Despite the oppressive heat of the last several days, I still believe this: Chicago is a city for the summertime. Our reputation as the Windy City (wherever that phrase actually originated) has most people imagining Chicago as cold, bitter, and yes, windy as hell. And much of the year it's true. But when the sun comes out, there's almost nothing in this city as exquisite as the waterfront. Or its leafy, tree-lined neighborhoods. Or the network of phenomenal farmer's markets.
A lot of people buy vegetables at the market, but when it comes to meat, the price point can seem high. That's not to say the value is not there—you do get what you pay for—but the cost can be surprising. One way around this problem? As an article in last weekend's New York Times suggests, the answer is ground meat. And besides a burger, ground meat's greatest destiny is into a casing to become sausage.
Jake's Country Meats is a local (Michigan-based) farmer that's been around for six generations, and across Chicagoland, they offer a selection of meat and charcuterie, including a plentiful selection of sausage. At the Logan Square Farmer's Market this past Sunday, I chose from a selection of chorizo, Italian sausage, breakfast sausage, and more to settle on two types: the benchmark bratwurst and something I've never seen before, a "fresh kielbasa."
"Fresh Kielbasa" is probably a misnomer (I learned in my fish-out-of-water experience at Kurowski's, "kielbasa" just means sausage and, anyway, most people associate it with something smoked), Jake's takes a cue from kielbasa's strongest flavor association: garlic.
Their fresh kielbasa sausage is a soft, juicy, garlic-laden link that, at $7 a pound for humanely raised meat, is a pretty decent deal and delicious to boot. I cooked it up simply with a poach in beer followed by a sear in butter; the texture of the sausage was very fine and smooth and the seasoning was spot on (and garlicky).
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