Bigos is one of the most traditional cookings in Poland. It takes 4 days to be prepared! so that's why it's mainly cooked for special occassions such as family celebrations or popular festivities. There are diverse recipes depending on the complements and proportions used.
- Preparation time: 2-3 hours
- Cooking time: 2-3 hours per day (10-14 hours in 4 days)
- Total time: 16-18 hours in 4 days
This is the traditional way to prepare it. There is another short version of it (2 days) but the result is not the same.
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Step 1: Ingredients
1 Cabbage (about 1kg)
300g Pork Cheek
500g Pork Loin or Tenderloin
250g Smoked Kielbasa (it must be smoked)
250g Smoked Bacon (it must be smoked)
300ml Red Wine
5 - 7 Allspice Berries
5 - 7 Juniper Berries
3 Big Onions
50g Dried Mushrooms (Boletus if possible)
8 - 10 Prunes
1 - 2 tsp Cumin
3 Bay leaves
Step 2: First Day
- Leave the mushrooms to soak with some water.
- Put the sauerkraut in a strainer and wash out the excess of acidity.
- Cut the fresh cabbage in stripes.
- Put both the cabbage and the sauerkraut in a pot and fill it until the content is just covered by water. For this amount of cabbage the pot should have a capacity of at least 5 liters (the bigger the better). First, fill the pot with 2-3l liters of water, bring it to boil and put some cabbage in it. As the volume of the cabbage reduces, add more until you can fit all of it in the pot.
- Add the sauerkraut, bay leaves, allspice, grated carrots, chopped onions and mushrooms and mix it all.
- As soon as it starts boiling again, reduce the heat and simmer for around 2 hours until the cabbage is well cooked.
- After these 2 hours, leave it in a fresh placeovernight (room temperature not fridge).
Step 3: Second Day
- Dice the pork in 3-4cm pieces.
- Heat some oil in a pan and seal the meat. Add it to the previously cooked cabbage mix.
- Add the prunes and red wine to the pot. Add some water to cover the pot's content if needed and simmer for 2-3 hours.
- Let it set overnight in a fresh place (room temperature not fridge).
Step 4: Third Day
- Heat the mix in the pot. The prunes should now be somewhat overcooked (very soft).
- Chop the onions into small pieces (about 1cm). Fry them in a pan along with the chopped kielbasa and bacon. Add this all to the pot.
- Simmer for 2-3 hours.
- At the end, add the cumin, salt and pepper. Stir it all.
- This dish should NOT have too much juice. It will now have a beige/dark colour. Let it set overnight in a fresh place (room temperature not fridge).
Step 5: Fourth Day
Put the content of the pot in a glass or ceramic oven tray. Distribute it uniformingly and put it in the oven at 150ºC (300F) until it browns (1 - 2 hours). During this process the liquid will evaporate and the right consistency will be obtained. Mix the bigos a few times during this cooking process to make sure it browns homogeneously.
Step 6: Observations
- The weight of Bigos after cooking is 2-2.5 kg
- The volume of the food will reduce about 4-5 times during the cooking process.
- It is important to stir the mix every 10-15 minutes and check that there's enough water in the pot to make sure it does not get burnt.
- In many cases, there is hardly any bigos left by day four as premature consumption may happen due to its delicious taste and aroma... ;D
Step 7: Serving
Following the old Polish tradition for serving Bigos, the right way would be:
- It will be served in a bread made with high content of cereals and natural yeast.
- Cut out the upper part of the bread and empty the lower one.
- Fill the interior with the bigos and cover it with the top slice and put it in the oven at 70º-80ºC for half an hour. With this process the juices of the Bigos will penetrate in the bread.
- If you are serving the Bigos a day or two after you finished cooking it, put it in a pan with some olive oil and slow fry it a bit to create some juice. Otherwise it would be too dry.
- Serve it as you lift the cover to release its vapour and aroma.
- Trditionally, Bigos was eaten using wooden cuttlery
- Bigo's best friend is a Polish drink called “Miód pitny”.
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