Thursday Cooking Adventure: Pierogies

Finally I am able to share my fairly recent foray into finding the perfect recipe for pierogi dough!  Not only that, I will even share my favorite filling recipe along with it so you can bask in the glory of tasty awesomeness.

Adventure

The adventure here, for me, is that I have always loved pierogies but, since my grandmother’s passing, have been having trouble finding a good ratio for making the dough correctly.  Growing up my grandmother would usually have my brother and I join in the process once it was time for actually stuffing the dough with filling and boiling them up.  This part is; as I’ve since discovered, far from the first step in the process.

Also difficult is that I was never brought into a food-making culture based upon exact measurements.  I was a student of the “Pinch of this, bit of that” theory of cookery.  What this ended up meaning, though, is that while I could get the basic recipe for the dough from my grandmother; having never really SEEN that part of the process in action, I only knew what the dough should look like AFTER it reached the perfect state; not what it might look like for a while before.  This part is key because I knew what I WANTED it to look/feel like; but no recipes (of the seemingly endless plethora available) seemed to GIVE me that exact consistency.  Not even trying my own few forays into “Eh, some flour, some eggs, some salt, etc…mix it all up” managed to give me precise results.

Don’t get me wrong; they were edible and decent even; but still LACKING somehow.

That was, until I found the one key direction that, I feel, made all the difference: “Rest dough for one-half hour covered with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap.”  I felt like face-palming.  Holy frick…I’m supposed to let the dough REST?!?!

Most of the time when I cook it is a game of trying to make sure everything comes out ready at the same time so meats are just finished as starches are done and veggies are that perfect crisp-done of tastiness.  But, after my venture with the ravioli, this nugget of a suggestion: let the dough REST, stirred a bit of memory even further back.  I remembered that the dough, rather than being whipped up by my grandmother right as we were about to stuff it full of potatoes and cheese, had been sitting quietly for some time prior in a bowl by itself.  Eureka!

And, not to make you writhe in uncontrollable curiosity; this DID turn out to be the key point in the process and resulted in the tastiest pierogies I’ve done to date on my own! Hurray!  So, without further ado, the recipe/process.

Recipe/Process

This note comes first and foremost to warn that this recipe IS a process.  It is a LONG process that is fairly labor intensive.  If you can pull some interested kids into the kitchen for the longest part (or spouse/partner/neighbors, etc) it will make the work go much more quickly and (dare I say?) make things even more fun and elaborate cooking adventures already are!

So, got it?

  • Very long process.
  • Do when you have a few good hours to dedicate to it.
  • Enlist a few helpful friends to assist.
  • Since it IS such a procedure; think about making double/triple, etc batches to save them up to freeze for later.  They save marvelously!
  • Enjoy the entire process as a fun activity!
Hand-written version of the dough recipe

This is the well-worn little post-it note of directions I selected to follow

Okay, so here’s the recipe first off for the dough (will make about 3 dozen or so I think I counted so it is one “batch”).  Bear in mind there are even more suggested recipes for the dough than possible combinations for filling so this is just what I found to work for me this time. My grandmother (to my knowledge) never used Sour Cream in the dough but, like I said, that part of the process usually occurred before I arrived so I’m not ruling it out!

  • 3 Cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp Sour Cream
  • 1/2 cup warm water

I used a sifter to get the flour nice and fluffy first

Fun sifter

I love my hand-held sifter!

Then I got all the other little ingredients into my mixing/measuring cup:

Eggs and such

Eggs, salt, water, sour cream

Next, I use the tiny little whisk that I received as a “gag” gift in my stocking last year; but which I LOVE to use for just this purpose:

All whisked up

Mini-whisk rocks at whipping together stuff in my measuring cup!

Next, I made a “well” in my fluffy flour so I could add the whisked up stuff:

Flour volcano with egg lava

It's like a fluffy flour volcano with egg-y lava!

Next, I mixed those two bad boys together.  First, remove any rings/watches, etc.  It WILL be sticky but, what always baffled me prior, it is also a bit flakey.  That will ease when we let it rest!

Sticky yet flakey

Sticky yet flakey

Now, like it says, leave that to rest while you work on STARTING the filling; giving you time to let everything…percolate.

Now here’s the recipe for the filling I love best.  Any savory filling will go well with this dough.  You could even use sweet fillings (my grandmother often did some desert-style blueberry ones with any remaining dough) but some people prefer a dough with a bit of sweetness added.  Your choice!  Bear in mind this part of the recipe IS one of those “fly by the seat of your pants” styles but is (in my experience) difficult to mess up (though, as over-peppering has taught me: not ENTIRELY impossible, so add spices slowly!).

  • A mess of potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • Large Curd Cottage cheese
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper

That’s it.  Seriously!  Find a good heap of potatoes:

Lots of potatos, any tasty kinds

Get a lot of tasty potatoes; any kinds you like

Get those potatoes peeled, diced up and boiling along with a peeled and chopped onion.  When tender, drain everything.

