Today is National Pierogi Day! So in honor of that I am going to tell you a little bit about the origin of pierogies and share with you a healthy pierogi recipe I found!
For those of you completely unfamiliar with pierogies (though since we’re in western PA I couldn’t understand why!) but they can best be described as dumplings composed of dough and a filling, often served with butter or sour cream. The so-called standard pierogi filling is potato, cheese, and onion (sometimes called the Ruthenian pierogi), but there are many other popular fillings, including cabbage, prunes, and meat! Pierogi can resemble the shape and size of pot stickers you might order at a Chinese restaurant, though the dough for pierogi is usually thicker. Pierogi also resemble Italian ravioli in their basic form. Most pierogi are puffed-out half circles or triangles, resulting from the folding-over of circles and squares of dough, respectively.
Pierogi are a food of “virtually untraceable Central or Eastern European origin,” though they are perhaps most closely associated with the Polish people. Poland as a country has been conquered and re-conquered throughout history, resulting in waves of settlers that influenced the cuisine. This resulted in a variety of pierogi recipes and types throughout the years. Since pierogi are basically dumplings, there is some evidence to suggest that pierogi ancestors, made their way across Central Asia where they were more veggie-filled and then into Eastern Europe. The dumplings evolved, developing fillings appropriate to the local area. Somewhere on this pierogi continuum, the food took on its familiar form, the vaguely consistent and over-generalized Eastern European pierogi. Within Poland, cabbage came into popularity in the 1500s while potatoes were rooted as a staple food by the mid 1700s. Those remain perhaps the two most popular main fillings in most pierogi-loving countries.
As for the pierogi dough, Russian, Latvian, and Ukrainian varieties tend to have a more bread-like quality and are more likely to contain meat almost like a miniature sandwich. Polish, Slovak, and Czech varieties tend toward a sort of hybrid pasta-pastry dough and are more likely to contain potatoes or cabbage. Lithuanian pierogi are like a bridge between the two, usually with the meet type filling and pasta like dough.
Pierogies came to America in the late 1800s and early 1900s, by way of Eastern Europeans. Polish variety (potato-cheese or cabbage pierogi) seemed to catch on with other Americans. Of course, most of these immigrants settled in the Mid-Atlantic states or in urban industrial centers like Chicago, accounting for the popularity of pierogi in those areas.
I have always had the typical basic potato and cheese Mrs. T’s Pierogies, boiled with butter. But what I didn’t realize is that there are other ways to cook them. Not only can you boil them but you can also pan fry, bake or deep fry these delicious filled pasta pockets! Alright enough about the history of pierogies! Here is a recipe for you to try!
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup warm water
- POTATO FILLING:
- 3 medium potatoes, cooked, drained and mashed, about 1 pound
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- CHEESE FILLING:
- 2 cups (16 ounces) 4% small curd cottage cheese, drained and patted dry
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup butter
- To make dough, mix flour, eggs, sour cream, salt and water (a little at a time). Knead dough until firm and elastic; cover with a bowl and let rest 10 minutes. For potato filling, prepare potatoes; set aside. For cheese filling, combine ingredients and mix. Divide dough into three parts. On floured surface, roll dough to 1/8-in. thick; cut into 3-in. rounds with cutter. Place a small spoonful of filling in center of each round; fold and press edges together firmly to seal. Drop pierogi in simmering chicken bouillon with 1 teaspoon oil. Do not crowd. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring gently with wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Remove with slotted spoon; drain well. Saute onion and butter until golden. Place drained pierogi in casserole and pour onion/butter mixture over all. Garnish with brown mushrooms. Yield: 7 dozen.
Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (3 each) equals 175 calories, 9 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 54 mg cholesterol, 262 mg sodium, 18 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 5 g protein.
I am definitely having pierogies tonight for dinner! Anyone else?