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Pierogi. They are spelled a million different ways but all come down to the same thing ~ a pasta-like dough filled with delicious. Pierogi is a a traditional food from a plethora countries in Eastern Europe, traditionally a peasant food filled with potato & cheese or sauerkraut (among other things) they evolved across the classes becoming regional delicacies. They are the Eastern European version of a dumpling usually served fried or baked. My little region of the country was settled heavily by the eastern Europe contingent, my family a few generations ago included, and you will find a lot of their influence in our regions specialties. Another reason to fall in love with Pittsburgh! Hunky food rules!

Pierogi Done

I feel like pierogi gets a bad wrap as this super hard, complicated thing. It really isn’t…well it shouldn’t be anyway. Outside of Twitter filling my days with entertaining nonsense, it has provided me with usually amusing and sometimes frustrating insights into the minds of home & self proclaimed quasi-professional cooks – they like to spend silly amounts of money & time to make things more complicated. I have seen people hunting for special pierogi ‘cutters’ or dough rolling ‘machines’ or specialty folding & sealing ‘devices’. Heh. You need NONE of those things to make pierogi. Seriously. You need a rolling pin, a cutter of some type that can cut roundish shapes (traditionally a drinking glass was the cutter of choice according to my Nana), a pastry brush (which isn’t really necessary, just convenient) and your hands. There is no magical way to make the process faster, there is no machine that makes it easier, there is no tool that makes it more efficient ~ all you do is add more bullshit to be washed & cleaned up to the pile in the sink. If you want to be faster and/or more efficient at making peirogi go hook up with some local church ladies and practice – no gadget from Bed, Bath & Beyond can make that happen, so quit wasting your money on stupid toys and buy a good French rolling pin and a set of round cutters.

This is most definitely Project Cooking. I am of the theory that if I am going to make pierogi I am going to MAKE pierogi and make lots. They freeze beautifully so I make around 15 dozen at a time, eating some and freezing the rest for use as I want them. I will take a full day of pierogi making in exchange for many dinners; it is time well spent. It is also, awesomely, a food item that can be prepped in stages so you don’t have to spend 10 hours in the kitchen all at one time, you can make your fillings & dough the night before and then just get to rolling, filling and cooking the day of. I was making these for my Very Hunky Christmas Dinner and to give to some family and friends so my last run was around 30 dozen. When I was all done and it took me roughly 16 hours from start to finish. That may sound terrible, but for what I ended up with I was silly happy.

Pierogi Dough makes enough for 15 dozen pierogies

The dough recipe I use in my Nana’s grandmother’s recipe, straight from Poland. I have done some googling and see many variations on the theme and have tried some others but this is the one that I come back to every time. Pierogi dough is not pasta dough. Pasta dough tends to be dryer, tougher and a more sturdy dough made from semolina flour, egg, salt and water. Pierogi dough is lighter, made with all purpose flour, sour cream, salt, egg & water. There are discernible differences in flavor, texture, workability and appearance between the two doughs. Pierogi dough resembles a tight pizza dough, white & elastic; pasta dough is generally more yellow and firm.

The recipe calls for sour cream or plain greek yogurt. I have used both with equal success, the yogurt just happens to be naturally fat free so I haven’t used sour cream in forever for anything. I also either mix this by hand or in the mixer, end result is the same so I see no advantage to either method. If you use a mixer use the dough hook attachment and knead with the machine.

  • 6 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup Water

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl mix the yogurt, water & eggs. Make a well in the center of the flour, pour in the liquid and mix together by hand or with the dough hook until it comes together as a dough, adjusting with additional flour or water 1 Tbsp at a time until a pliable, soft dough is formed.  Knead, either in the machine or on a lightly floured surface by hand, until the dough isn’t sticky and the outside surface looks smooth. Separate into quarters, form into a disk and individually wrap. Store in the fridge for at least 2 hours before rolling.

Pierogi Dough

The Filling(s)

I always thought I was a potato & cheese girls until I made my own sauerkraut…now I’m not so sure. I am including recipes for both. Either will do a full batch of dough alone, adjust as necessary for however you plan to mix & match.

Potato & Cheese Pierogi Filling

This filling is only as good as the ingredients you add to it, namely the cheese. If you use a better, more flavorful cheese you need to use far less to get impact. I use an aged extra sharp cheddar. Any cheese you use should have good flavor – sharp provolone, feta, chevre, parmesan, fontina, asiago – all good cheese choices. I also use minimal butter, you don’t want the filling to be greasy, and again I use plain greek yogurt in place of sour cream.

Pierogi Filling P-C

  • 5# Idaho Potatoes, peeled & medium diced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, very small dice
  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 16oz GOOD Cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup Plain Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream
  • to taste Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Get the potatoes into a pot and cover with water. Generously salt and bring to a simmer.They are going to cook until fork tender, same as you would for mashed potatoes.

While the potatoes cook, melt the butter in a saute pan, add the very small diced onion, season with salt & pepper and sweat until sweet smelling and soft, about 7-8 minutes over medium heat. You dont want the onion to take on any color, just completely cook out until sweet.

