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School me on Polish grocery stores

I'm fortunate to live in a very Polish-heavy neighborhood with a lot of delis, butcher shops and bakeries, but every time I go shopping I always come back with the same things: kielbasa weselna, Kamis mustard, light rye bread and maybe some pickles from the big barrel. Help me break out of my rut and explore this new cuisine. What else should I be checking out and bringing home from the Polish store?

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  1. Here are some ideas: sauerkraut (also from the big barrels), pierogi (lots of different fillings), kaszanka (blood sausage), kasza (without the blood), flaczki (tripe), chocolate-covered prunes, krówki (chunks of caramel fudge), soup mixes (powdered and condensed), dried mushrooms, makowiec (poppy seed cake), sernik (cheesecake), lots of alcohol (żubrówka, miód pitny, fruit brandies, Polish beer, …)

    Also, it's almost pączki time (jelly doughnuts).

    2 Replies
    1. re: DeppityDawg

      Thanks for the suggestions. What Polish dishes can I cook with blood sausage and tripe?

      1. re: RealMenJulienne

        The classic tripe dish is a pretty thick soup. See, e.g,

        I like blood blood sausages (kiszka) grilled, indirectly, with a charcoal fire.

        You may find the totality of this Site helpful: http://www.tastingpoland.com/food/lis...

    2. Oh, so many goodies: pork loin (polędwica), herring, duck pate (pasztet), and many types of ham. Also, you may like to expand your kielbasa repertoire. Try the fresh, unsmoked white kielbasa, and the snack sized kabanosy. If they have prepared foods, try the pickle soup or white barszcz. Grated beets with horseradish (Ćwikła), and if you are adventurous, jellied pigs knuckles (galareta).

      1. Definitely some cabbage rolls.. Some haluski...

        If you're really lucky they'll have garachki.....

        I always ask if they have garachki.

        3 Replies
          1. re: DeppityDawg

            Ahhhh.... that's one of my favorites.

          2. If they have real Polish ham, try it — I can't get it now, only sweeter cured ham. It's meaty and somewhat salty, but with farmer's cheese pierogi? Delish.

            1 Reply
            1. re: lsmutko

              "...farmer's cheese pierogi..."

              NOW we're talkin!
              Pierogi filled with povidel (sp?) are also a treat (povidel is what the Hungarians call 'lekvar'. In English, it's often called plum or prune butter).

            2. I go to a big Polish-heavy supermarket in Chicago (Shop & Save, South Archer & Linder, just beyond Midway Airport). The first thing I head for is fresh pork (which they get from Canada) because different (for Polish market) cuts are available than in "mainstream" US markets. One is "pork cutlets"---boneless pork chops put through the cubing machine to tenderize them---they melt in your mouth. Another is "pork stew" which is lean pork loin cut into big cubes, versatile for so many things---I cook it in the crock pot with barbecue sauce for amazing hot sandwiches, or use it to make Chinese style sweet and sour pork. I love the dark breads, baked on site. There is HUGE variety of cheese and sausage---the farmer cheese is good for making cheesecake. The imported-from-Poland jams include sour cherry and rose hip, and the honey is good. The dill pickles are great as are the many varieties of sauerkraut. Don't miss buraczi (not sure of spelling) which is grated or ground cooked beets that you get already mixed with horseradish or add your own horseradish to it---a very good cold relish with meat. There are more varieties of tea and herbal tea than I have ever seen. My neighbor who went with me once was in ecstasy over the variety of tinned fish but it's not my thing so I can't give details. And of course big huge jelly doughnuts called paczi (again not sure of spelling, sorry). I have to say that although Chicago is food-shopping paradise, this big Polish market is my favorite market in the city---it's like a trip abroad.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Querencia

                Hi Querencia, I usually go to Endy's, Kurowski's or Gene's Sausage Shop in Avondale. Thanks for the South Side rec.

                1. re: RealMenJulienne

                  RealMen---If you do the South Archer Avenue route, just west of the Shop & Save I described there are not one but THREE superb bakeries of Slavic ancestry. I will just name them---they all have websites with addresses and (sob) pictures. 1) Weber's (I think this is the best). 2) Pticek's (call a day ahead an order the caramel pecan coffee cake---it's got about an inch of whole pecans on top). 3) Racine Bakery (which is also an excellent ethnic deli). Also, if you're in the neighborhood, don't ignore Bobak's, where they make the sausage. Obviously you can drive but if you're doing CTA, take the Orange Line to Midway then the 62Harlem bus about another 5 minutes, close but not a nice walk, too much airport-related stuff. Tell me please, is there still a good Polish bakery in Avondale? I think some of them have closed.

