Do you live in the Northern half of the world? If so, I am thinking you might be preparing for the onslaught of cooler weather. Me, I’ve just finished with all that for a while; in the southern hemisphere it is all about getting the pool toys out of storage and readying the garden for the long, hot summer. It was during our short winter season that I recreated a taste that I had brought back home with me, when I returned from Poland: the Polish national dish, called “Bigos.”
Bigos is a meal based on the Polish sausage, Kielbasa, but any kind of cooked sausage works well if you make your own version. It might be nice to try Chorizo sausage, but I actually used Bratwurst, as that is what I had to hand. It is still a traditional Bigos no matter what meal you use, as Wikipedia states:
“The variety of meats is considered essential for good bigos; its preparation may be a good occasion to clean out one’s freezer and use up leftovers from other meat dishes.”
Making Bigos is a great use of leftovers, especially sausage and cabbage, because unless you like curried sausages, which my other half most decidedly doesn’t, you aren’t left with too many other options with using up leftover bratwurst.
But Bigos IS an option you do have. And what’s more, it’s a very forgiving dish. Being a traditional dish of not only Poland, but also Belarus and Lithuania, it is said that there are as many recipes for Bigos, as there are cooks in Poland!
Traditionally, Bigos would be served at large family gatherings, like Christmas or Easter, but centuries ago, it was more common to cook Bigos in a simply pot over a camp fire, whilst out, “hunting,” hence the term, “Hunter’s Stew.”
Like many stews or casseroles, it has a flavour that improves with subsequent reheating and refrigeration. One can vary the amount of sauerkraut/fresh cabbage and meat ratios used and thicken it with several ingredients such as flour, crumbled rye bread, or even grated raw potato. In Silesian Poland, they add a potato dumpling to thicken the stew prior to serving. [Note to self: I must try that next time!]
This very forgiving flexible, hearty dish is just the ticket for an upcoming cool Autumn/Winter night. It could also be easily made in the slow cooker, ready and waiting for when one arrives home from work, in the evening!
Originally, this recipe came from Allrecipes.com, but I have varied it a great deal and so have reproduced it here.
- 2 thick slices hickory-smoked bacon
- 1 large cooked bratwurst, kielbasa other Polish sausage, sliced
- 250g cubed pork/ham
- 1-2 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 sticks celery, sliced
- 2 carrots, diced or other hard vegetables
- 1 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
- 2 cups thinly sliced cabbage – any variety is fine
- 250g sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained
- 1/4 cup (60ml) dry red wine- I didn’t have any so I left this out
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 2 teaspoon paprika
- salt and pepper
- 1 pinch caraway seed, crushed
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 50g mushrooms, diced
- 1 dash hot chilli sauce (optional)
- 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cups beef/chicken stock
- 1 tablespoons tinned tomato paste
- 2/3 cup tinned diced tomatoes
- Add the bacon and kielbasa/bratwurst sausage to a large saucepan on medium heat. Cook and stir until the bacon, sausage, pork or ham is lightly browned.
- Add the garlic, onion, celery, and saute for several minutes.
- Add carrots, mushrooms, cabbage and sauerkraut. Reduce heat to medium, then cook and stir until the carrots are soft; about 10 minutes. Do not let the vegetables brown.
- Add the red wine and heat, stirring to loosen all of the bits that are stuck to the bottom. I used a little stock as I had no wine!
- Season with the bay leaf, the herbs, paprika, salt, pepper, caraway seeds and cayenne pepper; cook for 1 minute.
- Mix in the mushrooms, chili sauce if you wish, Worcestershire sauce, remaining chicken or beef stock, tomato paste and tomatoes. Heat through just until boiling. Cover with a lid.
- Simmer on the stove for 1 1/2 hours or Bake in the preheated oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or on low/auto in a slow cooker.
- I omitted the use of flour, but if the Bigos has not condensed down to the consistency of a casserole, add 1 -2 tablespoon of cornflour mixed in a little cold water and mix in. Cook for 5- 10 minutes till thickened.
Easy to cook, traditional meals are really worth pondering about during winter.
4 thoughts on “Bigos – A Polish Hunter’s Meal”
I am looking forward to giving this a try!
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I would love you to let me know what you think! And how it worked or doesn’t work for you! That would really interest me Nancy. Thanks for your comment.
I just saw this post as I was traveling in Crete when you published it 🙂
I read it with great interest as bigos was one of the first Polish foods that I tried. I didn’t like it at all, and still don’t. I’ve tried it a few times: both homemade and at restaurant. But I didn’t like any of them.. Although I remember the homemade one being better. It’s actually one of the few Polish foods that I do not like. I think it might be the sour taste that I don’t care for.
How did your bigos turn out? 🙂
It was pretty good. It did definitely improve with age. Compared to the Polish variety, it wasn’t as sour, and I used more vegetables and less sauerkraut than the standard recipe. Perhaps you could try a version similar or is it the sausage itself that you don’t like? I like a lot of Polish food, but then I am partial to the sour taste of pickled foods.