When the potatoes are cooked drain in a colander. Let the potatoes steam dry for a couple minutes, but they should still be steaming when you go to mash. {Pro Tip: Do not let them cool. Trying to mash cooled boiled potatoes makes for odd, gummy mashed potatoes. That is bad. And unfixable.} Mash the potatoes with a hand masher or with a mixer (paddle attachment or hand) until smooth. Add the onions with the butter, yogurt and cheese, season with salt & pepper and mix until completely combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Mixture should be thick, firm and should border on over seasoned, remember, it is the filling for a dumpling. Perfectly smooth is not a concern, a couple of small lumps has never ruined a pierogi.

Sauerkraut Pierogi Filling

I make this with my sauerkraut – simmered with beer, bacon, onion, garlic and some spices and stuff. It’s a recipe I have yet to share…noted.  If you have some leftover sauerkraut or the desire to hook up your favorite recipe I would. I am fairly certain the reason that I fell in love with them this time was because of how much I love my sauerkraut. If you dig the stuff straight from the jar/can I’m sure that would work, too.

Pierogi Filling Kraut

  • 2 1/2# Idaho Potatoes, peeled & medium diced
  • 2 cups Sauerkraut
  • 1/2 cup Plain Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream
  • 1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • to taste Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Boil the potatoes in generously salted water until fork tender. Drain in a colander and let steam dry for a minute or 2. Mash with a hand masher until roughly mashed. Add the sauerkraut, panko & yogurt, season with salt & pepper and mash together. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Any pierogi filling needs to cool before being used – hot filling balls the dough up. Speaking of…

How to Make Pierogi

The recipe portion of our fun is done, the time to get to work is here. Get a large pot (dutch oven or soup pot sized) of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil. I also set up a cooling rack over a sheet tray to transfer the cooked pierogi to as they come out of the water. Get a couple of trays set up with parchment to hold the raw pierogi.

Pierogi Rolling Mise en PlaceWhat you will need:

  • your dough & fillings
  • couple regular teaspoons
  • round cutting implement, around 4″ wide
  • water
  • pastry brush
  • rolling pin
  • parchment lined trays

Step #1 roll out the dough on a floured surface. The dough is not delicate,make sure it is not sticking while you roll it out and move it around as you need to. The evenness of the roll is important, not so much the shape. You want an ideal thickness of between 1/8″ – 1/16″.

Pierogi Rolled DoughStep #2 brush off any excess flour and use the circle cutter to cut your rounds. Put them as close together as possible, a little overlapping won’t hurt, getting as may circles as possible out of each disk of dough. Remove the scrap pieces, I roll them into the next disk as I go or you can store them all in the fridge and re-roll the scraps out together when done with the 4 main dough pieces.

Pierogi Dough RoundsStep 3# Brush each round with a pastry brush dipped in water. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of each round.

Pierogi Filling UpPpierogi Kraut FillingStep #4 Fold in half and pinch closed, the water acting as glue to fuse the dumpling together. Press out any air bubbles as you seal them up. Pinch the edges closed for a perfect seal. You don’t want a bunch of edge dough, the pierogi is about the filling! Keep on going until you are out of dough. (This is the tedious part in case you weren’t sure, yet.)

Pierogi FoldedStep #5 When the water comes to a boil and after you have formed all the pierogi boil them in batches until they float, about 2 minutes. The water needs to stay at a simmer while they cook. They are delicate until they are cooked through, so be gentle or you can bust them all up. When they are cooked use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a draining rack.

Pierogi BoiledAt this point you can do one of 2 things – eat or freeze them.

To eat them I saute in butter and onions, seasoned simply with kosher salt & black pepper. Saute the julienned onion over medium high heat in a generous amount of butter, let them take on some color then add the pierogi, enough to make a single layer over the onion. Saute over medium heat until the pierogi just starts to brown up. Absolutely perfect!

Pierogi Saute-ingTo Freeze let the peirogi cool completely on the rack. Make sure they are dry and layer them between pieces of plastic wrap on a plate or platter that fits in your freezer. Make sure none of the pierogi touch at all. Place the whole thing in the freezer for a day, until they are frozen solid, then pop them apart and store in Ziplock bags or containers in the freezer. Frozen pierogi can be cooked from frozen, my least favorite way to be honest because it seems to take forever & is horridly inaccurate or can be left to sit out and thaw on the counter for an hour before being cooked, ideal in my opinion.

Don’t be daunted by a project cooking thing like this or think you need a bunch of special tools to make it happen, you don’t. Yes, it does take time, but it yields a LOT of food, so it is time, and money, well spent. I have no idea what a box of Mrs T’s runs for these days but I guarantee these taste better for a fraction of the cost with no goofy preservatives or ingredients. These things last months in the freezer with no adverse effects and have saved my behind for dinner on more than one occasion.

I think next time I am going to try some kind of dessert pierogi…I’ll let you know how they come out!