The Ukrainian Kovbasa Sausage That Needs No Casing

Fresh Sausage and Hot Dogs Grilling Outdoors on a Gas Barbecue Grill

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  • Total: 35 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Servings: 6 servings

In Ukrainian, kovbasa is the generic word for any type of "sausage," much like kiełbasa is the generic word for "sausage" in Polish. The beauty of this particular Ukrainian fresh sausage (not smoked) recipe is that casings are optional. The links can be formed by hand if desired. Other Eastern European sausages formed by hand include Serbian/Croatian cevapcici and Romanian mititei.

This simple sausage is made with a combination of pork and beef and peperivka, a spicy vodka. The meat mixture can be prepared days in advance in order for the flavors to meld and develop before rolling into cylinders and cooking. Grilling, frying, baking or poaching all produce a good result. If you have trouble finding peperivka, there's a recipe for it below. It must be aged for 48 hours before using, so plan accordingly.


  • 1 pound ground pork shoulder
  • 1/2 pound ground beef chuck
  • 4 ounces
  • Fatback
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons peperivka (see below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 double layer muslin
  • 6 inches butcher's twine
  • 7 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 whole cayenne peppers
  • 2/3 cup vodka, whiskey or bourbon
  • Garnish: chopped fresh parsley

Steps to Make It

  1. Combine 1 pound ground pork, 1/2 pound ground beef chuck, 4 ounces fatback, 2 large beaten eggs, 2 teaspoons (see below), 1/2 teaspoon allspice and 1 teaspoon salt. Check seasonings by frying a small amount and tasting. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

  2. Form meat mixture into 6 sausages. Add 1 tablespoon oil to a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, carefully add sausages, cooking in batches if necessary, 7 to 10 minutes per side. Sausages also can be grilled or baked.

  3. To Poach the Sausages: Form the meat mixture into 2 (8-inch) long sausages, wrap them in a double muslin layer and tie securely with butcher's twine. In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a gentle simmer. Add the sausages and poach gently, frequently turning, for 35 to 40 minutes or until the juices run clear when the sausages are pierced with a fine skewer. Leave the sausages in the stock for 20 minutes, then remove and leave to cool. Remove the twine and muslin and sauté the sausages in oil to brown them.

  4. Garnish with parsley and serve with buttered mashed potatoes, if desired.

To Make the Peperivka

Prick peppers all over with a fine skewer. Place peppers in a sterilized glass jar and add vodka. Screw on the top and shake. Let the pepper vodka sit for at least 48 hours before using and then refrigerate. This makes about 2/3 cup.


  • Adapted from "Polish and Russian: 70 Traditional Step-by-Step Dishes from Eastern Europe (Cooking Around the World)" by Lesley Chamberlain & Catherine Atkinson (Lorenz Books, 2005).