Bigos–old Polish style

Traditional Favorite

Bigos staropolska

Bigos and similar dishes were once known as miszkulancja in Polish (from the Italian mescolanza = mixture or hotchpotch).


Old Polish bigos differed from today’s version because of a preponderance of spit-roasted wild game. The dish was cooked in layers rather than everything being uniformly chopped up.

  • 3oz dried mushrooms
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 quarts sauerkraut
  • 1 small head of cabbage
  • ½ lb bacon
  • 3 cups strained ham, kielbasa or other smoked meat stock
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tablespoons lard or bacon drippings
  • ½ lb smoked Polish sausage
  • ½ lb boneless game
  • ½ lb dried fruit
  • ½ lb hunter’s sausage (kielbasa mysliwska)
  • 1 cup mead
  • 1 teaspoon ground cubebs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Rehydrate and cook 3 oz dried mushrooms in 3 c water, slice mushrooms into strips and return to stock.

Rinse 2-1/2 to 3 quarts sauerkraut, drain well and combine in pot with 1 small head shredded cabbage. Scald with boiling water and cook uncovered 30 min. Drain.

Intersperse sauerkraut with 1/2 lb thick-sliced bacon cut into 1” pieces. Drench with 3 c strained ham, kiełbasa or other smoked-meat stock and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally about 45 min, or until most of the liquid evaporates.

In saucepan, simmer 1 c chopped onion in 2 tbsp lard or bacon drippings until golden.

In a Dutch oven, arrange:

  • a layer of sauerkraut-cabbage-bacon mixture, add 1/2 lb smoked Polish sausage cut into thin rounds and the onions;
  • another layer of sauerkraut mixture and top with 1-2 lb diced, preferably rotisserie-cooked or oven-roasted, boneless game (venison, wild boar, hare or pheasant); if unavailable
  • use beef or dark-meat fowl (duck, goose, dark-meat turkey, guinea hen);
  • a third layer of sauerkraut mixture and top with 1/2 lb pre-soaked, mixed, pitted, dried fruit (prunes, cherries, pears, apples) diced;
  • a fourth layer of sauerkraut mixture, topped with 1/2 lb hunter’s sausage (kiełbasa myśliwska), cut into thin rounds, and the mushrooms and their liquid;
  • a final layer of sauerkraut mixture; drench it with 1 c mead (or 3/4 c dry white wine and 3 tbsp honey) and season with 1 tsp ground cubebs (Piper cubeba − a spice), 1 tsp ground cumin and ¼ tsp ground cinnamon.

Cook on low, stirring with wooden spoon to prevent scorching, until most of the liquid has cooked out. Cover and bake in 300° oven for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Switch off heat and keep in oven until cooled to room temp. Refrigerate overnight.

Prior to serving season with salt & pepper to taste and simmer on low another hour or so.