Bigos

Bigos is often called Poland’s national dish. It is served at every large gathering: christenings, weddings, funerals and every other excuse for getting together for food and drink. It is best made in advance by at least a day and then reheated. My father used to talk about using a horse and cart to take large wooden barrels of bigos to where there was going to be a celebration.

It is Poland’s sweet and sour dish using sweet (fresh) cabbage and sour (sauerkraut) cabbage. How sweet and sour you make it depends on taste, I always use roughly equal amounts of fresh and sour cabbage – a large white cabbage to a large tin or jar of sauerkraut. You can add sugar or some lemon juice to alter the sweet/sour balance.

This was a Hunter’s stew with all the meat and game that was available in the long hard winters going into the pot with the cabbage. A variety of mixed fresh and smoked meats and sausages are used, the amount can vary with how much meat you have.

Served with rye bread with or without butter and a glass of beer or vodka, it is delicious.

The mixture of cabbage and tomato in bigos is very Polish, as a little girl I thought that cooked cabbage was always orange to red rather that pale to dark green as my mother always used the two together in all her cabbage recipes.

Tomatoes were brought to Poland in the 16th century by the Italian chefs who came with the Italian Princess Bona Sforza who married the Polish King, Zygmunt the Old. The Polish word for tomato – pomidor, shows its Italian origin.

Getting Ready to Cook Bigos
Getting Ready to Cook Bigos
Dried Mushrooms
Dried Mushrooms

IMG_20150704_125955216

Enamel Pans
Enamel Pans
Enamel Pans
Enamel Pans

I have many of these enamel pans they are good for slow cooking in the oven.

Bigos
Bigos
Bigos
Bigos
Serving up Bigos
Serving up Bigos

Traditional Bigos

There are lots of variations you can make to the following recipe and everyone seems to have their own version. I find the following proportions work out very well every time and the bigos is moist but not like a soup.

This makes a large amount which is good for a family gathering.

Often I make this in advance and then portion it up into 4 parts and then pack these into large plastic bags or tubs and freeze them – so I always have some on hand.  Note – the tomato stains the plastic tubs so I often put a bag inside a tub. I also then wrap the tub in another bag as the aroma is strong even when frozen and this stops it affecting other food in the freezer.

Ingredients

900g sauerkraut (1large tin or jar)

500g fresh white cabbage (1 large head)

200g to 400g Pork (shoulder or spare rib)

150 to 300g mixed smoked sausage such as kabanos, Polish ring or Frankfurters

150g smoked bacon

1 large onion

10g dried mushrooms

100g tomato purée (1/2 tube)

20g plain flour

2 bay leaves

3 to 4 peppercorns

sugar or lemon juice to taste –optional

fat/oil to fry in.

note – salt should not be needed as the sausage and bacon contain salt.

Put the sauerkraut in a large pan and add boiling water until it is covered and boil gently for 1 hour till it is soft. Take care not to let it boil dry and push the sauerkraut down occasionally so it stays under the water.

Finely chop the fresh cabbage into long strands and place in another large pan with the dried mushrooms, add water to cover the cabbage and boil till soft and as with the sauerkraut take care it does not boil dry.

Pre heat the oven to GM3– 150o C

Chop the pork into small cubes and fry till brown on all sides.

Chop the bacon into small squares.

Add 100g of the bacon and all the pork to the sauerkraut and boil gently till everything is soft.

Make crisp skwarki* with the rest of the bacon and add to the sauerkraut.

Chop the onion into small pieces and fry till golden, add the flour and fry till the mixture is just about to burn.

Add the cooked fresh cabbage with all the liquid and the fried onion mixture to the sauerkraut.

Slice up the various smoked sausage and add to the bigos.

Add the tomato purée, bay leaves and peppercorns.

You can add some sugar or lemon juice at this stage; this depends on how sour you like the bigos and often depends on the sauerkraut used. I rarely do either of these.

Now you can heat it all together gently over a low heat with a lid on the pan or put the mixture into a large oven proof dish; I use a large oval enamelled dish, and put it in the oven for about 3 hours.

Bigos tastes better if made one day, left overnight, and then reheated in the pan or in the dish in the oven.

*skwarki – small squares of bacon fried till the fat comes out and you are left with little crisp bits.

Poles Love to Eat Cabbage

Cabbage is a vegetable that plays a very large part in Polish cookery.  It can be eaten raw  in a variety of salads or cooked in many different ways.

Cabbages grow well in Poland and they can be stored for part of the winter so giving a supply for most of the year.

Veg Market - Copy

Cabbages For Sale in a Polish Market

Cabbages can also be preserved by allowing them to ferment using brine. This fermented cabbage is called sauerkraut in German which means sour cabbage.

My parents used to tell me about how their parents made barrels and barrels of fermented cabbage, shredding the cabbage finely, adding salt and packing it firmly into the barrels. This was standard work after harvesting cabbages and would provide a basic ingredient for many dishes throughout the coming year.

One of my aunties in Poland who lives in a block of flats makes her own sauerkraut in a bucket which stands on her balcony. She is not alone in this.

Street market in Krakow – Sauerkraut and Sausage
Sauerkraut and Sausage
Sauerkraut and Sausage

On a recent trip to Poland I bought a little book on cabbage cookery.  The title, translates as “Falling in Love with Cabbage”; I think most Poles do this at a very early age as cabbage features, fresh or sour, in so many meals.

Falling In Love With Cabbage

Falling In Love With Cabbage

In my next posts I am going to cover some classic Polish recipes for cabbage including bigos and gołąbki (cabbage rolls)- as seen on the book cover.

Bigos

Bigos