Polish flavours: Bigos

Every bigos starts with a huge pot.
It’s one of these dishes you never make a small amount.
The pot you can see it’s relatively small. At home we would have use a pot twice as big.
This bigos was made for a housewarming party.

So what is bigos?

Bigos is one of the most traditional Polish dishes. It’s also known as a Hunter’s Stew and it is known in Polish cuisine for hundreds of years.
There is not a single recipe for bigos. And it isn’t about exact proportions. It is not even about cabbage type – you can use either sauerkraut or fresh cabbage or both. It isn’t about meat type – you can throw anything you like sausages, fresh pork, beef, cured meat, basically anything you have in a fridge. Well there are vegetarian versions as well, but that’s different story.
It’s just important to use some fat or fatty meat and season it enough and don’t forget mushrooms, it’s hunter’s stew.

Even though it doesn’t look very glamorous it appears very often during Christmas and other occasions like birthdays, name days. It’s perfect meal for a big group of people, it’s easy to make and it’s getting better every time you reheat it. And it freezes well.

PS. Other meaning of bigos in Polish would be big mess.


Polish bigos*

  • 40-50 g dried mushrooms
  • 1 small white cabbage (around 1 kg), shredded
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4-5 juniper berries
  • salt
  • sweet paprika
  • 60 g lard
  • 900 g sauerkraut, chopped
  • peppercorns
  • 4-5 allspice berries
  • 1 glass of chicken broth
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 100 g smoked bacon
  • mix of cured or baked meat (ham, sausages/kielbasa), cubed or sliced
  • mix of fresh pork and/or beef, cubed
  • 4 dried pitted prunes, chopped
  • 1 glass of red wine
Boil the dried mushrooms in a glass of water. Leave it to cool.
Place the chopped white cabbage in a big pot. Add bay leaves, juniper berries, pinch of salt, smoked paprika and 2 glasses of water. Simmer the cabbage until soft.
In a separate pot melt a half of the lard and add the sauerkraut. Add peppercorns, allspice berries and a glass of the chicken broth. Mix well and bring to boil over medium heat. Lower heat to low and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes.
Sauté the onion in the remaining lard for a short time. Add all the meat and brown it (you may need to do it in batches).
Combine all ingredients (white cabbage, sauerkraut, prunes, mushrooms) in the big pot. Mix well and bring to a boil over medium heat. If it is too watery remove some of the liquid. This is a stew not a soup.
Pour the red wine and lower heat to low and simmer covered for 2 hours stirring occasionally.
Season it to your liking.
The more you reheat bigos the better it gets.
Amount of the ingredients is approximate, it up to you if you want more meat go ahead, less meat, no problem. You don’t like it too sour, skip the sauerkraut