There is no single recipe for a savoury stew of cabbage and meat, as recipes vary from region to region and from family to family. Typical ingredients include white cabbage, sauerkraut (kapusta kiszona in Polish), various cuts of meat and sausages, often whole or puréed tomatoes, honey and mushrooms.
The meats may include pork (often smoked), ham, bacon, sausage, veal, beef, and, as bigos is considered a hunter's stew, venison, rabbit, or other game; leftover cuts find their way into the pot as well. It may be seasoned with pepper, caraway, juniper berries, bay leaf, marjoram, pimenta, dried or smoked plums, and other ingredients.
Bigos is usually served with mashed potatoes or rye bread. As with many stews, bigos can be kept in a cool place or refrigerated and then reheated later; it is said that its flavour actually intensifies when reheated.
One observed tradition is to keep a pot of bigos going for a week or more, replenishing ingredients as necessary (cf. perpetual stew). This, the seasonal availability of cabbage, and its richness in vitamin C made bigos a traditional part of the winter diet in Poland and elsewhere. It is a popular dish in Poland to be served on the Second Day of Christmas.
Bigos is said by some to have been introduced to Poland by Jogaila, a Lithuanian Grand Duke who became Polish king Władysław Jagiełło in 1385 and who supposedly served it to his hunting-party guests.
Metaphorically, bigos means "confusion", "big mess" or "trouble" in Polish. However, Polish linguists trace the word bigos to a German rather than Lithuanian origin. The PWN Dictionary of Foreign Words speculates that it derives from the past participle begossen of a German verb meaning "to douse", as bigos was doused with wine in earlier periods.
Recipes for bigos vary widely. According to some, the amount of meat should equal the amount of cabbage. Some prefer to use only fermented cabbage, sauerkraut; others combine cabbage and sauerkraut in equal proportion. The sauerkraut may be washed or unwashed. Most recipes have a few things in common:
|Traditional Recipe For Hunter's Stew aka Bigos|
2.2 lbs Sauerkraut [washed and drained]
2.2 lbs White Cabbage [shredded]
1.1 lbs sausage [sliced]
0.55 lbs smoked ham [cubed]
0.55 lbs smoked pork [cubed]
0.55 lbs bacon [chopped]
0.55 lbs beef and/or venison [cubed]
0.13 lbs dried mushrooms
4 Pitted Prunes [chopped]
2 Apples [cored/cubed]
1 Tomato [cubed]
1 Onion [diced]
2 Garlic Cloves [minced]
1 Teaspoon Allspice
1 Tablespoon Peppercorns
Prepare the ingredients as listed above. Simmer the cabbage until soft (1/2 to 1 hour), then drain. Meanwhile, cook the bacon and set aside, preserving the fat. In the bacon fat, sauté the onions and garlic, and brown the remaining meat except the sausage. Combine all ingredients in a pot and cook: in a slow cooker, set on low for 5–10 hours; on the stove, cook briefly on medium and then simmer 2 to 3 hours. Refrigerate any leftovers and reheat for serving. The flavor improves each time, peaking around the third day. Many like to freeze it before thawing, reheating, and eating. Traditionally, it was left out in the cold to keep.
Text Credit: Wikipedia || Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons