Fr. Rocky's Hunter's Stew (Bigos) for a Crowd Recipe

Hunter's Stew - Bigos

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  • Total: 33 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 3 mins
  • Yield: 12+ Bowls (12+ Servings)

Bigos (BEE-gohss) is considered one of the national dishes of Poland. It's a hearty, long-simmered meat-and-sauerkraut stew that goes back centuries.

It was traditionally served at the start of the hunting season, from fall through Shrove Tuesday, or until the family's supply of barrel-cured sauerkraut ran out. Today, it's enjoyed year-round.

Any combination of game, beef, pork, poultry and vegetable works. Bigos also is an excellent way to use up leftover cooked meats, and for the family hunter's quota of venison.

See what Fr. Rocky has to say about bigos, below, after the directions to this recipe.


  • 1 1/2 cups bacon (chopped)
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless pork (cubed)
  • 6 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 5 onions (quartered)
  • 1 pound mushrooms (cleaned and quartered)
  • 4 beef bouillon cubes in 1 cup hot water
  • 4 cups canned tomatoes (cut into pieces, with juice)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (omit sugar if using applesauce in place of apples)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 5 cups good-quality sauerkraut (like Frank’s or homemade, rinsed and drained)
  • 5 apples (peeled, cored and chunked OR 2 1/2 cups chunky applesauce)
  • 2 cups ham (diced)
  • 2 1/2 cups smoked Polish sausage (diced)
  • 1/2 to 1 pound leftover beef or veal (cubed)
  • 1/2 to 1 pound leftover chicken breast (cubed)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: Crusty rye bread
  • Optional: Boiled potatoes
  • Optional Garnish: Sour Cream

Steps to Make It

  1. Fry the bacon in a Dutch oven to render the fat, and then toss in the pork chunks, garlic, onions, and mushrooms. Sauté until the meat is browned—about 5 minutes. (If using a slow cooker, add all ingredients and cook on high a few hours, or on low for at least 6 to 8 hours.)

  2. Pour in beef bouillon cubes and hot water, tomatoes with their juice, sugar (omit the sugar if using applesauce in place of the apples), bay leaves, sauerkraut, and apples or applesauce, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours. Stir in the ham, sausage, leftover beef or veal and chicken, and cover and cook on medium-low heat for about 30 more minutes. Adjust seasonings.

  3. When ready to serve, remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning.  Ladle into bowls and serve with boiled potatoes, a bowl of sour cream, and thick, crusty rye bread.  Serve hot to a crowd.

  4. Repeated reheating only improves the taste! (Bigos reheats well in a slow cooker also.)

What Fr. Rocky Has to Say About Bigos

This hunter's stew recipe is from the Rev. Walter Rakoczy, pastor of St. Mary The Immaculate Conception Church, and Sacred Heart Church of Michigan City, Ind. Rakoczy's nickname happens to be Fr. Rocky.

The recipe makes enough for a crowd, pot luck, tailgate party or anytime people who love to eat gather together. If making in a slow cooker, it must have a capacity of 8 quarts.

Fr. Wally says, “Not for vegetarians! This is just crammed with meats and sausages, with the sweetness of apples more than balanced by the sharpness of the sauerkraut -- but it's hearty and delicious and really quite unforgettable. Traditionally served in Poland as a good-luck New Year's dish, it was originally only eaten by the Polish aristocracy (they being the only ones allowed to hunt game on their estates … and the only ones who could afford so much meat).”