Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pierogies

My first introduction to pierogies was during my first visit with PeterC in Alberta. Pierogies, pronounced "pe-ro-gezes", are dumplings usually made with a mashed potato filling. A little research online and you will find recipes for meat fillings, sauerkraut fillings, and even fruit fillings. You can find pierogies in almost every Canadian grocery store in the frozen food section but invariable they will be made with mashed potatoes with a mix of bacon, cheese, sour cream, and onions.

The Ukrainian pioneers moved west into Saskatchewan and Alberta bringing with them many of their foods and customs. One of those foods is the pierogi. It has become such an enduring part of Alberta and Saskatchewan culture that everyone from those two provinces, even those not of Ukrainian descent, know what a pierogi is and have more then likely eaten them at least once in their life.

We lived in Alberta for ten years after we were married and pierogies were a staple in our freezer. Any night where we didn't have time to prepare a full meal it was easy to remove a bag of pierogies from the freezer, drop them into boiling water for 5 minutes, drain, salt, and butter. For something really special you boiled them for 5 minutes then sauteed them in salted butter in a skillet and served them with sour cream and crisp bacon pieces.

It was only when we moved to Ontario that we discovered that pierogies are not a Canada wide food but centralized in the Prairies. The frozen pierogies can be found but the variety and quality leave much to be desired. Occasionally we would talk to someone who had eaten a frozen pierogi and even a few who liked them but no one knew how to make them from scratch. So I did an online search and found a huge resource of pierogi recipes. I chose The Pierogi Recipe handed down through generations because it was an authentic recipe and provided some insight into the possible problems we would run into.

So, Saturday afternoon PeterC and I peeled 5 lbs. of Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped 2 large onions, and proceeded to make mashed potatoes. While the potatoes were boiling I made up the dough and allowed it to rest. This was the easy part of this particular adventure.

Rolling the dough out to a thin strip and cutting the 3 inch circles wasn't the hard part either. It was standing for 5 hours while we patiently put a teaspoon on mashed potato into the center of each circle and then folded the circle of dough over and pinched it shut to seal in the filling.
After each pierogi was done we layered them in rows on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. When one layer was full another piece of paper was added and the next layer began. Once all the pierogies were completed we placed the cookie sheet into the freezer overnight to allow the dumplings to become completely frozen. They were then placed into freezer bags in small, dinner sized amounts, for future meals.

From the small dough recipe from the above link we made 140 pierogies minus the few that PeterC decided to boil and sample right away. As it turned out, 5 lbs. of potatoes were far to many. We had most of the bowl left after we finished making the pierogies.

In the end we decided to freeze the mashed potatoes too. After spending that much time I couldn't even think about eating mashed potatoes or pierogies for at least two weeks. But, we have learned how to make one of PeterC's favorite foods. And, because we made them ourselves, we know they are fresh and as wholesome as we can make using the ingredients on hand.

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