Pueblo Kolbase

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After immigrating to Pueblo in 1947 from Slovenia to avoid being drafted into the German army, Frank Javornik founded Frank’s Meat Market in Blende, within sight of Pueblo’s steel mill. Along with his friend, Ed Trontel, Javornik brought his family’s traditions of sausage making to Southeastern Colorado and established one of our region’s finest small businesses. For the past 50-some years, not much has changed at Frank’s...including the sausage. And, the man behind the counter making sausages is still named Frank (Frank the Third, that is). He’s the grandson of the original proprietor, and he still uses the original sausage recipes that put Pueblo on the world’s sausage map.

If anybody knows sausage it’s Frank Javornik III, Southeastern Colorado’s true sausage king. You name the sausage, and he either makes it or can get it. His favorite sausage and specialty, though, is traditional kolbase (pronounced something like KOHL-BAH-SEE, although if you mumble something similar, the sausage king will know what you mean). Now, before you go on thinking about the big, rubbery, flavorless U-shaped thing you got a couple of months ago out of the sale bin at Wal-Mart, you should know that we’re not talking about the same kind of sausage.

Kolbase is not kielbasa. Depending upon who you ask, however, you may find kolbase being spelled hundreds of different ways. Although none of them are more correct than the next, it seems that if there’s an O in the name, it’s most likely kolbase.

While kielbasa can be excellent (not from the sale bin at Wal-Mart, mind you), it is a Polish sausage and is different enough to warrant a separate article. There are lots of variations of kolbase, but two things differentiate it from other sausages: the amount of garlic flavor infused and the coarse-ground texture of the pork meat inside.

Like the saying goes, there are two things you never want to see being made — laws and sausage. Traditionally, the parts and pieces that go into good sausage are generally not the finest cuts of meat. Think of John Candy’s description of hot dogs in the movie The Great Outdoors. When prepared properly by a professional butcher, the end result is something so wonderfully flavorful that it really doesn’t matter. Frank’s uses all-natural ingredients, and even the sausage casings are, well, 100% hog.

Kolbase, according to the USDA, is a cooked smoked sausage of Hungarian origin. In actuality, it’s tough to tie this tasty treat down to a single country. It’s more like a traditional sausage that evolved in the southern European nations somewhere between Macedonia, Austria and Slovakia. Get out your globe if you really want to visualize where this is. The kolbase you’ll find at Frank’s is a modified version of what you’d find in Europe. The sausage is quite a bit heartier in flavor, due in part to the preferences of Frank’s original Pueblo patrons. One typically wouldn’t exactly label kolbase as “cooked,” either. At Frank’s, they smoke their kolbase for about four hours, but it’s best to boil or grill your sausage before eating it. Javornik agrees that if you can spare a beer to parboil kolbase before grilling, you’ll be one happy customer.

Fry up some onions and sauerkraut and spoon some mustard on the side for a meal that would win even the sausage king’s approval. Or, serve it in a bun for savoring on the sidelines of a Southeastern Colorado summertime sporting event. Kolbase is a stick-with-you meal that’s truly unique to our region.