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The Recipe Vault #2: Pierogies

Here is the second recipe from Mom’s vast recipe collection. When I was a kid, pierogies were a big production around the house before the high holidays. A holiday family dinner typically started with plates of these delicious dumplings.

pierogies1

Mom would make a dozens and dozens of them because they froze very well. As she made them she would lay them onto a floured tray then put the entire tray in a chest freezer. When a trayful of pierogies were frozen she transferred them into bags. This way the pierogies were not touching one another as they were freezing, and as a result they would not stick to one another frozen. Each bag contained a dozen pierogies, so you could pull a bag out of the freezer and drop the pierogies frozen into boiling water.

The fastest pierogi-maker I ever saw was my Aunt Stella. Sometimes, Stella would come over to help my mom when she was making a big batch. As a kid I knew I was in the presence of a master, as Stella made 2 or 3 to my mom’s 1. She may have been the fastest pierogi-maker anywhere.

pierogies2

In the recipe, Mom wrote: serve with melted butter and sour cream, but that really needs an explanation. While the pierogies were in the pot, boiling, Mom would be heating up butter in a little pot. She would cook that butter until little dots of brown appeared, then continue cooking it until it became quite brown. We called this burnt butter. When the pierogies came out of the boiling water and were served up, she would pour this burnt butter all over them. Just in case this didn’t power-slam your arteries completely shut, she’d add a big dollop of sour cream on the plate.

I didn’t like pierogies much as a kid because I didn’t like the rich brown butter. I found it to be overwhelming. Much later I discovered you could fry those puppies up with onions and bacon and maybe some mushrooms, actually browning each pierogi. I liked the texture much better this way, and that’s how I prepare them at home (damn the tradition).

I don’t make pierogies often at home, but I try to do it at least once each year, often around Christmas – to carry on the tradition. The other hallmarks of a high holiday around our place would be a huge roaster of cabbage rolls, a steaming pot of kapusta (stewed cabbage), and my fave, meat sticks. As well, there had to be a big coil of kielbasa, which had to come from Czehoski’s on Queen St or later on Queensway. Mom would boil up big chunks of kielbasa, and we would eat it, steaming hot, with plenty of mustard.

Don’t let anyone tell you that store-bought pierogies are anywhere near as good as the real deal handmade at home pierogies. It isn’t so. Although there are measurements provided in the recipe, I recall that for Mom, getting the dough just right was a matter of judgement. The idea was to make dough that would be a supple and tender as possible, but still seal up well and stand up to the rigours of bouncing around in a pot of boiling water.

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