Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Bigos is a traditional dish of Polish and Lithuanian cuisine. It is not sure where the word derives from. It may come from German word that means ‘to pour in’ or Italian one meaning a pot to cook chicken bullion. When the word came into Polish language it meant the way of chopping, later on it described the aspic made of chopped meat. Already in 18th century the word bigos started to describe the dish made of cooked cabbage and meat.
There are many ways of preparing bigos but all of them are based on the same ingredients, that is sauerkraut, white cabbage (some people use only sauerkraut) and various types of meat. Bigos should be stewed as long as possible – and it is the best when it is repeated for couple of days. While braising one may add a little bit of dry wine (what raises the quality of taste). Bigos should be thick and dark brown. It should be spicy with a little bit of sour-sweet taste (but not too much).
The taste and quality of bigos depends a lot on the variety of meat that it includes. It was an old Polish tradition to add to it the leftovers of roast meat. Nowadays the Poles enrich bigos with prunes or smoked plums as well as tomato puree, honey or sweet wine. Bigos is one of few meals that does not lose its taste when heated up – on the contrary, its taste is much better after couple of days. One thing is sure – bigos is one of the most popular Polish dishes.
How to cook bigos:
1 kg sauerkraut
1 kg white cabbage
600 grams of pork meat
300 grams of bacon
40 grams of Polish sausage
2 big onions
Additions: salt, pepper, laurel leaves, allspice, couple tea spoons of tomato puree (if bigos seems too little sour).
Shred white cabbage finely and boil it for a while. Pour out the water. Cut the sauerkraut into small pieces and boil in a little bit of water (not too much – remember: bigos is not a soup!). Mix white cabbage and sauerkraut together and cook for about 2 hours on a low flame. Add salt and pepper, laurel leaves, allspice and spices that can strengthen the taste (for example garlic).
Dice all the meat and fry it with diced onion on the pan (with oil). It is wise to fry pork meat separately but you can easily fry bacon and Polish sausage together. Afterwards add fried meat to cooked cabbage. Cook it together on a low flame. Remember to stir the mixtures frequently. If bigos is not sour enough you may add some tomato puree.
To get better taste of bigos people cook bigos in intervals of half an hour. The dish is even more delicious when reheated on the next days.