You never hear about artisanal kielbasa. Artisanal Italian salami, yes. Artisanal Spanish Iberico ham, yes. But the great Polish smoked sausage flies under the gourmet radar.
The fact is that exceptional handmade kielbasa is sold by a number of Polish sausage specialists on Long Island. Case in point: Sikorski in Bethpage. The neat little store opened 14 years ago, but before that Pat and Jim Sikorski sold their wares first at the farmers' market on Hicksville Road and, after the market was destroyed by fire in 1987, at Tri-County flea market on Hempstead Turnpike.
The Sikorskis also own a store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, which is adjacent to their smokehouse. That's where the meat is imbued with the aroma of smoldering hickory and fruitwood. The kielbasa is delicious: smoky, porky and yet refined. Sikorski specializes in a variant called krajana ($4.59 a pound) that is made with larger chunks of pork. Then there's the kabanosy ($5.99 a pound), thinner and dried - sort of a cross between sopressata and Slim Jim - that's great for snacking, grilling or playing the "pig" in a dough blanket.
I fell hard for the smoked pork shoulder ($4.99 a pound), a slender football of a ham, chunks of which would enhance any braise or soup.
Sikorski smokes its own Canadian bacon as well as what's called "rib bacon," pork belly with the ribs still attached ($5.99 a pound).
On the nonpork front are imported preserves, fresh babkas and dried Borowiki mushrooms strung on 2-foot lengths of cord, which Italophiles will recognize as porcini. Also on offer are the hearty rye breads baked by Silver Bell bakery in Queens. The store could not be more unpretentious, but the merchandise could not be more distinguished. -- Erica Marcus
Pat Sikorski, owner of Sikorski in Bethpage, holds a length of kielbasa, left, and smoked pork shoulder, right. (Newsday Photo, 2009 / Erica Marcus)