The Polish word bigos is probably of German origin, but its exact etymology is disputed. According to the Polish loanword dictionary edited by Elżbieta Sobol, it may derive from German begossen, meaning «doused» or «lithuania dating customs». The sauerkraut is often rinsed and drained before being chopped and mixed with shredded fresh cabbage.
Other ingredients often added to bigos include onions, diced and browned in lard together with the meat, and dried forest mushrooms that are precooked separately in boiling water. Traditionally, bigos is stewed in a cauldron over an open fire or in a large pot on a stove, but it may also be prepared in an electric slow cooker. The flexible and forgiving recipe for bigos allows a great number of variants, often simply using what ingredients are at hand. It is often claimed that there are as many recipes as there are cooks in Poland.
In the region of Greater Poland, bigos typically contains tomato paste and is seasoned with garlic and marjoram. In bigos myśliwski, or «hunter’s bigos», at least part of the meat comes from game, such as wild boar, venison or hare. The stew is typically dished up with rye bread or boiled potatoes. According to Polish food historian Maria Dembińska, bigos may derive from a medieval dish known in Latin as compositum, or «mixture». The word «bigos» is not attested before the 17th century. Bigos made entirely of meat and exotic spices was affordable only to the affluent Polish nobility. Of its wondrous taste, colour and marvellous smell.
But its content no city digestion can know. You need health, live on land, and be back from the wood. And the heady aroma wafts gently afar. Steam, as if from a dormant volcano’s deep crater.