Bigos - Polish Hunter Stew
I started the pandemic lockdown with sauerkraut in my fridge. Didn't you? (haha) More specifically, it was a sour head from Kissel cabbage of Lumsden, the best sauerkraut north of the 49th parallel (and possibly below it too!). Look for it in the produce section of your grocery store ~ it's shrink wrapped, not in a jar.
Bigos is an old old Polish stew. It's called a "hunter stew" because it includes ingredients gathered on the fall hunt ~ meat, mushrooms, juniper berries and herbs, plus ripe garden tomatoes. Years ago, I spent a winter in northern Tuscany where tomatoes ripened on the vine until the frosts of December. I thought that was paradise ♥
I pick juniper berries off the shrubs in my neighbourhood in Saskatoon, so it's not such an exotic ingredient as it sounds. Pick them when the berries are a pretty blue and crumble when crushed. As for mushrooms, I had some local chanterelles in my freezer, but dried mushrooms are more common in this recipe.
I love bigos for having cabbage ~ both fresh and sour ~ a terrific source of vitamin C. And we can all use more of that in covid and/or flu season.
It's traditional in Poland to add more leftover meat, thus augmenting the pot and keeping the stew going for several days. Like most stews, bigos gets better every time you reheat it.
1/2 cup dried mushrooms
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp paprika or 2 juniper berries, crushed
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 lb bacon, roughly diced
1 lb smoked sausage, sliced
1 cup leftover roast meat
6–8 canned tomatoes, chopped
1/2 medium cabbage head, shaved
1/2 lb sauerkraut
2 tbsp plum jam or honey
1. Soak dried mushrooms in boiling water to soften. Save the water.
2. Heat oil in a stew pot. Cook onion until soft. Stir in paprika or juniper berries, salt and pepper. Add garlic and bacon.
3. When bacon and onions are cooked, add the meat, tomatoes, cabbage, sauerkraut, mushrooms and mushroom water. Add more water to not quite cover the cabbage.
4. Cover the pot and simmer for several hours, until the cabbage is meltingly soft. Stir in the plum jam or honey.
*This recipe is included in my historical cookbook Out of Old Saskatchewan Kitchens.