Polish Bigos

(Wersja polska jest tu.)

You may also want to compare this composition with the French Choucroute Alsacienne..

For this very traditional recipe you’ll need a head of cabbage and a bunch of sauerkraut. The sauerkraut is key: some people skip the raw cabbage altogether! You’ll also need up to a week to brew and re-brew the recipe to maximize gastonomical impact. It’s like pasta sauce: you can have some on the night you make it, but it’s not until the third or fourth night that it’s really happening.

  • 1 head of cabbage (the spherical thing, not some fancy Asian thing! please!)
  • sauerkraut – preferably hand-pickled in brine, not in vinegar
  • some smoked meats – your favourite sausage, lean bacon
  • prunes
  • did I mention bacon???
  • some fried onion
  • whatever leftover meats are currently populating your fridge
  • mushrooms: you can buy dried wild mushrooms at your local ex-Yugoslav deli and soak them for a couple of hours prior to use
  • pepper, salt
  • a glass of wine (optional), added to the second-last brewing
  • you can add an apple, if you are so inclined
  • you can really add anything you like

You’ll need to brew everything together: the raw cabbage sliced thin, the sauerkraut, the meats — but with the following constraint: the sauerkraut will render your meats tough, so it’s best to brew the meats with the raw cabbage to start, and then add the sauerkraut once the meats are softened.

And thus:

  • slice the raw cabbage into thin strips and cook calmly in a tiny bit of water, with salt
  • in a second pot, keep your sauerkraut on a gentle simmer
  • meanwhile, chop your meats and toss into the raw cabbage pot
  • let everything cook for half an hour, then combine the two pots, stir, and bring to a boil
  • set your pot out in the backyard or on the balcony to cool off
  • watch a movie or go buy some more random hunks of meat
  • re-brew the pot, adding newly acquired hunks of meat, if any

If it’s winter and your balcony is freezing cold, that’s fine!

Brew and re-brew your bigos at least three times before serving. You can add stuff (meats) as you go. Simmer gently, covered or uncovered depending on how much liquid is in the brew (the bigos should be moist, but not soupy). Stir often to prevent burning of pot.

The stew will gradually turn brown: that’s what you want.

 

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