This past weekend was our annual “Pierogi Day” where I, along with a group of dedicated family members gathered to make 20 – 30 dozen pierogi for our Polish Christmas Eve celebration “Wigilia“. For those of you from the midwest – I’m sure none of this is too unfamiliar. For the rest of the world (except for our Polish friends) you may not know what a “Pierogi” is and you definitely don’t know what Wigilia is.
Wigilia: (Polish pronunciation: [viˈɡilʲa]) is the traditional Christmas Eve vigil supper in Poland, and it is 100% meat free. Yay! This is the one day of the year without hunks of kielbasa, ham or bacon to gross me out during a family meal. I love it!
Pierogi : A dumpling filled with pretty much anything you want, but traditionally we make these options: potato & cheese, farmers cheese, kraut, mushroom, fruit pie filling.
My earliest memories are in my grandmothers kitchen in Dearborn Heights, MI. My grandma Helen spent a lot of time in the kitchen (kinda like me!). On every holiday, she would line up tables in her basement which seated 14 grand kids and 10+ adults (depending on which cousins showed up on that holiday). And she single handedly filled her pool table with enough food for all of us to enjoy. We lined up buffet style around her pool table, filled our plates and ate until we couldn’t any more. Then all of us cousins would run around together until it was time to open gifts from under the GINORMOUS Christmas tree. These are some of the fondest memories of my childhood.
After my grandmother passed away in 1989, my Auntie Ela & Uncle Ed took over the Christmas Eve festivities by hosting at their house in Grosse Ile. They have six kids and had a house big enough to hold our growing family. My aunt made all of the pierogi herself which came out perfectly, every time! Her skills in the kitchen have always left me in awe. She introduced to me the love of kitchen gadgets – I never knew there were so many ways to peel potatoes and chop veggies. Looking back I wish I would have spent more time with my aunt in the kitchen – perhaps it would have inspired me to pursue culinary endeavors earlier in life, but as it is, I will continue to look on her with awe through Facebook postings of perfectly handcrafted pierogi and perfect Pinterest creations.
So as I mentioned, my aunt and uncle had six kids. Who could blame them when they announced they were moving to Florida. My uncle had retired from the auto industry and they were ready to live the good life! This news did however leave us asking who would take on Christmas Eve for the family? Thankfully, these two wonderful people stepped in. My Uncle “Eddie” and my Aunt Sandy. They open their home to all of us cousins, our spouses, significant others, friends and our kids. We are grateful that they have allowed us to continue this beautiful tradition and look forward to many years more! Thank you!
This year marks the 5th year of “Pierogi Day”. I feel that this year was as smooth as it has ever been! The dough recipe turned out perfectly, we had plenty of hands to roll, cut & pinch. We cranked out 30 dozen to share among two sides of the family. Success!
The last two years, we have had pierogi day at my Aunt Mary’s house in Dearborn, who passed away several years ago. Her son Tom owns the house and has allowed us to use it. It is still fully furnished since the Fiedor family gathers there for Christmas every year. Jim & Annette Fiedor really make Pierogi day happen for us – they provide SO much in order to make it a success, and we thank them for their dedication to keeping this tradition alive! AND they get to have hand made pierogi for their Wigilia as well – a win win all the way around I think!
So now that you have a history lesson on where all of this began, here it is – the Pierogi Recipe that I feel has taken years to perfect! Enjoy!!
Perfect Pierogi Dough
Step 1: Pull out your kitchen aid mixer for this recipe. It saves SO much time in making the dough. If you don’t have one, and can’t borrow one – see the “Traditional Way” below the main recipe.
Ingredients for a single batch of dough that yields approximately 24 – 36 pierogi depending on the thickness of your dough after rolling it out & size of your cutouts. This recipe is not vegan. I haven’t found a great way to make a soft dough without using egg or dairy. I’m determined to create a gluten free/vegan version for next year! Stay tuned!
4 cups of “High Gluten” flour Note: (Available at GFS/Gordons or on Amazon (King Arthur or All Trumps brand). All purpose flour will have a different result so if you don’t have time to experiment – get the high gluten.)
1 cup of sour cream
1 Cup Cold Water
Fill a tall boiling pot (or pasta pot) 3/4 full of water and set it on high heat. It will take awhile for the water to boil so that is why this is the first step. You will want your water ready once you have your pierogi filled. Some add oil or salt or both to the water – do so by your own preference.
MIX: In the kitchen aid mixer bowl with the whisk attached: place 1 egg & 1 cup sour cream into the bowl, whisk on speed #2 for 1-2 minutes.
Replace the whisk with the hook attachment. Dump in 4 cups of flour and 3/4 of the water. Let the hook “Knead” on speed #3 until the dough starts to come together (about 3-4 minutes). If it still looks dry, or isn’t clinging to the hook, add a few drops of water at a time until a smooth ball forms and it starts to cling to the hook. If you add too much water, add in a few sprinkles of flour. Don’t over do it, otherwise you will be stuck in a vicious cycle of too dry or too moist.
Roll it out & Cut: Once the dough is kneaded to your liking – it should be soft and round without being sticky to the touch. Roll it out onto a clean, lightly floured, hard surface as thin as you can get it. Use something round (can be anything: a glass, a cookie cutter, an open/empty can) that is at least 4″ in diameter.
Fill & Pinch: Now, to fill the pierogi – this is tricky to explain on a blog post, so I took the liberty of uploading a demo onto youtube:
Potato: 2 to 3 lbs of potatoes peeled. Boil until soft – mash with a small amount of butter + salt. Some like to add shredded cheddar to this mixture once it cools to bring a potato cheese flavor! Yum!
Sweet Cheese: 2-3 lbs of farmers cheese (available at Costco) + 1 cup of sugar + 1 egg. Mix together until well combined. (note: farmers cheese and Ricotta are very similar but not the same. If you are in a pinch and only have access to ricotta – be sure to add a tablespoon or two of corn starch or flour to the mixture!)
Kraut: 3 lbs of raw kraut, place in the crock pot for 4 hours on high or buy cooked sour kraut and sauté it in a pan with butter before using for the pierogi. The reason is to get as much moisture out of it as possible.
Mushroom: Finely chop 20 fresh white mushrooms in to tiny pieces. Add 1 medium onion – sauté in oil or butter until soft and translucent. Pour out onto dish cloths or paper towel to absorb any excess moisture. Place back in the bowl – add salt and its ready to be used as filling!
Fruit: Any canned pie filling that you desire can be used as pierogi filling – My grandmother used to do blueberry. It will turn your water purple, so if you do this one, make sure you do it last.
BOIL: So now you have filled, raw pierogi lined up on your table. Place into the boiling water until they float and the dough starts to bubble slightly.
COOL & STORE: Remove from the boiling water onto a cooling rack. if you are stacking hot pierogi into a dish, be sure to coat with oil or butter to keep them from sticking. Once cool, you can package up into containers or ziplock bags.
SAUTE: Sauté the boiled pierogi in butter or oil until they brown on each side. I also like to sauté some onions to go with the pierogi and I always sprinkle with salt before serving. Serve with sour cream, apple sauce or just plain! Enjoy!
TRADITIONAL DOUGH – NO KITCHEN AID MIXER
Pile 4 cups of flour onto a hard surface. Round out a hole in the middle – add 1 egg + 1 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup of cold water. Begin to mix by hand until it starts to come together. Add water as you knead the dough. Pull bottom to top then push down with your palms. Do this over, and over (and over!) again until you have a soft ball of dough that is not sticky to the touch. Roll out and cut as indicated above.