Meaty Polish Comfort Food

Bigos is a hearty, meaty stew replete with beef, pork, sausage, and sauerkraut—Polish comfort food. “Bigos is to Poles what madeleines were to Proust,” explains ballulah. “In fact in Polish literature there is a similarly effusive Proustian passage about bigos in Adam Mickiewicz’s famous 19th Century epic poem Pan Tadeusz.” And bigos isn’t a stable dish, either—it’s one of those “a little of this, a little of that” dishes that morph between each making and between each generation.

It took ages for ballulah to convince her mother to give up her recipe for bigos, but when she finally did, Chowhounds rejoiced. Ballulah cautions that you must use a truly fermented German-style sauerkraut, not one that gets its sourness from vinegar, which will make the dish taste awful. She recommends using German or Austrian wine with a soft good body and soft tannins in the dish, and avoiding very fruit-forward wines with lots of acidity.

Ballulah’s Mother’s Bigos:

1/2 pound veal stew meat

1/2 pound pork shoulder, cubed

1/2 pound beef stew meat

3 onions, coarsely chopped

2 pounds sauerkraut

Good handful dried Polish mushrooms (soaked, reserving the strained soaking liquid)

Small piece Boczek (Polish pork belly, like salt pork or slab bacon), chopped

About 1-foot length of Polish sausage, chopped

Stock cubes (bouillon)

Peppercorns

Bay leaf

Caraway seeds

1 cup or so red wine

Brown veal, pork, and beef in batches (do not cook through) in a very large pot over high heat, then set aside. Add onion and sauerkraut to the pot and just barely cover with water. Bring to a simmer, turn the heat way down, and add browned meats, mushrooms and their soaking liquid, boczek, sausage, bouillon, and seasonings. Simmer on very low heat for 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine and continue to simmer for 2 to 3 hours more. At this point, you can eat the bigos, but it’s much better if you allow it to cool, cover the pot, and refrigerate overnight, then cook at a low simmer for 2 to 3 hours more.

Board Links: My mother’s BIGOS recipe

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