse/meat market
on the farm in the remodeled garage, which they operated for a couple of
years. This venture resurrected the family klobasa making
tradition and raised it to unexpected heights. Dad, having learned the
klobasa making process when helping our grandparents, made some to try to
sell in the market at
Christmas and Easter. Obviously, it was an instant
because sales skyrocketed to hundreds of pounds.
came from near and far
to get their holiday sausage at Chubon's Meat Market
The reputation of dad's klobasa quickly spread across
northwestern Pennsylvania, and one of the national meat packing firms
approached dad regarding his interest in selling the recipe.
Dad declined to part with the family treasure.
Front view of the Highland Road farm smokehouse revealing the
Photos taken around 1994.
when the Lamont farm was sold to settle grandfather's
decided to change his occupation to
dairy farming, closing
the Lamont meat market and moving to the larger Highland Road farm.
However, he brought the
making tradition with him,
supported by the sausage stuffer and commercial meat grinder which
Dad quickly built a corregated
which could accommodate about 100
pounds of sausage at a time. It
was also used to smoke
hams, bacon and even spareribs on occasion! Klobasa continued to be
made in large amounts at the dairy farm,
be given away at
Christmas and Easter time
- a practice which dad continued until his health declined.
At his funeral, during the eulogy, he was referred to as "the
Klobasa King." The fitting remark by the Priest brought a smile to
everyone's face, followed by numerous affirmative head nods.
view of the smokehouse showing the woodpile and fire hearth.
the 2002 Christmas klobasa.
mixing seasoning into the ground pork.
stuffing the casings.
In 1990, Donna and
I decided to begin carrying on the klobasa
making tradition. With help from
mom and dad and nephew Jeff,
who became an experienced klobasa maker assisting
we have, over several years, developed our own variation of the process. The
first few years we mixed and stuffed the sausage at home,
and I took it to the Highland Road farm near Kane,
PA to smoke in the old smokehouse. It burns large amounts of wood and
this meant driving down early in the morning and returning late at
night or the next morning because the smoking process takes several hours,
depending on the weather, etc. It is based on the "cold
smoking" process. A couple of years ago we purchased a small electric smoker
and now do the smoking at home using a USDA process with a much higher
temperature than the old smokehouse at the farm.
In effect, the "cold smoking" process has little or no preserving qualities.
Fortunately, by the time we moved to the Highland Road farm, freezers became
commonplace and our klobasa was cooled and frozen after smoking. That
probably spared us of the dreaded otrava klobásovým je, "sausage
The basic ingredients in
klobasa are lean, fresh ground pork and spices. (When available, dad often
mixed some venison in too.) Of course the exact combination of ingredients
is a closely guarded family secret. The mixture is stuffed into natural hog
casings and smoked for several hours. Dad used beech wood, which was readily
available at the farm and imparts a good flavor. His favorite, apple wood,
was much harder to obtain. You're culturally deprived if you've never
enjoyed the delightful aroma of an open fire fueled with apple wood!
(It was probably no accident that dad used Beech wood. It was probably the
wood used by grandfather. Beech trees are common in Slovakia, and beech wood
was prefered for cooking and heating in grandfather's era...Bob) My smoker
uses commercially available hickory wood sawdust which is made to smolder by
an electric heating element. I can smoke 20 pounds at a time. We usually
make 40 pounds which means smoking 2 batches - at least a total of 12 or
more hours. The equipment that Donna and I use came from a Polish firm in
Buffalo, NY (The Sausagemaker)
that sells all kinds of sausage making-related equipment and supplies.
A videotape produced by the Sausagemaker showed us some timesaving
techniques that we've adopted. The sausage that we produce is our
"personalized" version, just as dad's version wasn't exactly the same as his
father's. As our offspring take up and continue the tradition, I suspect
they'll make their own "improvements" in the process. Our son Jim and
son-in-law Dave Dodaro in Arizona made their first attempt this year (2002)
when we visited them at Christmas and "mentored" them. After a few
more batches, hopefully they will be proclaimed "master" klobasa makers too.
Some common Klobasa
related questions we get include: (1) Do you have to cook it? The answer is
yes. The most common method is to boil it for about 12 minutes. Hunters have
been known to cook it on a stick over an open fire. Folks have also grilled
and roasted it. (2) How do you eat it and what do you serve with it? A
family favorite is to have it for breakfast (a Christmas morning tradition)
with eggs and nutroll (another Slovak tradition). I enjoy dipping it in the
yolks of over easy eggs. It's good with pancakes. It makes a great hot lunch
sandwich (especially on fresh baked bread!). Try a little mustard on it. For
supper have it with just about anything and try dipping it in some mustard.
