April 02 2016

Polish Hunter’s Stew (Bigos)

By Worker Bee
30 Comments

Hunter Stew FinalThere are a lot of different recipes out there for Polish Hunter’s Stew (also called Bigos). But in the end, it’s always about two things: meat and cabbage. Hunter’s Stew is a hearty dish made from bacon, kielbasa, a pound or more of meat, plus both fresh cabbage and sauerkraut. If you’re a real hunter, the stew meat in Bigos is whatever you’ve hunted.  If your “hunting” is done at the meat counter, then buy what you’re in the mood for or what’s on sale. Venison, pork, beef, lamb…they’re all good in Bigos. This can be a clean-out-your-freezer type of meal.

Cooking the fresh cabbage and sauerkraut long and slow gives the stew its thick, rich texture. However, it also means that the cabbage and sauerkraut won’t deliver a strong one-two punch of probiotics and organosulfur compounds. They’re better at this when eaten raw or lightly cooked. But, man, does Hunter’s Stew taste good, and that’s worth something (plus, keep in mind that Bigos is good with additional fresh sauerkraut on the side.)

As mentioned before, Hunter’s Stew has a lot of variations, so the word “recipe” is used loosely here You can add a little more or less of anything in the ingredient list and the stew will still be delicious. Some versions also add spices like caraway, paprika, allspice and juniper berries. Feel free to add a teaspoon of one, or several, of these seasonings to the pot.

Servings: 6 to 8

Time in the Kitchen: 35 minutes, plus 2 to 4 hours to simmer

Ingredients:

Primal

  • A small handful dried mushrooms (porcini are most common for this recipe)
  • 2 strips bacon, diced
  • 1 ½ pounds (680 g) stew meat (venison, lamb, beef or pork), cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup red wine (240 ml)
  • 1 smoked kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (12 ounces/340 g) (13 mm)
  • 1 quart sauerkraut, drained (about 24 ounces/680 g)
  • ½ a head green cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 5 pitted prunes, cut into quarters
  • 1 bay leaf

Instructions:

In a small bowl, cover dried mushrooms with 1 cup boiling water. Set aside, giving the mushrooms time to rehydrate while you prepare the rest of the stew. When the mushrooms are soft, pour the soaking liquid through a fine mesh strainer to catch any grit. Save the strained liquid; finely chop the mushrooms. Set aside.

Primal

Add the bacon to a large stew pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. When the bacon is crispy, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pot. Set the bacon aside.

Add the stew meat in batches–don’t crowd the pot–browning the meat on all sides in the bacon fat. Transfer each batch to a plate when done.

Lower the heat and add the onion, cook 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the wine. Raise the heat to high and bring the wine to a boil while scraping up the browned bits of meat on the bottom of the pot with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Return the stew meat and its juices to the pot, plus the kielbasa, sauerkraut, fresh cabbage, prunes, mushrooms with their liquid, and bay leaf. Mix well, adding a few grinds of salt and pepper and any other spices you want to add.

Cover the pot with a lid slightly ajar. Turn the heat to low and simmer 2 to 3 hours until the stew meat is tender. Or, put the stew in a slow cooker set on low, cooking about 4 hours until the meat is tender. For both methods, stir the stew a few times whiles it cooks.

Primal

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30 thoughts on “Polish Hunter’s Stew (Bigos)”

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    1. Someone complained the other day about your right wing link. So i followed it and came eventually to ron paul homeschool (i am interested in homeschooling my kids) and then an article by john taylor gatto titled “against school”. Geesh. What i never knew. Anyways was generally consistent with Marks unschooling and free kids perspective. Paleo is more than food..the freedom to manifest our true human nature is the goal. Thanks mark and all!

  1. I ate some bigos just 5 minutes ago. I am Polish and every Polish grandma will tell you that best bigos is cooked for 3 days.

        1. Just cook it for 3hours every day for 3 days. It’s taste better that way.

        2. My mom, uncles and grandpa all cook it fo several days. It is so much better.

    1. Though I don’t recommend predator meat for several reasons, a free-range hunter will provide better stewing meat. The muscles, which do a lot more work in a free-range hunter, will have significantly more collagen and a deeper flavor.

    2. One reason why we hunters wear orange, is so that we can be certain that anyone shooting at us is doing so deliberately……. and we can shoot back without hesitation.

      Please consider…….

      🙂

    3. Does the hunter have to be Polish, or will any nationality do?

  2. I like to rinse the sauerkraut so it doesn’t overpower the other flavors. I also cut back on the amount of cabbage and sauerkraut, adding more mushrooms instead. Just personal preference. As Mark said, it’s very versatile. Taste it before adding salt. It might not need any since the sausage, bacon, and kraut will add quite a bit.

  3. My ancestors were Polish and my family still cooks traditional Polish dishes. It’s hard to find a quality Kielbasa (not the vacuum packed stuff from the supermarket) but if you look hard enough you can generally find Polish delis that will have all sorts of high quality meats. I love to pick up Kielbasa for camping as it doesn’t need to be refrigerated and provides a whallop of protein! Nothing beats walking into the deli and smelling all of the delicious meats hanging for you to choose from 🙂
    We tend to throw our cabbage into pierogis but keeping some in the stew seems like a good idea.