Drained and ready

Drained and ready for mashing. I like to remove a few of the larger pieces of onion too. You might leave them in if it suites your fancy!

Next comes my favorite part: MASHING!  Get your favorite masher.  Mine is one I’ve finally obtained which mimics the old one my grandmother used to use.  If need be you can even use a fork or, last resort, a kitchen aid/food processor.  But to me the fun is in mushing those potatoes into a crumbly mass:

mashing

Mash mash mash mash mash....drain of water again if necessary...repeat mashing

Next comes the combining part.  Add your cheese!  Some people like Farmer’s Cheese.  Some prefer cheddar.  I love the large-curd Cottage cheese myself:

add in the cheese

Start adding cheese and mixing it up

You can either choose to slowly mix stuff together or, if you have a 2nd tub of cottage cheese lying around, you can just mash all the potatoes and slowly start adding the cheese, mixing it up until the consistency is not so sloppy as to be runny but a good solid ratio of cheese to potatoes.

Then, add your salt and pepper.  The filling likes LOTS of black pepper but add it slowly and keep tasting until the flavor makes you smile.

Now you can set the filling aside and begin the 3rd part of the process: the making.

Set up a huge pot of salted water and get it boiling.

Meanwhile, you are going to start making that now-rested dough into little dough-balls that you will roll out into rounds for filling.  This is the process grandma always used so, by habit, it is what I do as well.  You might find it easier to roll out larger sections of dough and use an appropriately sized cookie cutter to get your circles.  Though, I did find that using a glass does NOT work: the dough is far too sticky to come away without a good cutting implement.  Hence the dough-ball method I use.

Anyway, onwards!

Take small pulls of dough off the big ball.  You want a chunk about the size of a quarter (if a quarter were a ball instead of just a flat disc that is!) The dough should now be pretty sticky so pull it off and get it onto your lightly floured rolling area.

sticky dough

Get that sticky dough into dough-balls; but don't make too many at once unless you have friends to help you make an assembly line or they will end up drying out

Now, roll out your ball into flat discs; rounded but fairly thin circles of dough.  Tap off the excess flour and set aside.  You can get about a dozen made up at a time depending on the size of the platter you can lay them out on (make sure the dish is lightly coated in flour.  You want as much as possible to prevent sticking.

finished round, thickness displayed

You want them about this thick, maybe even thinner

Get a good teaspoon of filling on the top third of the flattened disc:

filling

Get the filling near the top third

Next, dab a bit of water around the bottom edge of the dough round.  This will help it to seal properly:

wet the edge

The water will help keep the pierogi sealed. Only wet one edge; no need to wet the whole thing

Now, I tried two ways of sealing the pierogi.  I tried using a fork to make the little indentations and just double-pressing with my fingers.  Neither method really seemed fool-proof against potential breaking.  So choose what method you prefer (or your helpers prefer!).  If you have enough help you can have someone double-pinch and then another person fork-press.  Your choice.  Here’s what the filled and pinched-edged finished (almost) thing looks like:

Size of closed pierogi

The closed up pierogi is about a handful in size.

Now your salted water should be bubbling away at this point when you have about a dozen pierogi ready (unless you’re lucky enough to have help, in which case just keep going and make sure to set the finished items up singly on a lightly floured dish (or dishes))  Do NOT stack the pierogi together at this point. They will become one sticky, clumpy mess.

All laid out, one layer deep

Getting lots laid out and ready to boil is easier with help!

Set about a dozen filled rounds into your boiling water at a time.

A dozen pierogi, bubbling away

Bubble, bubble, Polish dumplings!

While they are boiling away, stopper your very clean and empty sink and fill with cold water.  This is where you’ll be placing the finished pierogies to stop the cooking so they don’t over-cook AND so they cool off.

Boil until they all start floating consistently to the surface; about 10 minutes; depending how thick your dough was rolled out.  If you need to, remove one with a slotted spoon and cut a bit into the edge to see if it is fully cooked though the dough.

Remove the cooked pierogies and place in your cold water sink.

Pierogies, just chilling

Just chillin' out in the sink.

Now, just continue the process over and over (and over) until all the dough (or all the filling) is gone.  When you’re ready to put more pierogi in the sink; first remove the now-cooled ones and set aside.  I like to separate out the broken ones and the good ones:

separated by level of brokeness

Broken ones to the left (still taste great friend up!); fine and filled to the right. You can see some of the fork-edged ones too.

Once ALL of your pierogies have gone through their boiling you have a few options.

Some folks like to eat them up right now (which could mean you save the last batch from the cold water and just serve as-is with a bit of sour-cream to dip in).

