Bigos (Polish Hunter’s Stew) Recipe

How To Make Bigos (Polish Hunter’s Stew) Recipe

This authentic Polish Bigos, aka Polish Hunter’s Stew, is made of delicious meat, sauerkraut and wild mushrooms. It is decadent, hearty, and perfect for a winter meal!

Polish Hunter’s Stew, or as it is known in Polish, “Bigos.” This hearty and flavorful stew has deep roots that stretch back centuries, and its preparation and consumption have become a cherished ritual for many Polish families. This bigos recipe belongs to healthy recipes, it is Paleo and Whole 30 and a one pot meal.

Bigos, for sure, is one of the most flavorful and complex dishes in Polish cuisine. It is a national dish of Poland, and it is perfect for people who like Polish food.

 A Journey Through History

Bigos, a hearty and flavorful stew, can be traced back to medieval times when hunting was a prominent activity among the Polish nobility. The dish was initially created as a way to utilize the bounty of the hunt, incorporating a mix of game meats, sausages, and locally available vegetables. Slavic people, known for their resourcefulness, combined these meats with sauerkraut and other locally available ingredients. The result was a dish that satisfied hunger and celebrated the diversity of flavors inherent in the region.

Bigos preparation requires time, patience, and the ability to make the most of what’s at hand. 

Bigos it’s a culinary journey through time, a tradition passed down like a treasured heirloom. The kitchen becomes a hub of activity, with generations coming together to craft this hearty stew. It’s a dance of hands, each movement carrying the weight of stories, laughter, and a shared connection to the past. As ingredients meld and flavors intensify, it’s as if the pot becomes a time travel vessel. The elders share tales of Slavic traditions, and the younger ones listen, absorbing the recipe and the essence of family and heritage. That is how I remember it. ❤️

Nostalgia permeates the air. The recipes aren’t just instructions; they are echoes of grandmothers and grandfathers. The meats, sourced from the bountiful winter hunt in the past (nowadays, Poles just buy meat at the store or at the butcher), symbolize not just sustenance but the generosity of the season. Sauerkraut, a humble ferment, speaks of preservation and the resilience of tradition against the cold backdrop of winter.

Bigos, in its versatility, becomes a canvas for familial expression. Every family adds its touch – a secret spice, a particular cut of meat, or a unique twist that makes their Bigos distinctly theirs. Yet, amidst this diversity, there’s a unifying thread of pride in presenting a dish that encapsulates the very soul of Poland.

Finally, the real magic begins as the family gathers around the table. The first taste is a plunge into the rich flavors, but it’s also a connection to a cultural identity that stretches back in time. It’s not just a bowl of stew; it’s a vessel carrying the collective spirit of a people.

In that moment, as families savor bigos. They’re not just indulging in a meal but partaking in a ritual. It’s a communion of flavors, a family celebration, a testament to Christmas’s enduring magic, and a symbol of abundance.

Cooking Bigos (Hunter Stew) is a Family Affair

This hunter’s stew recipe is a labor of love, often involving multiple generations of a family. The process begins with gathering ingredients, an opportunity for family members to bond over shared memories and stories.

Bigos is a dish that rewards patience. Traditionally, it is left to simmer slowly, allowing the flavors to meld and intensify over time. This slow-cooking process is about achieving the perfect taste and, savoring the anticipation, and building a sense of togetherness.

Traditionally, Bigos includes a variety of meats, such as venison, wild boar, and pork, creating a flavorful and robust base. Smoked sausages, such as kielbasa, contribute a distinct smokiness, while bacon adds an indulgent richness.

Adding wild mushrooms to Polish Hunter Stew, or Bigos, brings a distinct earthiness and depth of flavor. While the specific types of mushrooms may vary based on availability and personal preferences, wild mushrooms are a traditional and integral element of Bigos preparation. (You can find wild-dried Polish mushrooms on Amazon or in Polish stores.) 

Mushroom picking holds a special place in Polish culture, and it’s more than just a pastime – it’s a cherished tradition deeply rooted in the country’s history and lifestyle. Known as “grzybobranie” in Polish, this activity involves foraging for wild mushrooms.  Poles are obsessed with mushroom picking and are incredibly proud of the harvest. It is a family tradition passed down through generations. I remember being very young and going with my family every weekend during the mushroom season, knowing most of the mushrooms myself at an early age. From the iconic porcini (borowik) to chanterelles (kurki) and countless other species, mushroom picking allows people to connect with nature and appreciate the Polish landscape’s biodiversity.

Flavor Profile

The flavor of Bigos is rich and savory and has umami notes with a delightful balance of sweet and sour undertones. This complexity arises from the combination of various meats, sauerkraut, wild mushrooms, apples, prunes, and aromatic spices.

Umami from Meats:

The medley of meats, including game meats like venison and wild boar, along with pork, beef, and smoked sausages like kielbasa, contributes a deep umami flavor. The slow-cooking process allows these meats to release their savory juices, infusing the stew with a hearty and meaty richness.

Tanginess from Sauerkraut:

Sauerkraut, fermented cabbage, is a central ingredient in Bigos and imparts a tangy and slightly sour flavor. This adds a refreshing contrast to the richness of the meats, creating a harmonious balance in each spoonful.

Earthy Depth from Wild Mushrooms:

Including wild mushrooms brings an earthy depth to the stew, enhancing its overall complexity. The mushrooms absorb the meats and spices’ flavors while contributing their distinct taste, adding layers of nuance to the dish.

Smokiness from Sausages:

Smoked sausages, particularly Polish sausage-kielbasa, introduce a subtle smokiness.

Aromatic Spices:

A blend of aromatic spices, including bay leaves, juniper berries, and black peppercorns, infuses the stew with a fragrant and warming quality. These spices add depth and contribute to the comforting aroma that fills the kitchen during the slow-cooking process.

