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400g sauerkraut
400g white cabbage
200g pork
200g veal
150g good Polish sausage
150g smoked bacon
50g onion
5 g dried mushrooms
50g tomato paste
1-2 cups red wine
sugar to taste

Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water. Cut all the meats into
cubes. Brown them. Brown the onions. Cut the white cabbage.
Cover it with a small amount of water. Add the mushrooms (cut or
uncut). Simmer until beginning to be tender. Put the meets, the
onions, the sauerkraut, the boiled cabbage into one pot. Add the
tomato paste. Cook together until ready (see below).

On the subject of ingredients. Most of them are easily obtainable
in the U.S. The main problem is with the mushrooms and the Polish
sausage. Sometimes I simply give up and use ordinary mushrooms
which I brown WELL together with the onions (almost to the point
of evaporating all the liquid -- using salt helps). Sometimes, I
use dried mushrooms that I can find, and most of the time I promise
myself to bring more next time I go to Poland. Good Polish sausage
is not available in the U.S. I do not know about Chicago stores,
but the companies selling things they call "Polish sausage" should
be ...(I better not say). I can't understand why they add the
adjective at all. (Incidentally if you are ever in Poland, try
what is called Polish sausage: "polska kielbasa" -- it is one of
the best sausage kinds; you can not always find a good one, but if
you do, I guarantee, it will change your conception of sausage
forever.) So, my suggestion is: Just leave out the stuff that
dares bear the name of polish sausage!

Bigos is cooked in cycles. The "intensive" part of the cycle is
cooking for 1/2-1 hour a day; and then -- since it is a winter dish
-- it is put outside to "rest" (you can put it into your fridge if
you live in Florida; it does not have to freeze). The same cycle
is repeated day after day: the more you wait the better the bigos
becomes. I have heard connoisseurs taking delight only in a month
old bigos. But a week is good enough.

There are a number of reasons for this cooking style. One is the
pragmatic one, it provides a nice way of doing something with the
hunt left-overs. The second is culinary one, long cooking allows
the flavors to blend. And third is an aesthetic one, while you
begin with a bland looking stuff you end with a product that is
richly brown almost to the point of being black.

Weekly bigos timetable

Day 1. Brown the onions (if you are not using meat, add more).
Add the partly cooked mushrooms (again add more for the vegetarian
version) and sauerkraut. If you are not using white cabbage, add
sugar at this point. Cook it until the fluids evaporate. Watch
for bigos not to burn -- but don't be too careful. If it burns a
little so much the better -- that's just the sugar caramelizing
which adds to the overall taste of the dish (which has to get its
delicious rich color from somewhere!). When it has burned a little
add a little water and cook again. After 1-2 hours of cooking,
let it cool and freeze.

Day 2. Cook it again for 1/2 hour watching for the browning.
Again, freeze.

Day 3. As day 2, except you can begin adding wine instead of water.

Days 4-6. As before. When you added all the wine, begin adding
water again. At that point you might begin to correct its taste.
It takes some experimenting. You have to balance the acidity (by
adding sugar) and yet by no means let it be sweet or bland (by
adding salt -- and remember that salt increases the acidity).

Day 7. Bigos is ready. It is traditionally served on its own (if
it is meat-rich) or with cooked Polish sausage, but you must skip
that. The only necessary accompaniment is (plain) fresh rye-bread
and red wine (I hear some males growling for vodka -- if you like
it, you can try it too).

Smacznego! [smuch-NEH-go] (-- 'Bon Appetit' in Polish)


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