SOUPSONG HAS GONE HARDCOPY!
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Release date: 12/28/2004.
You'll find this recipe in it, From AN EXALTATION OF SOUPS,
copyright © 2004
by Patricia Solley,
Published by Three Rivers Press.
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"Bigos was being cooked in every kettle
In human language it is hard to settle
The marvels of its odor, hue and taste;
In poetry's description one has traced
Only the clinking words and clanging rhymes....
This bigos is no ordinary dish,
For it is aptly framed to meet your wish.
Founded upon good cabbage, sliced and sour,
Which, as men say, by its own zest and power
Melts in one's mouth, it settles in a pot
And its dewy bosom folds a lot
Of the best portions of selected meats;
Scullions parboil it then, until heat
Draws from its substance all the living juices,
And from the pot's edge, boiling fluid sluices
And all the air is fragrant with the scent."
--Adam Mickiewicz' epic Pan Tadeusz (1834)
(transl. Watson Kirkconnell)
In a less exalted vein, here's what Sabina Kelly of Woodbridge, Virginia, says about it: "My Dad used to make this in the winter. My sis and i don't care for saurkraut - but it was an event when my dad made this - and we loved it! It's best with homemade mashed potatoes!"
Polish Hunter Stew
Not for vegetarians! This is just crammed with meats and sausages, with the sweetness of apples more than balanced by the sharpness of sauerkraut--but it's hearty and delicious and really quite unforgettable. Traditionally served in Poland as a good-luck New Year's dish, it was originally eaten only by the Polish aristocracy (they being the only ones allowed to hunt game on their estates...and the only ones who could afford so much meat). Many many folks have written in to comment and amend--please see their remarks below. In the meantime, serve hot to 6 people as a filling meal, with boiled potatoes, a dish of sour cream, and lots of bread on the side.
- 1 cup chopped bacon
- 1 pound of boneless pork, cut into small cubes
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 onions, quartered
- 1/2 pound mushrooms, quartered
- 2 cups beef stock
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed under cold water and drained
- 3 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
- 2 cups canned tomatoes, with juice, cut into pieces
- 1 cup diced cooked ham
- 1 and 1/2 cups Polish sausage, cut into small chunks
- salt and pepper to taste
Garnish: sour cream, served on the side
Fry the bacon in a Dutch oven, to render the fat. Drain the bacon on the side and reserve. Then toss the pork chunks, garlic, onions, and mushrooms into the rendered fat. Saute on medium low until the meat is browned--about 5 minutes.
Pour in the stock, tomatoes with their juice, sugar, bay leaves, sauerkraut, and apples, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours. Stir in the ham and sausage, then cover and cook on medium-low heat for about 30 more minutes.
When ready to serve, remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the reserved bacon, and serve with boiled potatoes, a bowl of sour cream, and thick, crusty bread.
Comments and variations:
- From Mike Bowe of Wokingham, UK: Re the Bigos recipes - I was treated to Bigos by some Polish friends visiting England a few years ago, and they gave me the huge pot of the leftover dish, which they suggested I freeze for later use. A few days later, hacked off a chunk, then heated slowly - SUPERB (and improved every time we grabbed another chunk over the next few days). I beleive this reflects a historic point mentioned by my friends from bygone days, where hunters would freeze a Bigos, put it in their saddlebags,
store in a snowdrift in the forest overnight, and hack off a chunk each night. Food
for several days!
- From Raina, Holland Michigan: I was raised in Belarus. I have Polish roots in my family. My aunt made bigos every
time when I came to visit her during my school winter break. It was my great
grandmother's recipe. My aunt lived all her 86 years with her Polish relatives in the
She always put ingredients in pot layer by layer and always told me do not forget
that bigos does not like to be blended or mixed. She put a lot of chopped onion on
very bottom, next layer by layer: meaty pork ribs, cut in quarters small potatos, big
pieces of Kilbasa or fresh sausages, bay leaves, pre-washed dried mushrooms,
pre-washed sauerkraut, one chopped onion fried in a cup of sliced salt fat pork.
She added a cup of water in a skillet to wash the remaining fat from it and then put it on
the very top. (Sauerkraut amount was equal to amount of all ingredients together).She
put on a heavy lid and baked bigos for 3-4 hrs until it turned light brown. She liked
when bigos was dark. Potatoes, pork and sausages kept their shape. Try and you will
fall in love with this unforgetable food.
- AUTHENTICITY ALERT! I've been contacted by Kazimierz Ziezio, who gives the following excellent advice to true hunters: "Some Hunter's stew--Where's the game? Add vension! Maybe some pheasant and rabbit. Saute the meat in butter add good Hungarian paprika, then sauté the mushrooms in the drippings. Add the best kielbasa you can afford. Not to do a plug, but go to www.Hapskielbasa.com if you can't find kielbasa made by a Pole. Wash the kraut out of the sourkraut! Then slowly cook the Bigos a few times in a crock for a few days. Serve it with sour cream, rye bread, good beer or dry mead!!" Kaz, prompted by me, says about himself, "My dad was not a hunter, but my uncles
were. My dad would usually make Bigos for his poker games with the guys he
grew up with on the Polish side of Utica, NY. That was where I learned to
make his variation & play poker. But I've also had Bigos in a Polish-Chinese
resturant that used to be open locally where the Polish chef made "Bigos
from Warsawa"--tomato based & completely meatless! And in Poland where it
resembled spare ribs & sour kraut. There are as many variations as there are
Polish kitchens. Wesolych Swiat!"
- Sophie Dill of Las Vegas, Nevada, notes: "being of Polish heritage--this soup always included chunks of potato. Also, adding 1/2 head of fresh cabbage makes it a much healthier soup! Otherwise, it brings back memories of "soup for dinner"--about 5 nights a week when I was growing up, about 50 years ago!!"
- Kazimierz Michalak adds that, from an eastern Poland point of view, the best variation is the one that uses equal parts sauerkraut and cabbage in the mix--and game, of course.
- Wladek Wolanski of Coatbridge says, "My father was from Drochobycz in pre-war Poland and often took over the kitchen to
cook Bigos,which was rich, hearty and utterly delicious.He used to add stewing steak
and pork with plenty garlic, also canned tomatoes and tomato puree to the recipe.His
friend , my Uncle Tony was a Polish butcher who made a vast array of Kielbasa which
was enthusiastically added to the pot.Usually the more piwo that had been consumed ,
the better the resulting dish seemed to be.Not a classical chef tip but nonetheless
it "seemed" to work. Bigos has been a great addition to Scottish nights in our
family especially big football matches wiyh a good crowd of friends round."
- Here's Shirley P., trying it for the first time: "At the time when I was making it, I kept thinking, this is a weird soup. But now every bowl I have, I like it more. I look forward to coming home and having
a bowl of it."
- And Janina from Houston: "RE: Bigos vs. suerkraut soup.
I noticed that some comments refer to bigos as 'soup'. Bigos is quite different from
sauerkraut soup -- it has very little liquid, the recipes are quite different. So
please--while cooking bigos disregard any suggestions concerning the sauerkraut