Harvesting Native Pennycress Seeds to Impart Old World Flavor

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Lithuanian Skilandis With Kolytos (Pennycress Seeds)

Native Field Pennycress

Native Field Pennycress

Step 1: Preparing the Seeds

Pennycress seeds are about the size of flax seeds, but despite their tiny size, they pack a wallop of flavor. If you haven’t tasted pennycress seeds, imagine the bold garlicky spices in salami and you should get a close concept of this flavor.

My ancestors from rural Lithuania used pennycress seeds to make skilandis, a dried pork sausage. After immigrating to America, they were pleased to discover their beloved “kolytos” growing here, too.

I found my grandmother’s skilandis recipe recently and decided to return to nature to harvest my own seeds for this traditional Lithuanian dried sausage.

Here in southeastern Pennsylvania, pennycress seeds are ripe for harvesting in mid-July. While it may seem a tedious task, it really was not and was actually fun.

Armed with a clean plastic grocery bag, my mother and I explored the borders of corn and hay fields until we found the silvery seed pods of pennycress. We carefully snapped their dried stems and filled our bag with these seed pod laden stems.

First Screening of Pennycress Seed Pods

First Screening of Pennycress Seed Pods

Back in our kitchen, we discovered a simple method for extracting seeds from their pods. Each of us had two bowls — one for collecting seeds and one for debris. We used light-colored bowls in order to see everything clearly. We each placed a fine mesh strainer on our collection bowl and filled it with seed pods that we pulled from the stems in our plastic bag.

We rubbed the seed pods together with our hands to dislodge the seeds. We did this repeatedly until all seeds from the stems in our bag were dislodged and our strainers were full of seeds and empty silvery pods.

Then, we lifted the strainers above our collection bowls and gently agitated them until the seeds fell into our bowls. Each time, we removed the tiny stems and seed pod fragments that collected in our strainers. We repeated this process until the seeds looked fairly clean and contained no large debris fragments.

Next, we poured our seeds into an extra fine strainer and agitated it repeatedly. Our purpose here was to extract dust and debris that was smaller than the seeds. This worked remarkably well since there was quite a bit of dust mixed in with our seeds.

Extra Fine Screening of Pennycress Seeds

Extra Fine Screening of Pennycress Seeds

Finally, when we were sure that our seeds were free of all foreign materials, we placed them in an airtight jar. In one hour’s time, our project yielded a half cup of pennycress seeds — plenty for several batches of skilandis!

Step 2: Preparing the Skilandis

Lithuanian Skilandis

From the Kitchen of
Emilija Gvazdaitytė Naujalienė, 1886 – 1966

  • 2 lbs. ground pork
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp pennycress seed
  • ½ tsp mustard seed
  • ½ tsp marjoram
  • ¼ tsp msg
  • ½ tsp nitrate of potash (saltpeter)
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • pork casings
Air-Drying Skilandis

Air-Drying Skilandis

Combine pork and crushed garlic being careful to distribute the garlic evenly throughout the pork. In a small bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Sprinkle this dry blend over the pork mixture and combine thoroughly.

Stuff this mixture into casings. Remove any air pockets by forcing them to the open end of the sausage before knotting it shut. Hang the sausage in a warm area (55 to 60°F) with good air circulation to dry for one week. You can drape mesh over the sausage to keep stray insects from reaching it. Drying time will vary with humidity levels and air circulation.

After the sausage feels dry to the touch, it is ready to prepare. Simply bring water to a boil in a Cuisinart MultiClad Pro stockpot, add the skilandis, and then simmer for one hour.

Gero apetito!

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14 comments
Kiburis
Kiburis

I remember fondly eating Skilandis at my grandparents in Brooklyn, NY. It was made locally by a Polish/Lithuanian butcher shop. Over the years I heard that they moved from the WIlliamsburg section to Jamaica Queens. I never had the chance to track them down since I have moved from NYC long ago.  Does anyone know of any source in the USA that sells Skilandis?


Second question: How do you prepare it & what is usually served with Skilandis?


Thank you!

Tony

Jaqui
Jaqui

For people wondering where they can buy this seed: Why buy it when you can find & harvest it for free all over America? ;-D I hadn't ever seen this plant before I got a batch of "seafood" compost. After sitting for a year, the top of the compost pile was covered in this plant & Evening Primrose.. it has continued to show up in the same area (and has started showing up on other areas of my property) year after year! Just Google "Pennycress" and you will see what the plant looks like while it has it's flowers/before the seed 'pods' dry out. :)

Don
Don

Just wondering where you can buy this pennycress seed here in north america?

Kayte
Kayte

I can't wait for my mother to try this recipe!

Milda
Milda

When I lived in Marquette Park, on the South side of Chicago, we would purchase a "Skilandis" that must have been 4 inches in diameter. It was smoked and had the consistency of salami, more of a lunch-type meat that was sliced when served. I have not heard of a skilandis that is dried then cooked. What region of Lithuania was your grandmother from? So interesting to see all the variations between regions!

marie
marie

Let the seed and chaf drop in front of a fan. Let them drop a few feet away and move closer to the fan until you get the right wind force to knock the chaff away, but allow the seeds to drop down onto a cloth. just google "seed cleaning" and you'll find video.

Marillyn@just-making-noise
Marillyn@just-making-noise

Hello! Great post! Love how you are sharing an family tradition that brings back memories. Thank you for linking up and sharing at Simple Lives Thursday! I've chosen you for our Top 5 Featured Posts :o)

Christy
Christy

Hi, Kayte. I can't wait to hear what your mom thinks of it. :)

Christy
Christy

Hi, Milda. That is interesting. I noticed a website that sells skilandis and it looks like what you are describing, but with various diameters. My grandmother was born in Živavodė, Prienai and my grandfather in Klevine, Marijampoles. I'm not sure if it was her mother's recipe or my grandfather's mother's recipe. Regionally speaking, both hometowns are in the same area. Thank you for visiting my blog!

Christy
Christy

Hi, Marillyn. I'm so glad you enjoyed the article and really appreciate your feedback! :)

Christy
Christy

Sandi, thank you for your positive feedback! I'm glad you enjoyed the article. :)