Bigos (hunter’s stew)

Bigos, called hunter’s stew in the US, is an Eastern European staple. This dish is traditional for Polish, Lithuanian, Belarusian and Ukrainian cuisines. Bigos was even mentioned by Polish author Adam Mickiewicz in one of his most important novels ‘Pan Tadeusz’ in 1834 as “wondrous taste, colour and marvellous smell”. Pretty special! This dish is very old and some historians argue that it was made as early as 16th century.

There are many types of bigos, most of them contain sauerkraut, cabbage, mushrooms and different meats. However, there is a meatless variety that is usually served during Christmas Eve. What I am offering you today is the most traditional version. It contains sauerkraut, cabbage, dried and regular mushrooms, smokey sausage, beef, pork, onion, some prunes for sweetness, red wine and tomato paste. All of these ingredients create a rich flavor and an amazing aroma. It is so filling, meaty, sour and sweet and you cannot mistake that for anything else. My grandma says that the more times you heat it up the more flavorful it gets. So, if you have leftovers they will probably be even better the next day.

I started with pouring boiling water over dried mushrooms and leaving them for about 20 minutes. After that I drained and chopped them. I saved the mushroom broth and added it to the rest of the bigos later.

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I bought a jar of sauerkraut from an international isle in my store. As you can see, mine has a shredded carrot inside which is what my parents are usually using. I placed it in a cooking pot and added 2 cups of cold water.

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I chopped 1/2 cabbage pretty thinly and added it to sauerkraut.

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Next step was chopping mushrooms and prunes and adding them to the bigos.
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I fried sliced bacon, chopped it and added to the bigos and on the remaining fat I fried onions, sliced kielbasa, then cubed pork and beef.

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That’s what it looked like before mixing and cooking.

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Finally, I added red wine, mushroom juice, tomato paste, bay leaves, cumin and peppercorns and simmered my bigos covered for about 2 hours. You can also use a slow cooker (8 hr on low), of course, it is not what my grandma was using, but it is perfect for cooking bigos.

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And there it is! Enjoy!

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If you tried this recipe and posted a pic or a comment use hashtag #EasternEuropeanRecipes I’d love to see how it turned out!

 


Ingredients:

  • 1 jar of sauerkraut (32 oz)
  • 1/2 cabbage
  • 5 slices of bacon
  • 1 lb of Polish smoked sausage (kiełbasa)
  • 1/2 lb of chopped pork shoulder
  • 1/2 lb of chopped beef or veal
  • 1/2 cup of dried mushrooms (I used porcini)
  • 1 cup of white mushrooms
  • 1 onion
  • 1 can of tomato paste (6 oz)
  • 1/3 cup of prunes
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper

Directions:

  1. Pour hot water over dried mushrooms and let it sit for 20 minutes. Drain mushrooms and chop them. Save mushroom juice.
  2. Place sauerkraut chopped cabbage, mushrooms and prunes in a cooking pot. Add 2 cups of cold water.
  3. Fry bacon. In the bacon fat fry onions, sliced sausage, chopped pork and beef. Add all the meat and onion to the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Add wine, mushroom juice, tomato paste and spices to the bigos. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.

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