Ok, this is going to be something I’ve been really looking forward to sharing. To me Hunter’s Stew, or in Polish Bigos, means Tradition with a massive capital T. This recipe takes us back to the 14th century (oh, yes!), when powerful, Polish king Wladyslaw Jagiello, whose dynasty initiated the Golden Age in then the kingdom of Poland, used to serve Hunter’s Stew to his guests after a long day of hunting.
Hunter’s Stew means dining like a king
Opportunity of dining like a king makes this beautiful dish, with long, long traditions, at least one of very good reasons why Hunter’s Stew is really worth pursuing in any kitchen. Today it is a popular food for the masses and much loved one too, for many reasons.
I love it for 3 reasons. I love sweet and sour, meaty, warming and very comforting flavour mixed with a slice of rye bread and butter. It also reminds me of home and Christmas, because this is what we traditionally eat on the second day in Poland. And because Hunter’s Stew often sits in jars and fridges in many homes where I am from, as it stores really well. It is like beans on toast, which whether you are rich or poor, you should always have access to.
It might sound like a posh dish which requires lots of skill, but the truth is that Hunter’s Stew is really easy to make. Time mends many things, including recipes and my favourite twist on Hunter’s Stew is the addition of sweet bits like pruns, raisins or honey. You can pass on these, but please do not give up the wine! Never!
You can make Hunter’s Stew yours by choosing the meat you put in it. The traditional one though will contain a combination of at least two of the following: boar, deer, rabbit, veal, beef, smoked sausage or bacon.
If you like Polish food I strongly recommend a beautiful website by a fellow expat blogger Magda Cauldron. Next to many delicious looking dishes, there is also a whole section dedicated to Polish food with Magda’s recipes and lovely photographs.
- 1 kg (2 jars) of Rolnik sour cabbage (sauerkraut), strained - (Rolnik brand is really good and can be found in Polish section of your local grocery store)
- 5 onions, chopped roughly
- 7 raw cloves of garlic, chopped
- 150 g smoked bacon, sliced
- 200 g stewing beef
- 300 boar, rabbit or veal, sliced
- 200g smoked sausage, sliced
- 3 tbs flour
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 50 g dry mushrooms
- 40 g raisins or prunes
- 0.75 l good meat stock
- 300 ml rich, dry wine
- 2 medium carrots, chopped roughly
- 3 bay leaves
- a bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
- 3 tbsp dry marjoram
- Using a colander strain as much of the juice of the sauerkraut (sour cabbage) as you can or by turning the jar with the sauerkraut upside down and pressing hard on the sour cabbage inside. The content of the jar should reduce by half.
- Chop the sour cabbage well and place in the big pot or a slow cooker.
- Add wine, raisins or prunes, herbs and chopped carrots to the pan and set aside.
- Fry onions, sausage and bacon in the olive oil, until golden brown, then remove from the pan with the slotted spoon. Reserve the fat in the pan.
- Coat beef and the remaining meat in the flour.
- In the pan with the reserved fat seal the meat in batches until nice and brown (don’t let the juices boil).
- Transfer the meat with fat and all remaining ingredients to the pan with the cabbage and stew on a low heat for 3 hours, stirring from time to time or, if you are using a slow-cooker, leave it on a medium heat for up to 7 hours.