Bigos (Hunter's Stew), pronounced, "Bee-Gose", also known as Kielbasa Kapusta is a comfort food dish I grew up with that I always looked forward to. My Mom made the best Bigos and she always made it for us around the holidays. It's a dish my Mom ALWAYS made well, and it was always enjoyed by the whole family. Bigos is a cabbage and sauerkraut stew consisting of smoked meats. In my family is was always made with smoked Kielbasa or Polish sausage. As with any recipe I post on here, this Bigos recipe is one I make for my own family. This Bigos hunter's stew recipe has the flavor of comfort and always feels like home to me. As you'll read below, Polish food had a big influence on my Ukrainian born side of the family.
Bigos Hunter's Stew Variations
As with any ethnic recipe I post on my site, if you're familiar with a recipe, you might notice my recipe varies from others you see online. My particular Bigos recipe here is now a family recipe my husband and I have developed over many years actually. Since my husband's 1st taste of Bigos 11-12 years back, he's wanted to document exactly what we do to cook it just right. Bigos is also the very 1st recipe we have ever documented for our family before creating this site. Little did we know when we were cooking and documenting this recipe that we would actually start sharing our recipes with the world.
The reason this recipe was popular in my family is because my family is originally from Eastern Europe. My Father is from Belarus and grew up with Polish cuisine, also living in Poland for part of his childhood. My mother is originally from the Ukraine, Odessa. Ukraine is very close to Poland so the food in Ukraine has a lot of Polish influence, not just Russian. Ukrainian food seems to take be a fusion of many different Eastern European countries due to it's location. My mother and grandmother, both from Ukraine cooked this dish on special occasions, after breaking fasts. My father and his family also cooked bigos, so it's definitely a recipe that's been passed down through the generations. A traditional Polish bigos doesn't have dill weed, but with the Ukrainian/Russian influence as with my family, we load up the dill!
There are many different variations of bigos that include mushrooms (dried or fresh wild mushrooms), tomato paste, bacon, bay leaves and other seasonings. This version of bigos has the taste of the delectable warm stew I grew up with. It's a simpler version with the main components being white cabbage, smoked sausage and sauerkraut . If I add or take away anything from this recipe it just wouldn't be the Bigos taste I know and love. It's got a savory attraction that gives you that comfort food fix. The cabbage gives you a sweet undertone and the sauerkraut just balances it out to make it a true Bigos stew. I've heard of people making it with game meat and wild boar sausage as well. Hence the name "hunter's stew" stemming back from medieval times when they added wild mushrooms and freshly caught game to their meat stew.
Smoked Sausage Factor
In my opinion Bigos is not extra special without a great smoked Polish Kielbasa to create the base of this hearty stew. Our smoked sausage choice is one thing that is not consistent every time we make this dish. What is consistent though is our need for a great smoked Kielbasa to use in this bigos recipe. We try not to use regular grocery store bought sausage to make this dish. We prefer to use a good local sausage from an Eastern European market or even homemade Kielbasa. My husband has made homemade Kielbasa for this dish in years past and hopefully again in the near future.
You'll find not only the flavor of a good local Kielbasa to be better, but the quality is ideal. It's less greasy, without fillers and full of really good flavor to make your dish stand out. Plus, you'll be supporting the local businesses which is a great thing as well.
Bigos Main Ingredients
- Cabbage- Standard Green/White cabbage. If you're in a pinch, you can make it with red cabbage. I've made it with a mixture of fresh cabbage many times.
- Sausage- Our favorite kind of meat for this stew is Polish smoked Kielbasa. Use your favorite type of smoked sausage or mix it up with pork and beef sausages.
- Sauerkraut- Use a good quality sauerkraut. If you're hard-core you can use your own sauerkraut, or just cheat like me and use a good refrigerated fermented sauerkraut. I also like Aldi's Bavarian sauerkraut as well (with or without caraway seeds, your preference)
- Garlic- 4 large garlic cloves
- Onion- Sweet yellow onion is great, but you can use any kind in a pinch.
- Olive oil- I like extra virgin olive oil, but you will also have grease in your pan from the sausage as well.
- Fresh Dill weed- I a pinch you can use dried dill, but I always prefer fresh when it's feasible.
- Salt & Pepper
- Sugar- Just a couple Tablespoons to sweeten it up a touch.
- Bacon- a little smoky bacon is always a delicious addition, but again, just not how we make it growing up.
- Mushrooms- fresh wild or dried mushrooms (aka forest mushrooms) or porcini mushrooms
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Give this hearty warm sausage stew a try and let us know how you like it in the comment section below.Print