Traditional kielbasa, hams, bacons, cold cuts and artisan jerky. There’s also pierogi, Polish Donuts, Babkas and breads. Horseradish and cheeses, too.
Those are just the top sellers that hundreds of Piast Meats & Provisions customers have been walking out the door with in the last two weeks – the second-busiest time of year for the old-world deli in Garfield.
“Everything is made according to the traditional way,” partner and son Martin Rybak said. “The process of smoking meats is both simple yet sophisticated.”
How to smoke kielbasa
Martin Rybak, partner and son of the founders of Piast Meats & Provisions in Garfield, said there’s two ways to smoke kielbasa.
For starters, there is a commercial smoking oven.
“It’s a computer-controlled environment with heat, humidity, and smoke generated from wood pellets,” he said. “Customers typically order kielbasa from the commercial smoking oven for a backyard barbecue or if they plan on cooking their kielbasa.”
Then there’s the wood-fire smoker.
“Those are really our secret sauce,” he said. “We have these chambers burning real hardwood logs—they’re handmade with masonry and metal and really are something to see. We roll racks of kielbasa over an open flame, so they are roasted and smoked. It’s just like cooking over an open campfire. We call that double smoked. They do lose a little moisture in that process, so they are usually eaten cold.”
“The smoke has to be right. The grind has to be right. The spices have to be right. Most of all the products has to be consistent.”
Especially the spices, Rybak said.
“Pepper and garlic especially,” he said. “If their roast is different from one batch to the next, it’ll throw off the flavor of the final product. That’s why it is important to have suppliers you can trust to provide high quality ingredients.”
And a lot of them.
The store offers more than 100 homemade varieties of smoked meats – produced in their very own smokehouses, which is the way the Rybak family has been producing authentic foods of their homeland of southern Poland for more than 30 years.
The first Piast Meats & Provisions shop opened in Maplewood in 1991.
Though it’s no longer in operation, the family now operates two locations in Garfield, one of which is nicknamed “The Castle” to go along with the deli’s old-world theme – and because it actually looks like a castle.
The Maplewood store was the dream of immigrants Henry and Maria Rybak, who sought to bring old world elegance to the tables of their community. Most of the recipes still in use today originate from Maria Rybak’s mother’s kitchen from her native land.
As demand grew, Piast outgrew the Maplewood location and decided to open a larger production facility and adjacent store in an area affectionately known as “Poland on the Passaic,” in Garfield.
Martin Rybak says that while the area does have a lot of Poles, it is really a lot of blue-collar first-generation migrants who really just appreciate the authentic cultural culinary experience that Piast offers.
“We’re unique because we make our own product which has increasingly become a lost art,” Rybak said. “To be a butcher sadly is a dying craft in America. It’s hard to find true artisan butchers. We’re very fortunate to have a group of talented butchers who work for us and make all these products.”
The team, according to Rybak, is very passionate.
“We consist of professional butchers, bakers and cooks who share the goal is to produce a fresh, homemade product. Everything is made by hand, the traditional way. From pierogi dough, the filling, and the cooking. All are entirely done by hand.”
Piast also has a bakery on site. Hand-making their own breads, doughnuts and cakes.
This week is a kielbasa fest at Piast.
Rybak says only the Christmas season is busier. Rybak couldn’t be happier. He loves the holidays – and he loves customers.
During the pandemic, the store transitioned to mail order, which really helped to keep it afloat. In fact, it helped Piast expand its customer base.
The store now ships nationwide, Rybak said. And while Florida and Texas are the most popular destinations outside of the tri-state area, Piast has sent product to Hawaii and Alaska, too.
Rybak knows the reason why.
“People cannot find this everywhere,” he said.
That’s OK. It’s good for business – and good for keeping the spirit of their homeland alive.
“It reminds us why we do what we do,” Rybak said “For many people, it’s so much more than just food—it touches the heart to remember grandparents or parents who made this food.”