Bon Appetit Wednesday! The Ancient Pierogi

1024px-Pierogi_in_london_feb_10Winter here in the northern hemisphere is showing no signs of abatement, and as the snow piles up, there’s no better time than the present for some good, old fashioned comfort food. Luckily, we’ve got a recipe with a long history of filling the belly and warming the heart. Homemade pierogis are perfect for a cold winter night. We’re bringing you a scrumptious recipe for making your own Polish potato and cheese filled pierogis from scratch. Get the kids involved and make it a fun family activity on a bleak and frigid snow day!

Pierogi are pockets of unleavened dough stuffed with various fillings and then boiled. They are most often identified with Poland, but they are commonly eaten all over Eastern Europe and even in Italy and Germany. No one knows for certain how the pierogi first made its way to Poland, but it is speculated that Marco Polo introduced the dumpling from China in the 13th century and the pierogi developed from there.[1] You can read more about the history of the dumpling and even find a recipe for pork dumplings for the Chinese New Year in our post Bon Appetit Wednesday! Pork Dumplings for the Year of the Horse. Still another theory credits Marco Polo again, but posits that he brought pasta from Italy and that is what began the development of the pierogi.[2] Learn more about the history of the noodle in our post Bon Appetit Wednesday! The Ancient Noodle. There is another theory that names the Tatars (or Tartars) as the originators of the pierogi and says they brought it with them from Eastern Russia as they migrated from the former Russian Empire.[3]

Like many historic foods, it is difficult to know the moment a particular food appeared and what its exact origins were. Generally, there are a number of influential factors that combine at just the right time and a new recipe emerges. Whatever the pierogi’s beginnings, it had an important place in Polish culture from the moment it first entered the cuisine. It was a dietary staple for the peasants because it was easy to make and could be filled with many different ingredients, from meats and vegetables to fruits. According to some 17th century cookbooks, pierogis were made especially to celebrate holidays such as Christmas and Easter, with each holiday having its own variation.[4]

Of course, the pierogi was so delicious it quickly spread from the poor classes through to the middle and upper classes, eventually becoming perhaps the most popular dish in Poland. Today, pierogis are enjoyed all over the world in numerous flavors. You can buy them fresh, frozen or even order them at a restaurant thousands of miles from their homeland. Still, there is nothing like making your very own pierogis with your family or friends, filling those dough pockets with fresh ingredients and sitting down to a warm meal.

Authentic Homemade Potato and Cheese Filled Pierogi

*Recipe courtesy of Sharon Smith. This is Sharon’s grandmother’s personal pierogi recipe, straight out of Poland.

Makes approximately 12-15 pierogis

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup of sour cream
  • ¼ cup of butter softened (cut in small pieces)

For the filling

  • 5 large potatoes
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 2 T. butter
  • 8 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

For the dough:

  1. Mix the flour and salt together. Beat the egg and add to the flour mixture. Add sour cream and softened butter and kneed (Grandma used her hands) for about 5 minutes until it loses its stickiness. A mixer with a dough hook can be used but be sure not to over mix it. It needs to be a consistency that is easy to roll out. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The dough can be kept for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
  2. Roll out the pierogi dough on a floured surface until it is about 1/8” thick. Use a round cookie cutter or drinking glass to cut out circles of dough approximately 3” in diameter.

For the filling:

  1. Peel and boil 5 large potatoes until soft. Grandma used red potatoes. While the potatoes are boiling, finely chop 1 large onion and sauté in butter until tender and translucent. Mash the potatoes with the sautéed onions and cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let the potato mixture cool. The consistency should be thick where you can roll it into a ball if you wish.

Prepare the pierogi:

  1. Place a small ball of filling (approx. 1 tablespoon) on each dough round and fold the dough over to form a semi-circle. Press the edges together with your fingers to ensure a good seal. You can decorate the edges with the tines of a fork if you wish. If the edges are not sticking together, it may be because there is too much flour on the dough. Add a little water to help get a good seal.
  2. Place pierogi in a large pot of boiling water, maybe 6 or so at a time, for about 8-10 minutes. You will know they are done when they float to the top. Remove and let cool on a cookie sheet.
  3. How Grandma would serve her pierogi: Chop onions and sauté in butter in a large frying pan until the onions are tender. Add cooked pierogi and fry until lightly browned. Serve with the onions and a side of sour cream.

[1] Facts & History About Pierogi. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://www.polskafoods.com/polish-food/facts-history-about-pierogi

[2] Pierogi History. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://www.prairiestory.com/2010/12/pierogi-history.html

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

One response to “Bon Appetit Wednesday! The Ancient Pierogi

  1. Pingback: Bon Appetit Wednesday! Recipes for Winter in the Southern Hemisphere | AntiquityNOW

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