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Exploring Pierogi: The Polish Dumplings

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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

Learn about the history of pierogi, and find some recipes for this famous dumpling.

Learn about the history of pierogi, and find some recipes for this famous dumpling.

Does Every Country Have a Dumpling Recipe?

It seems that every country and culture has in their repertoire at least one envelope of dough stuffed with savory meats and vegetables. Here's a short list:

  • dumplings (China)
  • empanadas (Central and South America)
  • gyoza (Japan)
  • pasties (England)
  • ravioli (Italy)
  • samosas (India)
  • tamales (Mexico)

And then, there are Polish pierogi—peasant food for sure, but a happy peasant food. There is a flavor for the observance of every holiday and special family event. According to polskafoods.com:

Part of this tradition is still followed today. For example, most Polish families still enjoy the traditional Cabbage, Sauerkraut, and Mushroom pierogi flavor on Christmas Eve as part of their “Wigilia Dinner.”

Even the word, pierogi (which has half a dozen variant spellings, all considered acceptable), comes from the Slavic word pir meaning “festivity,” hence the association of holidays with this treat.

What's Their Story?

We have been told that many culinary wonders of the world originated in China. You probably think that sushi is a Japanese dish, but the Chinese did it first. Ketchup? It might be an American condiment now, but guess who made it first? The word pasta might lead you to daydreams of Rome, but it began in China (thanks to Marco Polo for moving it westward). And because it was the Chinese who created pasta dough, many point to the East as the birthplace of pierogi.

But there are several more colorful stories.

Other Potential Origins of Pierogi

On July 13, 1238, Friar Hyacinth Konski visited the town of Kościelec. A storm raged, destroying all of the crops, dooming the populace to starvation. Hyacinth knelt with the villagers and prayed with them for divine intervention. The next day the crops rose back from the dead. In a show of gratitude, the people of the town created for him a meal of pierogi from those miracle crops.

Another tale states that the Tartars invaded Kiev in 1241. Hyacinth fed pierogi to the populace after the famine created by that siege.

Yet another legend states that it was the Tartars who introduced pierogi to the West from the Russian Empire.

Why Are They So Popular?

Pierogi are the epitome of comfort food. They can be baked, boiled, or fried; they can be eaten hot or cold; and they can be filled with just about whatever you have on hand.

While potato, cheese, and/or sauerkraut are common fillings now, the first recorded recipe for pierogi featured chopped kidneys, veal fat, greens, and nutmeg. We can thank the renowned cook Stanisław Czerniecki ("Compendium Ferculorum", 1682) for that amazing creation. (And I'm even more thankful that Stanislaw's cookbook is out of print.)

Let's start making pierogi.

Making dough.

Making dough.

The Perfect Pierogi Dough

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup sour cream

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix for 8 minutes with a dough hook.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 20 minutes.

How to Shape Pierogi

  1. Divide dough into two equal pieces. Roll each piece to 1/8-inch thickness on lightly floured board. Cut into 3-inch circles.
  2. Place a tablespoon of chosen filling onto each round. Fold into a half-moon shape, enclosing the filling in dough. Pinch the edges to seal.

How to Cook Pierogi

  1. Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Carefully lower 8 of the pierogi into the boiling water. Cook until they come up to the surface of the water and float (about 2 minutes).
  2. Gently remove and set on a rack to drain. Continue to cook in batches until all are cooked.
  3. Saute the pierogi in butter in a large shallow pan over medium heat until golden, about 2 minutes per side.
Sauerkraut is a tasty filling for pierogi.

Sauerkraut is a tasty filling for pierogi.

Suggested Fillings

Sauerkraut

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sauerkraut
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream

Instructions

  1. Rinse the sauerkraut water, squeeze dry, and chop very fine.
  2. Saute the onion in the cooking oil over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the sauerkraut and sour cream and cook to meld flavors, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Chill thoroughly before using to fill pierogi.
Mashed potatoes are another popular filling.

Mashed potatoes are another popular filling.

Mashed Potato and Cheese (From Cook's Country)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. Combine potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in large saucepan and cover with water by 1 inch.
  2. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium and cook at a vigorous simmer until potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Drain potatoes in a colander. While still hot, combine potatoes, cheddar, butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  4. Fit the mixer with paddle and mix on medium speed until potatoes are smooth and all ingredients are fully combined, about 1 minute.
  5. Transfer filling to an 8-inch square baking dish and refrigerate until fully chilled, about 30 minutes, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Mushrooms are a good filling for vegetarian pierogi.

Mushrooms are a good filling for vegetarian pierogi.

