Bigos Is the Perfect Wild Game Stew for Hunting Camp

Venison? Check. Wild boar? Check. Bacon? Check. This hearty recipe has it all

polish hunters stew recipe
Be sure to have some good bread close by to sop up the tasty broth.Photographs by Christina Holmes / Roscoe Betsill (Food and Prop Styling)

This melty game stew originated centuries ago in Polish hunting camps. Legend has it that a giant kettle of cabbage and sauerkraut would be kept simmering over a fire all morning. As hunters returned with their game, meat would join the pot, and this cycle would continue for days, with the stew constantly being refreshed and reheated. ­Our version calls for venison and wild boar, but as the legend indicates, ­bigos welcomes any and all game; goose and rabbit would be great additions.

Ingredients | Serves 8 or more

  • 1 small head green cabbage, cored, quartered, and finely shredded
  • 1 oz. dried mushrooms
  • 2 lb. venison roast, cut into
  • 11⁄2-inch pieces
  • 1⁄2 lb. wild boar (or pork) shoulder, cut into 11⁄2-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1⁄2 lb. slab bacon, diced large (or sliced bacon, roughly chopped)
  • 1 lb. kielbasa, split lengthwise, then cut into 1-inch slices
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1⁄4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. juniper berries, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 lb. sauerkraut, with its liquid
  • 1 cup prunes, roughly chopped
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup parsley or chives (or a ­mixture of both), chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
chopped ingredients for polish hunter stew
Bigos requires a decent amount of prep work, but a slow-cooking pot does the rest.Photographs by Christina Holmes / Roscoe Betsill (Food and Prop Styling)

Directions

  1. Combine the fresh cabbage and the dried mushrooms in a medium saucepan, and add water to cover. Throw in about a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to ­medium-​low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or ­until the cabbage is tender. Remove from the heat and reserve.
  2. While the cabbage simmers, dry the venison and wild boar with paper towels, and salt and pepper generously. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and add the bacon. Cook, stirring, until the bacon is lightly browned but not crispy, about 6 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, and transfer to a large bowl. Add the kielbasa, and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the kielbasa is lightly browned and has released some of its fat. Use the slotted spoon to transfer the kielbasa to the bowl with the bacon.
  3. Add the wild boar and venison to the pot in two batches, and cook, stirring occasionally, until well-​­browned on all sides. (If the pan starts to dry out, add a glug of olive oil.) Transfer the meat to the bowl with the bacon and kielbasa.
  4. Reduce the heat back to medium. Add the onions to the pot and cook, stirring often, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pot, for about 8 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste along with the caraway seeds, juniper berries, paprika, and bay leaves. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato paste begins to darken and the spices are fragrant, about 4 minutes.
  5. Add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pot to incorporate any browned bits, and raise the heat to ­medium-​high to bring to a boil. When the liquid has mostly evaporated, add the sauerkraut, the reserved cabbage and its liquid, and all the meats with any juices from the bowl. Salt and pepper generously.
  6. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low and simmer, covered, for 11⁄2 hours. Add the prunes and the apples to the pot, and stir to incorporate. Add additional stock or wine if necessary. Like chili, the stew should be juicy but not watery. Remove the cover, and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
  7. To serve, ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with the parsley or chives. Serve the stew with plenty of dark country bread and butter.