  4. Looks delish although I’m a wimp and pretty much only eat chicken and fish (specifically Alaskan harvested sardines and salmon) and eat / drink commercial packaged bone broth (which I’m sure is not nearly as good or beneficial as home made).

    Does all bacon have nitrates in it … is that something I should worry about? If I give bacon a try (I do eat it every once in a while, some kind of turkey bacon stuff my wife buys) should I get “real pork” bacon from the butcher and thus avoid any additives or whatever? I’m sure there are some bacon experts in the MDA community lol. 🙂

    1. Try to get Bacon without Sodium Nitrate in it. I get mine from Whole foods, its called “Niman ranch”, from California I believe. Delicious! Turkey Bacon is not as good and most still has nitrates in it. Also, they usually take all the fat out of the turkey bacon because they say its “healthy” for you. You actually want the full fat pork no nitrate variety, its Paleo and better for you. I make a package once a week for my family.

  5. Ha!

    I am living in Poland right now and the canteen at the shipyard has bigos every day! And zurek, and kapusniak, and goulash.

    Fridays you get roasted trout, salad and fries (Friday treat only) for $ US 6.

    This country does healthy real food, it is awesome.

    1. I loved the food in Poland, particularly the pierogi, not sure if healthy. Also their cherries marinated in alcohol. On cold nights they serve it heated which seems to increase the alcohol content; we couldn’t even finish as it was so potent. I also have Polish ancestry and I believe one of the staple foods in the past was Kasha which is a sprouted buckwheat (not a grain but a seed). I would return to Poland in a heartbeat if I could, especially Krakow.

  6. Sounds like never ending stew. You keep the left over juice and mushy veg from yesterdays stew and add more meat, veg, etc. Keep it going for as long as you can. I have been told it tastes the best at about two weeks. An old bushie from Western Australia told me about it.
    In a way you are making stock with each meal and using it in the following one.
    Cheers,

  7. I’m going to give this a try – it looks delicious and, most importantly, I should be able to get the Polish sausages. We don’t get many ‘exotic’ ingredients round here!

  8. My family orders fresh kielbasa from a store called Schiff’s in Scranton, Pa. We have done so for ever! We live in Texas but my family is from that area, there isn’t anything like it here. They carry smoked and other flavors too. Can’t say that it doesn’t have nitrates but for the occasional treat with sauerkraut and some horseradish I don’t care!

    1. I checked their website. Looks like is comparable in price to Olympia Provisions here in Portland, OR. OP uses pastured hogs. I wonder if Schiff’s does… I’ll call when they’re open.

  9. There are as many different recipes as there are Polish families. I love to add a tea spoon of tomato puree – it adds color and and a little bit sweetness. I love bigos and it is my favorite food for winter and early spring. Try it also with potatoes.

  10. My m-i-l was Polish, so I just asked my husband if she ever made bigos. He couldn’t remember. Guess I’m going to have to make it now – don’t want him to lose his Polish card. 😉

  11. I was told by an old babcha that the hunters took sauerkraut as the only preserved food when they went on a hunting expedition. They took a large iron pot and a basket lined with straw that would fit the pot. Once in camp the sauerkraut would be warmed and the first offal and small cuts of meat would be added when a hunter returned. The pot was then constantly hot and constantly added to. There was always a hot meal when the hunter/s came back to camp. When the camp was moved the pot was placed in the straw lined wicker basket and carried between two horses. So even “on the hoof” hot food was always available. When a new camp was pitched the fire was lit and the pot returned to its usual position. What could be skinned and salted was kept to return to the home, what could not be kept was added to the pot. More sauerkraut was added as required. fresh cabbage was carried and added as well but it depended on when the hunt happened and if any fresh cabbage was available at the time.

    Hence “hunters stew” has a rather varied ingredient list and is more of a concept than a recipe. Some variants are tasty improvements and some are just made out of necessity. The main point being that it contains sauerkraut/kaspusta, various meats of no particular nature and being cooked for an extended period. As posts above note – IT TASTES MUCH BETTER AND MUCH MORE AUTHENTIC AFTER 3 DAYS OF GENTLE, OCCASIONAL COOKING.It is truly a wonderful dish and ever so slightly addictive….. :0)

  12. What if you mix in a cup or two of raw sauerkraut to the mix once it is fully cooked and cooled? That way you can get the most bang for your buck. I know reheating can kill the beneficials. Then again I only warm mine a little when I reheat.

  13. Can anyone tell me if it would fit is a 5-6 qt slow cooker? Would like to set it up in the morning to cook all day while at work, but don’t want to get all the ingredients and find out it won’t fit. I don’t have a stove top so my pressure cooker / slow cooker is where it’s at. Love soups and stews like this I can cook in the slow cooker. Thanks everyone! Grok on!