Harvesting Native Pennycress Seeds to Impart Old World Flavor


Permission to reprint this article provided by Tools for Kitchens.

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 stockpot, add the skilandis, and then simmer for one hour.

Gero apetito!

“Harvesting Native Pennycress Seeds to Impart Old World Flavor.” Tools for Kitchens. 28 Sep. 2013. Tools for Kitchens.