Sauerkraut and klobasa is an old Slovak standard.
Writing about the klobasa
tradition has brought back a lot of memories about Chubon's Meat Market,
which is where Dick and I got our first exposure to klobasa and klobasa
making. In retrospect, had mom and dad not moved back to the farm following
grandfather's death, the tradition likely would have died too. The
opportunity to start the meat market and to use the smokehouse served as
catalysts that rekindled dad's interest in putting the klobasa making
knowledge and skills he learned early in his life into practice.
When the meat market
opened, Dick and I were approximately ages 10 and 8, respectively. I'm
sure today's authorities would have a problem with the work we did there.
For example, much of the meat sold came from cattle and hogs slaughtered on
site, and we were involved in every aspect of the process. We routinely
wielded skinning knives, killed, scalded, and plucked countless numbers of
chickens, and trimmed the last bits of meat from bones to be used for
hamburger. Regarding klobasa making, we cranked the heavy cast-iron sausage
stuffer, slid casings onto the nozzle or tube, and "popped" air pockets that
sometimes formed as the casings were filled. We also learned to tend
the smokehouse fire. To put the size of the operation in perspective,
several large galvanized metal washtubs were used as containers for the
ground meat as it was prepared for seasoning.
When we moved to the
dairy farm, klobasa making became a pre-holiday family activity. We all
pitched in to do whatever needed to be done. Probably the most
difficult aspect of the process was putting in the smoking wood supply each
year. As Dick indicated, dad usually used beech wood. Beech
trees were available in the farm woods and surrounding area, and each fall,
a couple would be cut down and trimmed, usually by the neighbors who had
chainsaws. Dick and I were left with the job of splitting the partially
green, 3-4 foot long, extremely knotty billets with an axe, sledge hammer,
and steel wedge. It was one tough job - no hydralic splitters in those days!
By using a combination of green wood and dried wood left over from the
previous year, one could maximize the amount of smoke and limit the flame
without having the fire go out. The hard work was worth it. Over the
years, I have seen many gifts given and received, but none has brought a
warmer smile than a Christmas or Easter klobasa.
In doing some background
research for this webpage, I happened upon a couple of related webpages that
are a "must" to view.
and you will be taken to a site that describes traditional Slovak hog
butchering, which is very similar to the way it was carried out at
Chubon's Meat Market, and later at the dairy farm. The site is complete
and you will find a site that describes traditional Slovak sausage making
and meat smoking. These pages have thumbnail photos that can be clicked to
load full-sized ones. On the butchering page, it mentions that blood from
the hogs is frequently collected to be used in making blood sausage. Mom and
dad made such a sausage, which they called "jelito" (pronounced yell-e-tah).
Jelito is translated as "black pudding," reflecting the characteristic
dark color of the concoction made of ground organ meats, blood, and cooked
rice, and liberally seasoned with marjoram and other spices. Many
people simply bake the mixture in a pan or casserole dish and eat it
that way, hence "pudding." However, mom and dad stuffed it into
casings like klobasa before cooking, making it into a sausage. It was
boiled immediately after it was put in casings, and then put in the oven and
baked before serving. It sounds pretty gross and had considerably less
demand than the smoked klobasa, but at least a few of us enjoyed it.
When I was writing about
the ways food was preserved in days gone by, there is one other way mom and
dad preserved meat. When hogs were butchered, their fat was rendered into
lard, which was a cooking staple in those days. When the lard was rendered
(melted), it was poured into crocks, cooled, and stored in the springhouse.
Mom and dad would take thin cuts of pork (like pork chops) and put them in
the crocks as they were being filled with the scalding hot lard, covering
them over. Then, as the hardened lard was used, the cuts of meat were
uncovered, taken out, cooked, and served. It tasted great and
fortunately, there was no cholesterol worry then! I assume the hot
lard sterilized the meat, and being shielded from the air by the lard, it
was preserved like a canned food. I had not heard of anyone else using this
meat preservation technique, but my curiosity drove me to doing some
Internet surfing. Much to my surprise, I found that it was a common
practice across the U.S. and Canada. There are numerous variations. A couple
examples can be viewed by
Lessons learned in
Okay, where do we start?
How many people does it take to make a klobasa?
A whole family.
Jim and Dave mastering the mixing process.
Jim and Dave proudly display their first klobasa.
Owen tries his hand at mixing and gets personal
Dave's dad also gave lessons in making Italian
Jim finds that untangling the casings can be a
Dick, Jim, and Owen with the completed product.