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Smoked Klobasa (klobása sk. sp.):

A Chubon Family Tradition

Dick and Bob Chubon

Click on thumbnail images below to view a larger version.`

Klobasa or sausage is a common Slovak staple, as is the case throughout the central European region, including such other countries as the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Poland. Essentially, klobasa is the generic sausage term in the Slovak language.  Kielbasi, kilbasa, and Polish sausage are some of the regional  variations.  A typical recipe for the Slovak sausage can be viewed by clicking here.  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 1942.

At the end of World War II,  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 hit because sales skyrocketed to hundreds of pounds. Customers came from near and far to get their holiday sausage at Chubon's Meat Market in Lamont. 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 glorious contents!

 Photos taken around 1994.

Eventually, when the Lamont farm was sold to settle grandfather's estate, dad 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 klobasa making tradition with him, supported by the sausage stuffer and commercial meat grinder which he kept. Dad quickly built a corregated metal smokehouse 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, mostly to 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.

Rear view of the smokehouse showing the woodpile and fire hearth.


 the 2002 Christmas klobasa.

Donna mixing seasoning into the ground pork.

Dick stuffing the casings.

Dick's smoker
at work.

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 dad, 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 poisoning."

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. Click here 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 with pictures. Click here 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 clicking here.


Lessons learned in Arizona

 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 instruction.   Dave's dad also gave lessons in making Italian sausages.
 Jim finds that untangling the casings can be a challenge. Dick, Jim, and Owen with the completed product.