No Easter leg of lamb, Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham was ever served by my mother without a side dish of Polish sausage. The flavors didn't have to blend, they just had to please my Polish father.
Today, years after his death, I still remember my father at holiday meals with his favorite dish. And, it's a good thing flavor doesn't have to count, because Taster's Choice panelists didn't care for most of the 10 brands of Polska kielbasa we found at local grocery stores.
The sausages we tried were made with pork, turkey and/or beef. All were heated according to package directions. I usually boil mine or saute slices on the stove.
A purportedly healthful brand called Healthy Ones Skinless Kielbasa ($2.48 for 14 ounces from Wal-Mart) was the favorite. Judges gave it 59 of 100 possible points. Three of the four said they would buy the brand, perhaps to serve in a multicultural buffet.
"This one is slightly sweet with a little smoky flavor," said one panelist. "It's almost got a hint of maple in the flavor." She also liked the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the meat.
"This has a nice, mild taste and could make me a believer in sausage," said another judge.
Next, the panelists picked Eckrich Polska Kielbasa ($2.79 for 16 ounces at Sweetbay). Judges awarded the brand 48 points. Again, three of the four said they would buy the sausage.
"This one is very nice, mild and not too spicy," said one judge. She also liked the tender texture of the combination pork, turkey and beef sausage.
The tenderness was mentioned by several of the judges. Another also liked the sheen on the sausage casings.
Panelists said they would like to try the Eckrich sausage cooked on the grill.
Hillshire Farm Polska Kielbasa ($2.99 for 16 ounces from Sweetbay) was a close third in our survey, garnering 47 points.
Judges liked the pork and beef sausage from Hillshire Farms for its pink color and sweet flavor. Two of the four said they would buy the brand.
The Hillshire Farm sausage had a distinct, smoky flavor.
Also sampled were: Smithfield Polska Kielbasa ($2.99 for 16 ounces from Sweetbay); Butterball Turkey Polska Kielbasa ($2.79 for 14 ounces from Sweetbay); Boar's Head Kielbasa ($6.09 for 16 ounces from Publix); Bryan Polska Kielbasa ($2.99 for 16 ounces from Sweetbay); Lykes Polish Kielbasa ($1.99 for 16 ounces from Sweetbay); GFS (Gordon Food Service) Marketplace ($22.29 for 10 pounds); and Oscar Mayer ($2.49 for 14 ounces from Albertsons).
Panelists were Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Anu You Institute; and consumer and mother of four, Julie Overton. All foods were tasted blind.
Send suggestions for product tastings to Taste, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past columns, go to www.sptimes.com/food.