This year we’re having a family dinner Christmas Day at our place, and family from both sides are going to break bread with us. Since I’m off work this week and have a little time, I’m going to make some of the foods my mom used to make when I was growing up. While I’m sure family would be happy with a turkey dinner (a much simpler approach), I like to cook from time to time, and I think it will be fun to make some of the traditional foods.
I’m going to start today by making pierogi. One of the good things about pierogi is that you can make them and freeze them (usually in bags of a dozen or so), and then cook them up whenever you want some.
We make potato and cheese pierogi – there are all kinds of other possibilities with
filling from mushrooms to braised cabbage or sourkraut to fruit fillings. We always do it with potato and cheese. I use a mix of pressed Polish cottage cheese and white cheddar.
Once the pierogi are made, there are a couple different ways to prepare them. One is boiled with “burnt” butter. While the pierogi are boiling, we cook a little butter until there are many brown spots in the butter. We call that burnt. When the boiling pierogi float in the water, we strain them, put them on a plate, and drip the burnt butter over them. Add a generous dollop of sour cream and you’re good to go. This is the way my mom and all our family made them.
Perhaps more common today is to boil the pierogi, then fry them up with bacon and onions or mushrooms. Also delicious.
I remember when I was a kid, my mom would get together with my Auntie Stella and the two of them would go into pierogi production. I remember that Stella was the fastest pierogi assembler I had ever seen. Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me, but it seems to me she could do two at a time, one with each hand.
My plan is to make pierogi today – an old friend is coming by to help me – we plan to make a lot. Tomorrow, I’m going to make patychky – we called them meat sticks when I was a kid. This is basically pork on a stick. It’s marinated, skewered, dipped in egg, rolled in spiced breadcrumbs, fried and baked. I only make these
at Christmas time, and I like to think mine are very very good. I taught my sister-in-law Viv how to make them several years ago and hers are also excellent. Finally, Wednesday I’m going to make a roaster of cabbage rolls.
Cabbage rolls made the way mom used to make them had a very distinctive and intoxicating smell. This is because the meat is browned using salt pork. This may not be the healthiest food choice, but it is rare I make them and while you can use a healthier substitute, they just are not the same. I’m sure my brother and my sister will set me straight if I don’t get it just right.
This morning I headed out to Starsky’s to get what I need for this cooking extravaganza. Having had experience at Starsky’s at Christmastime, I left the house early to arrive there just after they opened at 8:00 AM. Good thing I did. By the time I left the store at 8:40, it was already getting busy. By this afternoon it will be silly-busy. The crowds around the sausage counter alone will be over the top.