Mushroom

Kim Laidlaw (on Chowhound), creates a vegetarian filling with mushrooms, onion, and garlic minced fine in a food processor, and then sauteed to savory wonderfulness with thyme and sweet/nutty sherry.

But That's Not All

Don't you feel empowered? You now know how to make pierogi, and you have three simple filling recipes from which to choose. You can stuff these cute gems with whatever your little heart desires, or use your new-found skill to try one of these recipes:

A plate of pierogi with kielbasa and cabbage.

A plate of pierogi with kielbasa and cabbage.

Pierogi With Kielbasa and Cabbage

Mary Ellen uses a 1-pound package of frozen premade pierogi for this dish, but you can use your own homemade beauties. You'll need one dozen. Dumplings plus kielbasa and cabbage are a wonderful dish you can have ready for your hungry family in under 30 minutes.

This recipe pairs pierogi with the classic combination of ham and cheese.

This recipe pairs pierogi with the classic combination of ham and cheese.

Ham and Cheese Pierogi

KevinAndAmanda prepare a meal-in-a-dish in this simple recipe that utilizes one dozen frozen pierogi (or your homemade ones). Ham, broccoli, and cheese make it salty, creamy, and cheesy, and you can tell mom that you ate your vegetables too.

You can even serve pierogi in a casserole.

You can even serve pierogi in a casserole.

Crack Chicken Pierogi Casserole

PlainChicken creates an easy weeknight meal using two 1-pound packages of frozen pierogi (that's 24 pieces). This makes a huge 9x13-inch casserole, so it would be good for a crowd (church potluck?) or one hungry family.

Trivia

  • Pierogi is plural; the singular form of the word is pierog.
  • October 8 is National Pierogi Day in America.
  • Pierogi have their own patron saint (St. Hyacinth).
  • There are numerous accepted spellings. Most use 'pierogi', but perogi, perogy, pirohi, piroghi, pirogi, pirogen, pierogy, pirohy, and pyrohy also appear in print.
  • The largest edible pierogi was made during Indiana’s Pierogi Fest in Whiting. It weighed 92 pounds!
  • Ten students from a catering school in Wroclaw, Poland were entered into the Guinness World Records Book for making 1,663 pierogi (90 pounds) in 100 minutes. They donated the pierogi to children’s homes.
  • Poland has pierogi restaurants called “Pierogarnia.” (They are almost as common as a Starbucks in America).
  • At the 2007 Pierogi Festival in Kraków, 30,000 pierogi were consumed each day of the celebration.
  • The town of Glendon in Alberta, Canada unveiled its roadside tribute to pierogi in 1991—a huge statue of one pierog on a fork. The fiberglass and steel statue is 25 feet high and weighs 3 tons.
  • Sixty-eight percent of the pierogi consumed in the United States are sold in the "pierogi pocket", a geographic area covering New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Chicago, Detroit, parts of the northern Midwest and southern New England.
  • Tappan, New York hosts an annual Polish Festival in June with a pierogi eating contest.

© 2018 Linda Lum

Comments

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on July 08, 2018:

Linda.

Have to admit, I enjoy a good Saurkraut, maybe that my Saxon ancestry coming through

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 08, 2018:

I don't know about that Lawrence. Being 50% eastern European, I can tell you that my mom's family will find any excuse to add sauerkraut, potatoes, or dough (and any combination thereof--all three is Heaven!) to a meal.

As for the inch-thick pastry, that was true but because (1) the flour was very coarse, not the fine-grind we have at our disposal today and (2) the crusts were typically thrown away. They were nothing more than a convenient vessel.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on July 08, 2018:

Linda

I once heard on a radio program that meat pies and the like were the medieval way of preserving meat at other 'perishables' and the crusts would often be inches thick.

Maybe the Polish Pierogi has the same origins?

Very interesting.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 14, 2018:

Shauna, look at the reply I gave to Manatita. You can most certainly make these. I KNOW you can. It will be like being at your Grandma's house again. Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories with all of us.

God bless your day.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 14, 2018:

Thank you Manatita. Obviously this is not a meal one whips up at the 11th hour when the family is clamoring to be fed. But this is the very sort of thing I will do on a lazy Saturday afternoon when rain is beating against the window panes. Comfort food for sure.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 14, 2018:

I love pierogi, Linda. My stepdad is Polish. Both of his parents immigrated from Poland way back when. When I was little, we'd have dinner at Bachi and Gaji's (sp?) every Sunday. One of my favorite dishes were Bachi's pierogi. She stuffed hers with sauteed onions and farmer's cheese. Kapusta (sauerkraut) was served on the side, usually with a soup as well. She'd make tomato soup, which was light, not creamy as are most tomato soups, or duck soup, which was my favorite soup of hers. It was also known as blood soup for obvious reasons, but it was delicious. She'd make dumplings to go with it. I'd pile them into the bowl and go to town!

