Polish sausage - kiełbasa - is a national institution. Eaten here for breakfast, lunch and dinner: cold - on its own or in a sandwich,or hot - fried or griled with onion, kiełbasa is also added to many traditional dishes, as it beautifully boosts the flavours. There are many types of Polish sausage; white, smoked, thin, thick, pork, veal, boar; so most will find the one that tastes best for them. It has a different texture than, for example English or Irish sausages; it's coarser, with visible bits of meat and fat once cut. It's a definite must-try for any visitor to Poland.
Oscypek cheese is made of salted sheep milk exclusively in the Tatra Mountains region of Poland. Unpasteurized salted sheep's milk is first turned into cottage cheese, which is then repeatedly rinsed with boiling water and squeezed. After this, the mass is pressed into wooden, spindle-shaped forms in decorative shapes. The forms are then placed in a brine-filled barrel for a night or two, after which they are placed close to the roof in a special wooden hut and cured in hot smoke for up to 14 days. (source: wikipedia). You can get it on holidays in south Poland; Tatra Mountains, Zakopane and even Krakow. Try it grilled with cranberry sauce... heaven! Find out what Michelin says about Polish oscypek in Poland: Oscypek a cheese and a culture by Michelin Travel
Traditional Polish food is hearty and filling. This is directy connected to Poland's continental climate, with cold, severe winters and rainy autumns. Lettuce and fruit would not warm you up on a winter night in Poland.
On a whole, Polish food is about meat, potatoes, root vegetables, soups, heavy sauces, floury dishes, some fish, pickled vegetables and fruit of the forest. When sampling traditional Polish cuisine, counting callories is not recommended, as butter, cream, flour and lard are not used sparingly.
Still, you can't visit Poland and not try any one of the traditional dishes.
These are small dumplings, boiled or baked, a bit like ravioli but slightly larger, filled with either minced meat, sauerkraut and wild mushrooms, cottage cheese and potatoes or with sweet fruits like strawberries, plums, bluberries or cherries. The variety of pierogi fillings is growing. At the Pierogi Festival, which takes place every summer in Krakow, you can find pierogi with salmon, spinach, barley and many others next to the traditional offerings.
For the classic Russian pierogi recipe: Sprawdzona Kuchnia
A stew of sauerkraut (sour cabbage), meat chunks and sausage with the addition of wild mushrooms, tomato puree and prunes to add some sweetness. Traditional bigos is called "hunter's stew" by foreigners, as it originated from hunting parties as a meal eaten by the participants of the successful hunt. The bigos "purists" say that real bigos should contain a minimum of five different types of meat (beef, pork, sausage, venison, veal) and it should be cooked for minimum of five days as it "matures".
Not for faint hearted. Literally. Smalec is pure pork fat, melted with onion, sometimes garlic or apple, cooled and set to serve later as a bread spread. This might sound horribly unhealthy and generally awful, but it truly is delicious. Nothing better than a thick slice of fresh bread with a crunchy crust, spread with smalec and pickled cucumber on top. Most restaurants that serve traditional Polish cuisine will offer you bread with smalec as a starter, try it.
Żurek is sour ryemeal soup. The base for this soup is created by fermenting rye flour with water. However, you can buy the base for żurek in any grocery shop. It has a specific flavour, some prefer it strong and sour, some blander. Herbs commonly added to it are marjoram and garlic. It's usually served with a piece of white sausage or a boiled egg.
For the recipe go to: Sprawdzona Kuchnia
If you like cabbage - you'll like gołąbki [pron: gowompky]. They look like little parcels, and are basically cabbage leaves stuffed with minced meat and rice mix and served fried or bolied with or without tomato sauce. The meal in their own right, but mashed potatoes are a perfect accompaniment.
Poland - the land of Milk and Honey. Medieval Poland was famous for honey and wax. It was considered a land of milk and honey where beekeepers were granted their own exceptional beekeeper’s rights. Death was the penalty for destroying beehives or stealing bees. Now Polish beekeepers take extreme care of the quality of their products. Polish honey is very popular with the consumers from Western Europe. It is not filtrated or processed physically; contains microelements and pollens, and is characterised by an exceptional aroma.
"An apple a day keeps a doctor away" - especially if the apple is fresh, crunchy, organic and aromatic. Poland is one of the largest producers and exporters of apples in Europe. Used for cooking, baking, juices, even as vodka flavouring, they are a solid element of Polish cuisine.
Vodka - probably produced first time ever in 8th century Poland, it's the Polish "national drink". And almost every household has their own secret recipe for a flavoured vodka. A variety of vodkas is now available in the shops; unflavoured, vanilla, fruity, lemon, mint, ginger, lime, and even chocolate. Poles usually drink vodka straight, very cold, in shots of 50 or 100ml. A bottle of real Polish vodka is a great souvenir from Poland.
Read How to Drink Vodka like a Pole (by Lonely Planet)
Surprised? Wine making in Poland is going through its revival. The wine produced is mostly "eco", using natural old methods and usually hybrid varieties, which are not inferior at all to the noble ones.
Enotourism - holidays in a vineyard or vineyards, where the process of wine making can be observed, together with wine tasing and often cooking has become a very popular way of spending free time in Poland.