Sweetness from Apples and Dried Fruits:

A hint of sweetness may come from adding apples and dried fruits, such as prunes or apricots. This subtle sweetness helps balance the savory and sour notes, rounding out the overall flavor experience.

Ingredients for Bigos Polish Hunter’s Stew

Beef stew 

Pork sausage

Smoked Bacon and bacon fat (optional)

Onions

Sauerkraut

Mushroom stock 

Dried mushrooms

Celery root

Carrots

Dried prunes

Parsnip

Apples

Green cabbage

Tomato paste

Garlic powder

Olive oil

Onion powder

Dried basil

Bay leaf

Juniper berries

Dry red wine

Marjoram

Caraway seeds (optional)

Black pepper

Beef stock

How to Store Bigos (Hunter Stew)

  1. Cool down to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator. 
  2. Consider portioning the stew into smaller, airtight containers before storing. This facilitates easier reheating of individual servings, preventing unnecessary reheating of the entire batch.
  3. Store the airtight containers of hunter stew in the refrigerator for up to 7 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  4. When ready to use thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat on the stovetop or microwave.

What to Serve with Bigos

  1. Crusty Bread: A loaf of crusty bread, such as a baguette or a hearty rye bread, is a classic choice. It’s perfect for soaking up the flavorful juices of the stew.
  2. Boiled or Mashed Potatoes: Potatoes, whether boiled or mashed, provide a substantial and comforting side to accompany Bigos. They complement the richness of the stew.
  3. Pierogi: Polish dumplings, or pierogi, filled with potato and cheese, meat, or sauerkraut, make for a delightful and traditional side dish.
  4. Kasha (Buckwheat Groats): Kasha, often prepared as a side dish, adds a nutty flavor and a different texture to the meal. It’s a nutritious and hearty option.
  5. On the top of salad greens.

 This hunter’s beef stew is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed in various ways, and the sides you choose and it is an amazing comfort food for cold winter days.

MORE HOLIDAY RECIPES:

Polish Beet Soup (Bortsh)

Beet Kavas

Hot Chocolate

Polish Cabbage Stew

Polish Mushroom Soup

Did you make this recipe?

Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #thetastesoflifeholisticblog

Bigos (Polish Hunter's Stew) Recipe

Savoring Tradition: Exploring the Rich Heritage of Authentic Polish Hunter Stew

This authentic Polish Bigos, aka Hunter Stew, is made of delicious meat, sauerkraut and wild mushrooms. It is decadent, hearty, and perfect for a winter meal!
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Course: Christmas, Dinner
Cuisine: Polish
Keyword: Bigos, Hunter Stew
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours
Servings: 12
Calories: 550kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs beef beef stew
  • 1 lbs pork sausage
  • 1 lbs smoked sausage
  • 1 onions medium dice
  • 4 carrots shredded
  • 2 apples medium dice
  • 1 parsnip shredded
  • 1 celery root shredded
  • 1 green cabbage medium
  • 2 jars sauerkraut best is Bubbies sauerkraut
  • 1 mushroom stock
  • 1 beef stock
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1/2 lbs wild mushrooms soaked overnight
  • 10 oz dried prunes
  • 2 tbsp garlic pwder
  • 2 tbsp granulated onion
  • 2 tbsp majoram
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 8 oz tmato paste
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries ground- optional
  • black pepper to taste
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  • Soak the mushroom the night before. Make sure that they are coverd Wwith water all the way.
  • In a large pot heat up 2 tablespoons of the oil, add juniper, bay leaf and diced onion and gently fry for 5 minutes stirring often. Sat it aside.
  • Shred parnip, carrots and celery root.
  • Chop the beef and brown it in the hot frying pan with 2 tablespons of olive oil Then add pork sausage and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Add the meat to the pot.
  • Chop the green cabbage.
  • Remove mushroom from the water and transfer them to the cutting board. Raughly chop them.
  • Medium dice apples.
  • Add vegetables, mushrooms, spices, and 2 cups of mushrooms and 3 cups of beef broth to the pot. Stir to combine. Close the lid, bring to a boil then simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally. Make sure the bigos doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Chop the smoked sausage. In a frying pan heat up the remaining oil (1-2 tablespoons) and fry the chopped sausage until crispy, stirring often. Add the sausage, sauerkraut and tomato paste into the stew and continue cooking gently for 1-1½ hours. Add a little more broth if needed.
  • Serve with mashed potatoes, pierogis, roasted veggies or just eat plain bigos. It is very filling.

Notes

  • I recommend buying the Bubbies sauerkraut – you can find it in Whole Foods or any health food store. I prefer this one to the Polish one but you can also buy one in a Polish delicatessen. Look for organic, preservative-free sauerkraut that’s yellowish in color, not grey.
  • Use any meat you like but make sure that it’s dark, not white. Pork ribs or pork shoulder are good options. If you are able to find a wild game for it! Just make sure that it is not salted or cured.
  • Use any Polish sausage (kielbasa) but ensure it’s smoked (most are). You can also add pork breakfast sausage and crisped-up bacon or pieces of chopped ham
  • Add the beef or mushroom broth to the stew. It should be full of moisture, though adding too much of it may result in a soupy consistency, which is not what you want.
  • Do NOT add any salt into your bigos. Both sauerkraut as well as Polish sausage are quite salty, so you might only have to add pepper to taste.  Adjust the seasoning towards the end of cooking.

Nutrition

Serving: 12g | Calories: 550kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 41g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 19g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 113mg | Sodium: 825mg | Potassium: 1025mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 4262IU | Vitamin C: 46mg | Calcium: 138mg | Iron: 5mg
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