Although I have Bachi's recipe, I've never tried making pierogi. When I get a hankering for them, I place an order with Millie's Pierogi out of Chickopee, MA. They're sent overnight and are every bit as good as Bachi's. Hmmm. Now I have a hankering!

manatita44 from london on June 14, 2018:

Thanks Linda.

I believe I did ask you about this meal, no? You have done a super-excellent job here and your pierogi's are the best I've seen so far and I have had a few.

I will send this recipe to two people. One is my polish friend, and the other is the current holder of the most records in the Guinness Book of Records. Nice one!!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 12, 2018:

Now please do not fret. I had our staple (rice egg and sausage and salad and a yogurt desert)

But we really messed up on our try on dumplings. "Dad you really messed up". If life got better?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 11, 2018:

Oh to be a fly on the wall.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 11, 2018:

From you LInda, it is all by you. tonight we shook our booty because no one said we could not. Is it legal to sing with a spoon microphone doing dishes? Maybe in Peru?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 11, 2018:

Eric, I wish I could be in your kitchen. It sounds like you are having so much fun. Pierogi with an Asian spin. I love it!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 11, 2018:

What do you think. I am listening to some cowboy music. I am going to try some of this with extra eggs and pancake batter and go with some ground beef. Scallots and some Bok Choy, onion and cilantro of course. Suggestions? He will have a type of Soy Fish sauce and I will go full Chollula which fits my ridiculous oncology diet.

????

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 11, 2018:

Peachy, yes they are. And, different from ravioli, or tamales, etc. We live in such a wonderful world with so many tastes and textures from which to choose.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 11, 2018:

These dumplings are different from the Asians. Awesome.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 11, 2018:

Mary, they are popular in the German community so I'm not surprised that they are new to you. Do give them a try (and by the way they freeze beautifully).

Mary Wickison from Brazil on June 11, 2018:

Well, I learned something new today. I have never heard of these but would love to try them. I will have to opt for the ham and cheese or chicken filling.

Your articles are definitely expanding my knowledge of cooking.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 11, 2018:

Peggy this was a fun topic to research. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Have a great week!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 10, 2018:

I am familiar with pierogis but enjoyed learning all the trivia facts about it. I never knew that there was a National Pierogi Day in America for example. Thanks for giving us some recipes along with interesting facts.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 10, 2018:

Linda I hold too tight. My son picked up my old Scythe handle and scooted me in so he could slay, I got no clue for that is his business not mine.

But I know as a natural damn fact he loves your food. I confess like a busted thief that I do not always tell him they are yours. Love yourself as my family does.

They are taking my girl away. Nell.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 10, 2018:

Eric, take that poor old mare out to pasture and allow yourself to purchase a new computer. You won't regret it. You will be AMAZED at how much faster everything is. You will be able to read, write, and edit with lightening speed. You deserve this!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 10, 2018:

OMG Bill, you just knocked my socks off. I NEVER thought you would be into these (but so glad to get the Bill Holland seal of approval).

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 10, 2018:

Eric, I think it could be said that Bánh bao are the Vietnam version of pierogi. Love it!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 10, 2018:

Flourish, it would have been great if he had shared. Do you know why pierogi are so popular there?

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 10, 2018:

Linda she has been a fine ride. Longer than I ever had horse. I think 08 A fine and 10 is a good age I suppose for my little gal. But lately I have had to put more weight on her. (PDF and cloud)

I wrote a note here but old Nelly seems to have gone lame.

We are eating Bun Bao in a bit, just our given from grandma Viet dumpling. Maybe old Nelly can send this.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 10, 2018:

I have heard of them but I never knew what they were. See what I learn when I stop by for a quick read...very cool. And I would eat those, which is like the Bill Holland Seal of Approval! :) Happy Sunday, Linda!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 10, 2018:

Linda I am getting fat again just reading you wonderful recipes. I am not in on liver (though my md says I should be) But Sauerkraut was a staple and I love it.

So we have Grandma/church dry noodles, some Dragon fruit and a celery/spinach/cilantro and cabbage for dinner. But the Coup de Gras is Bun Bao. Our Vietnamese dumpling cold. That boy likes nothing better.

Thank you, now I am off to watch Flash with the boy before soccer.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 10, 2018:

How entertaining! I used to live outside of Cleveland where pierogis are very popular. When Bill Clinton was running for President the second time, I waited with a crowd in the rain for more than an hour past his scheduled arrival time while he ate pierogis. They shouldn't have told us that!