Pirogi making is a tradition in my family handed down generation after generation. In this photo is my great grandma Rose who taught my grandma Sophie, who taught me (Rose) who just taught my daughter (Sophie). Below is a photo from today.
When you look at cultural food you notice almost every culture has some sort of dumping style food. Pirogi are a staple of Polish cuisine. Like most ethnic dumplings, pirogi can be made with what you have on hand, such as potatoes, cheese, onion, beef, mushrooms, and sauerkraut. I learned to make pirogi from my grandma, who tended to use a filling of potatoes and cottage cheese. We frequently eat store bought pirogi, but on Christmas Eve I like to make them from scratch. My husband calls this day “the pirogi event.” This year there were two unique aspects to our pirogi event, first, my daughter Sophie wanted to help, and two, my son is on a wheat and dairy free diet. Here is how it went, along with some instructions so anyone can follow along.
You will need these ingredients.
2 cups flour
1Tablespoon warm water
1 large or two small potatoes
½ onion sautéed
¾ Cheese (any kind)
We start with the dough. It could not be easier. It is one egg for each cup of flour, and a little warm water to help get the consistency right. I put the flour right on the counter and press a spot in the center for the eggs. I start mixing it with my hands and sprinkle a little water as needed. The amount of water varies depending on the type of flour size of egg so I just keep a cup on hand- you will need it later. It turned out I had no normal flour in the cupboard so we made a batch with whole and a batch with a gluten free baking mix flour (rice flour, fava bean flour, tapioca flour). Here is a picture of the two dough balls side by side. Once the dough is in a nice ball I set it aside and cover with plastic wrap while I work on the filling.
For the filling I start with potatoes. I peeled a large potato and boiled it until soft. To keep it authentic like my grandma I did not spend much time mashing it smooth and left it lumpy. When the potato was boiling I sauteed half an onion chopped fine. I mixed the potato, onion, and cheese together. As you can see from the photo below, the first batch had cottage cheese and cheddar cheese, and Andrew’s batch and non dairy cheese made from almond milk.
My grandma taught me to roll the dough long, and cut off about 1/2 inch chunks. It is important not to over work the dough. Sophie and two of her friends helped me by rolling the dough into oblong shapes. We scooped the mix into the center, and played around with how much to use by trying to fit as much as possible and still fold the dough in half. By dipping our fingers into the water we sealed the dough together. They were all sorts of shapes but that is ok. It is the taste that matters. The whole wheat flour was fine to work with, but the gluten free was falling apart. I found it worked best to leave the pieces thick. It also helped to flatten the dough in my hand instead of the counter so I wouldn’t have to peal it off.
The next step is to put the dumplings into boiling water. As soon as they float, which takes only a few minutes, they are ready. I use a slatted spoon to take them out and set them is a dish with melted butter to keep from sticking. They are best fresh but will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
I hope you get the chance to make these. Remember, use what you have on hand and don;t worry what they look like!