Joe Gunterman, left, owner of J&J Kielbasa, readies a piece for Russell and Theresa Pawlowski of Monclova Township at Bedford Hills Golf Club.
<The Blade/Lori King
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If attendance is any measure, Saturday's kielbasa cook-off, sponsored by the Polish-American Community of Toledo, was a ripping success. About 900 kielbasa eaters entered the pavilion at the Bedford Hills Golf Club between 2 and 7 p.m. The building was filled with people, polka, and the aroma of warm, garlicky sausage.
TEMPERANCE - If attendance is any measure, Saturday's kielbasa cook-off, sponsored by the Polish-American Community of Toledo, was a ripping success.
About 900 kielbasa eaters entered the pavilion at the Bedford Hills Golf Club between 2 and 7 p.m. The building was filled with people, polka, and the aroma of warm, garlicky sausage.
If you were Polish, great, but lineage didn't really matter.
David Jenkins of Toledo said that as far as he knew, none of his ancestors hailed from anywhere near Poland. But he enjoys spicy food, and some of the homemade kielbasas fit the bill nicely.
Mike Zydorczyk of Toledo has his hands full of kielbasa competitors. The samples have numbers so those attending could vote their preferences.
"Some have a stronger flavor than others. The stronger the better for me," he said as he repressed a burp.
The competition featured 12 makers of kielbasa, each of whom had a homemade recipe. The food was prepared in the pavilion kitchen, according to Jack Sparagowski, president of the sponsoring group.
"We're trying to find out, based on people's taste buds, who has the best homemade kielbasa," he said.
Janiszewski's Kitchen and Wulf Family Pride finished first and second, respectively, in the voting. Third place went to Jan Howard.
Frank Mikhail, a House of Meats worker, inserts judging markers into kielbasa samples at the Polish-American Community of Toledo's kielbasa cook-off.
Mr. Sparagowski, who owns Ski's Polish-American Restaurant in Sylvania, said the proceeds of $6,000 to $7,000 will go to his nonprofit group, which brings in speakers and organizes Polish-themed events.
People of Polish ancestry like to think of kielbasa as a link to their family history, but culturally speaking, it's a lot more Polish-American than it is Polish, he said.
For Wulf Family Pride, the making of the sausage, rather than the eating of it, is a way of preserving a proud family tradition.
Paul Wulf said he and his brother, Larry, started making kielbasa with their late father, Ed, the son of Polish immigrants, 32 years ago.
"We'd make 600 pounds at a time. We gave all of it away. We don't sell any. We have a lot of fun doing it even though Dad is dead. We play Polish music all day and pour a glass of beer for our Dad in heaven, because he would be proud of it," he said.
Mr. Wulf said he felt he would do well in the competition, as he received favorable feedback about his team's kielbasa.
"People came back for seconds and told us only one or two others were close to us in taste," he said. "We came with 45 pounds and it went fast."
The top winner, Mike Janiszewski, said he grew up in a family where many Polish dishes, including duck soup, coffee cake, and pierogi, were prepared. His team consisted of him and his wife, Laurie.
Mr. Janiszewski, who is seen in television commercials plugging his Fix-It Shop, said he mostly restricts his kielbasa making to Easter and Christmas, but he made an exception for the contest. He was elated at taking first place.
"It's really amazing. I put my heart and soul into that kielbasa. I did everything I could to make it perfect," he said.
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