Some of the many pierogies can be drained, cooled and set into plastic-bags (or plasticware is even nicer) and frozen for future use.  Just beware of freezing too many in each container; they will freeze together and be a bear to pull apart later until fully thawed!

My preferred method for finishing the meal is to saute the pierogies in a bit of butter (with onion for those who like it; and/or mushrooms) and garlic salt.  It becomes a bit like a ravioli and tastes amazing; even without added sour cream though you’re welcome to that too!

frying

Nice and golden brown in some butter. Add garlic salt and enjoy!

And that is the recipe as I finally ended up making it fairly recently. The result was a delicious rendition of the classic I remembered from my youth. The time it took was worth it as we all sat down to these delectably crisp, flavorful, cheese and potato-filled delights.

Enjoy!  May all your cooking adventures be tasty!

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14 thoughts on “Thursday Cooking Adventure: Pierogies

  1. These look great! I’ve become nostalgic for pierogies after having them in Pennsylvania (the land of my birth) this summer, and realizing that I have never seen a pierogie in California in the 14 years that I’ve been here. I’ll have to give these a try sometime!

  2. Thanks for the recipe, I’ve always wanted to try to make pierogies.

    How thick do you want the wrappers? Is that something you could us a pasta roller on, because I think that sounds like the worst part of the construction?

    • Kate I think a pasta machine would have made this MUCH faster. You want the dough circles pretty thin but not quite so thin that they are see-through or going to be easily broken. I know that’s not really an answer but don’t really have a measurement. My suggestion would be to try a few of the thin settings and test boil a few to see which ones come out tasting better to you! 🙂

  3. Mmmm… Pierogies! You know, I’ve never made them from scratch. I think you’ve inspired me.

    Also, your story of your grandmother’s ‘pinch of this, bit of that’ method of cooking reminded me of a funny family story. When my Aunt Alexa was a girl, my great-grandmother was trying to teach her to cook. Great-grand didn’t hold with cookbooks and scientific methods like that. Her style of cooking was very much ‘a bit of this, a pinch of that,’ but her hands were much, much larger than Aunt Alexa’s. When great-grandma would tell her to use a ‘handful’ of something, well… it just never held as much as great-grandma thought it should and things came out badly.

    Aunt Alexa never did become much of a cook. Then again, she never appreciated food, either, so I guess it didn’t matter very much. Though it was a bit of a problem when her oldest daughter was getting married and she thought one salmon would be plenty to serve a crowd of over a hundred people. Thank goodness my grandmother and great aunt showed up with a brigade of church ladies to make sure people got fed!

    • Twistie I love that story! 😀 Truly it reminds me that “until it looks right” is right up there with trying to make sure you’re matching your hand size to the recipe giver!!

  4. Okay, I’m totally making that as soon as I get running water; without running water, cooking with dough of any kind is a hassle. But as soon as this changes, I’m totally swiping this recipe.

    Kala

      • Probably no water till December 2011. I’ve been doing the cabin life for four years. . . this round. . .I lived in a cabin my last two years of college many years ago. It’s sort of a lifestyle choice: an apartment (with lots of people around, really high rent and water) or a cabin (in the woods by myself, cheap enough to save for a house down payment and no water). 75% of the graduate students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks live in cabins with no running water along with a healthy portion of the general Fairbanks population. I shower at the U and city water has these gas station-ish water fill-up stations and I grab 30 gallons every two weeks, which is enough for drinking water for myself and dog, and for dishes and cleaning, which is such a hassle with dough because it just sticks to everything and I end up not cleaning up, which then leads to a bigger and bigger mess that every once in a while is so unbelievably bad that you want to throw all your dishes out; I’ve thrown them all out in the snow once and didn’t pick them up till spring. Yes, meals require an easy clean-up so I can stay ahead of cabin life. It’s a fun life though.

        • maneoplyse it does sound fun; though as you said difficult to do anything doughy and want to clean up afterwards!! I am not so good at roughing-it and appreciate my running water everyday for the huge amount of lucky awesome that it is!!

  5. I used to help my Ukrainian mother-in-law make perogies and cabbage rolls every Christmas. Her cooking was to die for. I loved that woman more than my own mother! I live in Asia now so I haven’t had Ukrainian food in a very long time; how I miss perogies and cabbage rolls and borscht and sour cream. Yummy!

  6. I grew up helping my mother make pierogi, too, as she regaled me with stories of her youth in pre-WWII Poland. She didn’t use a recipe, either. When I got to making my own, I tried both flour and sour cream versions and prefer the sour cream recipes.

    The trick I learned was to knead the dough until it was satiny smooth before letting it rest. My mother does neither, but her pierogi are still the best!

    • Kunoichi, thanks for the tip! I might try kneading until smooth too next time. And yeah, no one makes pierogi like grandma….no matter how much we try! Though my brother does get the closest….

  7. Pingback: Thursday Cooking Adventure: Red Cabbage & Apple Delight « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

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