Polish Hunter’s Stew {Bigos}

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Polish Hunter’s Stew {Bigos}

Bigos is a mixture of fresh cabbage and sauerkraut, various meats and mushrooms. I often make it if I have a bunch of leftover meats. You can use as much as the recipe calls for or adjust to fit your preference (more of less meat). It will turn out great no matter what… I promise. 

Polish hunter's stew bigos

It’s a dish that’s often present on a Polish table for Christmas or any gathering really. It maybe because it’s cheap to make and it’s made of cabbage, and we love cabbage. In my home growing up, we had a cellar in the basement where we stored canned goods and extra food. My dad installed a stove down there and we had a pot of bigos on it pretty much constantly. Many times when unexpected guests stopped in,  this was a convenient dish to have ready to serve. 

Bigos is also a great potluck dish. If you cook a large batch ahead of time and place in jars while hot, you can store it in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Pop it into a crockpot the day of the party, and you are set!

I try to make my own sauerkraut (recipe here), or a video recipe (here) but I found a brand (Silver Floss Barrel Cured Shredded Sauerkraut) that’s really close to the real thing (you can most likely find it at your local grocery store). The list of ingredients: cabbage, water, salt. This means that the cabbage was made the old way: souring in a barrel, salt only, no vinegar added. Plus it’s made in my husband’s home state, Wisconsin, so it must be great. 

It is a much liked dish amongst my family members and friends, so I normally make a big batch. This recipe also requires quite a large pot. I have one that is exclusively designated for cooking bigos. Leftovers will keep well in the fridge, or freezer well and you have a last minute dinner in a matter of minutes. 

A 5 quart pot will accommodate this recipe, it just might be messy to stir.

Polish Hunter's Stew {Bigos}

  • Yields: 6-10 servings
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ c of dried mushrooms + about 1 ½ c of water for soaking
  • About 1 lb / 500 g of beef and / or pork (or leftover roast)
  • 2-3 tbsp of oil
  • 6 strips of smoked bacon
  • 1 large onion
  • 8 oz / 225 g of fresh button mushrooms
  • 1 small cabbage
  • About 1 lb / 500 g of smoked sausage, diced
  • 1 c / 250 ml of chicken / beef / vegetable stock
  • 6 oz / 170 g of tomato paste (or ⅓ c of ketchup or one 14 oz / 410 g can of stewed tomatoes
  • 3 tsp of salt
  • 4-5 bay leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 10 whole peppercorns and allspice berries (each)
  • ½ tsp of ground pepper
  • About 56 oz / 1.5 kg of sauerkraut

Instructions

  1. Soak died mushrooms for about 1 hour. When soft, chop (reserve water from soaking mushrooms).

  2. If using raw meats, cut into bite size pieces, sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a large pot (4-5 quart) heat oil and sear meats. Remove meat from pan, add cubed bacon and render for a few minutes. Add onion and sliced fresh mushrooms. Sauté until golden brown, for about 3 minutes. In the mean time thinly slice fresh cabbage.

  3. When onions and mushrooms are cooked add fresh cabbage to the pot, return the cooked beef/pork, chopped dried mushrooms. Add sausage and stock, tomato paste, salt (about 2 tsp) bay leaves, pepper corns, allspice seeds and mix. Cover and cook on medium to medium low heat for about 15 min (until cabbage is soft). Stir occasionally.

  4. Add sauerkraut, mix, cover and cook for another 1.5 hours.

Notes

The dish is done at this point, but it’s best to cook ahead of time, store in the fridge overnight (or a couple of nights) and cook again for 2 hours. You may need to add a bit of moisture (stock or water).

Enjoy with bread, or as a side dish. Let me know how you like it by commenting below. 

Smacznego!

Anna


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16 Comments

  1. Hi, I had a friend that made something similar and I’ve been looking for the recipe forever (sadly, the friend is no longer with us) She would also add bowtie noodles, and a scoop of sour cream. Are you familiar with this?

    1. Sour cream is used in Ukrainian dishes a lot, maybe it’s a dish that originated over the border. Interesting combination, cabbage and sour cream 🧐

  2. Hey Anna!
    A bit confused when you say cook the dried mushrooms after soaking them. Is it just in a pan over medium heat? Any oil needed?

    also it wasn’t explicitly written when to add back the saved water from cooked mushrooms, im assuming thats in the 3rd step?

    Thankyou for the recipe! excited to try it.

    1. Adrian, yes, cook in the juices they’ve been soaking in, no oil (watch the pot closely, they like to over-boil). Add cooking water to cabbage. Good luck!

  3. Have you ever heard of people adding chicken or other fowl to bigos? I ask because I never have and have never seen it, but bigos is a “hunter’s stew,” and I imagine that much of what was hunted, in the days of Adam Mickiewicz, were birds.

  4. Made this today to eat in 2 days time, if I can keep my husband away from it. Enjoyed your recipe. Would make it again.

  5. You’r mention of Silver Floss Sauerkraut made me smile. The only brand my mother used and I have been using it for over 50 years. It is the best and only I would use. Have been making Bigos for a long time but only use salt pork, ham, pork and kielbasa, onion, cabbage and sauerkraut beer and seasonings. Your recipe sounds interesting with the mushrooms and tomato paste added. Will have to give that a try. Will let you know what my husband says after I’ve tweeted the usual one.

  6. This is so much like home! My family skips the tomatoe paste and onions but instead adds in a ton of paprika, caraway seeds, a spoonful of some berry preserve (like lingonberries) and currant juice… which recently we switched to red wine. For meats, it’s always kielbasa, bacon, and sometimes kabanosy. But mushrooms… there has to be a lot of wild mushrooms, and especially ordered from Poland. That is my favorite part!

  7. Turned out fantastic like all your recipes! Husband likes it better than his mom’s recipe (family lives just south of Sczcecin). Thank you! 🙂

  8. In my family we make bigos with sauerkraut, fresh cabbage, onion, bacon (preferably the bacon end trimmings from our local Polish deli), kielbasa, and grated apples, bay leaves and whole peppercorns. Yummy!

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