Bigos, also known as Hunter’s Stew, is a Polish dish made with meats, mushrooms, and sauerkraut, which are then fried and set to simmer for hours. It is enjoyed in colder months and often made in large batches, as it is well known that the leftovers only get better with time. It is the national dish of Poland and has a long history in the country.
This dish is a dry stew and best served simply, such as with a side of bread and a beer. Recent trends with the dish have made serving the stew inside of a bread bowl increasingly popular. The stew’s hearty and filling nature makes it the perfect solution for long cold winter nights, and a great dish to prepare in advance for social gatherings.
Many people will make this dish one or two days before actually eating it which leaves ample time for the meats, mushrooms, and sauerkraut to soak up the liquids and spices. Leftovers can be kept for up to a week in refrigeration.
Origin & Cultural Significance
Bigos was chosen as Poland’s national dish for good reason: it has a history spanning over 700 years in the country. Originally made as a survival stew during the winter months, the earliest variations were made with what was readily available in winter: game and salted meats, mushrooms and onions.
Records dating to the 17th century display Polish nobles using vinegar in the recipe, which then evolved to sauerkraut due to vinegar’s high price and lack of substance. For the poorer folk who needed the warmth of the stew through the winter, the cheap and filling sauerkraut was a more suitable choice.
The dish was so popular it appeared in the Polish epic Pan Tadeusz and is highly regarded as a classic representative of Polish cuisine.
Polish Bigos Recipe
- Polish sausage(kielbasa) - 1 lb
- Smoked bacon - 1 lb
- Smoked ham hock - 1
- Other meats (ham, venison, pork, etc.) - 1-2 lb
- Sauerkraut - 2 lbs
- White onions, medium - 2
- Mixed mushrooms (porcini, cremini, etc) - 1.5 lbs
- Vegetable Oil- 2 tbsp
- Dried marjoram- 2 tbsp
- Cumin- ½ tsp
- Juniper berries- 1 tbsp (optional)
- Caraway seeds - 1 tsp.
- Plum jam - 3.5 oz.
- Tomato Paste- 3-4 oz.
- Tomato Sauce - 15 oz.
- Prep dry mushrooms by placing them in warm water to soak for 2-3 hours. If possible, let them soak overnight.
- Prep juniper– crush roughly.
- Prep meat– cut meats into bite-sized chunks– your ability to do this will depend on what meats you include.
- Prep sauerkraut– if your sauerkraut is sour, boil in water for 10 minutes then drain.
- Once mushrooms are soft, drain and reserve their soaking water then cut into bite-size pieces.
- Chop onions and bacon into fine pieces.
- Fry onions and bacon for 10 minutes then mix with sauerkraut in a pot.
- Using your pan, add oil and fry your selections of meat that can be fried. Larger pieces like ham hock will go directly into the pot.
- Add meat to the pot along with marjoram, pepper, salt, cumin, plum jam, caraway and tomato puree.
- Chop mushrooms and fry in a pan briefly, just until they start losing their water, then sprinkle with salt and add to pot.
- Add in juniper.
- Add in tomato sauce and cover to simmer. Check at 2 hours and then 30 minute intervals from there. The longer it cooks the better it will be, but you can use the ham hock as a scope for when to dig in. Once the meat falls easily off the bone, you can eat.
- Before serving: go through stew and pick out bones.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 662Total Fat: 38gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 161mgSodium: 2241mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 7gSugar: 15gProtein: 52g