February 28, 2020

Polish Stew

The main ingredient in Polish Stew is cabbage, lots of cabbage.

Janine Pineo Photo | The main ingredient in Polish Stew is cabbage, lots of cabbage.

First published in the Bangor Daily News in September 2006.

The first e-mailer asked whether it was a figment of my “fertile imagination” and that “inquiring minds and bellies want to know.”

When the second e-mailer queried where the recipes were, I knew something was up.

Turned out the headline on my column (see the original column here) mentioned Polish Stew. And then … no recipe.


So without further ado, here it is. But be warned: I never measure anything when I make this dish so I will try to approximate what I do. With any luck – and some taste-testing – yours will come out splendidly.

As for the amounts listed, if you use more stock to make a bigger batch, then use the larger amount of spice or sugar. I always taste-test after things have been cooking for a while to see whether the flavor is salty enough, sweet enough and so on and then add more to adjust the flavor. This is just how I cook, especially soups, so bear with me.

Polish Stew
(also called Polish Soup)

Stock from a boiled shank ham, at least 6 cups, with as much of the grease ladled off as possible (if you refrigerate it overnight, you can just lift the grease off the top of the stock)
Ham or the ham bone if you want some meat in it (kind of like with pea soup)
2 small or 1 medium cabbage, chopped
2 quarts stewed tomatoes
2 -4 tablespoons brown sugar
Salt (amount depends on how salty ham stock is, wait to taste-test)
Pepper – as much as you like
2 or 3 bay leaves
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon allspice (not an option; gives it the correct flavor)
Water (see instructions below)
Apple cider vinegar, up to 10 ounces

Put everything into pot except the vinegar. As for the water, add as much as necessary to dilute salty ham stock and to make sure you have enough liquid to simmer this for two hours. You also could use more stock if you prefer.

Let it simmer for 1-2 hours to cook the cabbage thoroughly and then add vinegar. Taste-test to see whether it is enough vinegar for your taste.

Generally, it should be enough vinegar to make your mouth water in that good-vinegar kind of way. Serve hot.

Best warmed up the next day, although it isn’t too shabby the first day and I would like to see anyone keep me from eating it from day one.

You can use a beef stock base or stock from pork chops or pork roast. Chicken stock is OK, too, although I’ve never made it with chicken. My mom said that she used up to 4 quarts of stock and water and tended to make it more of a soup. I use less liquid and make it more of a stew. While I like the broth, I also like it thick with cabbage, which was the whole point.

– Janine Pineo