                  1. re: Querencia

                    Thanks again for the recs. I don't know of a great dedicated Polish bakery. In the OP I was thinking of "stores which have good bread" as bakeries. Haven't found a real Polish bakery in Avondale yet.

              2. I have an Eastern European store I shop at (not just polish) but I buy the fresh farmer cheese, the sour creams ( mine have several cultured creams that are nice) sausages and breads (natch), flat wafer cookies, pickled red peppers, and herbal teas (seriously, the medicinal teas are nice). I have tried the frozen pierogi and dumplings but have not been impressed with those.

                My Hungarian friend says a shot of the plumb brandy each morning scares all the bad germs away..."you will be in excellent health, if you do this". Not sure if your polish store has it, but it tastes like gasoline :/

                1. To anyone reading this who isn't too sure what to do with pierogies, here is one possibility, Instant Chicken and Dumplings. Put frozen pierogies, the kind filled with mashed potatoes, in a deep baking dish. Cut some boneless skinless chicken breasts through a couple of times to make big chunks and put these in with the pierogies. Then pour chicken broth (the kind from a can or carton is fine) over to completely cover. Cover dish airtight with aluminum foil and bake for an hour and a half. The easiest possible dinner.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Querencia

                    I love this idea...will def. try this,sounds delish.

                    1. re: Querencia

                      You can add some peas and carrots also, frozen will work!
                      Also, boneless thighs work well if you want .

                    2. Duck blood, so you can make czarnina. It was the dividing point in the Polish-American community where I grew up: if a store advertised its fresh blood, it was good.

                      Otherwise, pierogis, horseradish (with and without beets), fresh (as opposed to smoked) kiełbasa, mushrooms, dried fruit.

                      1. When you go, avoid telling Polish jokes.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Tripeler

                          Tell Lithuanian jokes instead. The Lithuanians tell the best Polish jokes.

                          1. re: Tripeler

                            I'll keep that in mind. Those scowling Polish construction workers smoking cigs in front of the store are tough enough to hang out in their shirtsleeves in subzero weather, so I won't push my luck.

                          2. The Polish market in my area (actual name: The Polish Market) has great pierogie and an amazing bakery...really decent rye bread for $2.49 a loaf! They have great baked goods in general, and we too await Packi Day with great anticipation

                            They also have a smattering of German foods as well, including about a million kinds of mustard. Scharf or Feuer Senf in a tube is a good thing

                            All good suggestions on the board. I'm always a fan of buying one intriguing mysterious thing every trip just to try.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: coney with everything

                              If you go to Toronto visit 'Starsky's'. HUGE Polish market.

                            2. Great question and I learned a lot, thanks!

                              1. My local Polish supermarket is great for baking supplies. I get specialty flours (cake, pastry, rye), cocoa powder, yeast, etc. all for about 1/2 the price "regular" grocery stores and the quality is better.
                                There are good, rich Polish brands of butter that cost a lot less than the "fancy" French brands and are at least almost as good.
                                I'm a fan of smalec too (on rye bread with beer), but that's not for everyone.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: caganer

                                  Can you recommend a specific brand of salted Polish butter?

                                  1. re: caganer

                                    "I'm a fan of smalec too (on rye bread with beer), but that's not for everyone."

                                    It should be.

                                  2. I am also semi-clueless at the polish/ukranian market i go to, but i always get some kind of new pickle or pickled beets and i found an almost black bread that a number of other shoppers were buying that was this dense flavorful rye.
                                    I always spy in other's baskets and buy whatever is low in stock on the shelves. I found some interesting herbal teas and a great museli mix. The market also had a great selection of yogurts and kefeir.
                                    Just find a grandma who looks like a regular and discreetly follow her around the store ;)!

                                    1. Just curious, anyone come across Polish jarred vegetables (could be pickles?) with a cartoonish picture of one hell of an ugly peasant farmer?
                                      The guy kinda looks like Moe from the Simpsons, with a type of pie hat, but is borderline grotesque.
                                      The guy is so off-putting, I don't really want to buy the jar...
                                      Just wondering.

                                      1. I could weep. There are no Polish grocery stores in NC. If I want pierogi, holubchi, or any of the rest of it, I have to make it myself!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: JuliaTheJeweler

                                          There are at least 2 in Charlotte. Much smaller and more limited than those in large Polish communities but they're neat for a non-Polish person to shop in.

                                        2. Ryemeal, so you can make Zurek (sour rye soup). I vacationed in Poland a few years ago and found this everywhere:


                                          I love the puffy danish filled with prune and/or currents and light Polish rye bread.