Tag Archives: pierogi

Pirogi Event, a Generational Connection

Rose and Sophie

Rose and Sophie

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.

 

Rose and Sophie

Rose and Sophie

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

2 eggs

1Tablespoon warm water

1 large or two small potatoes

½ onion sautéed

¾ Cheese (any kind)

doughWe 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.

the whole wheat dough is on the left. The gluten free is on the right.

the whole wheat dough is on the left. The gluten free is on the right.

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.

potatoes, cheese, and onions

potatoes, cheese, and onions

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.

cut into chunks, fill, seal with water.

cut into chunks, fill, seal with water.

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.

When they float they are done. The whole wheat pirogi look weird to me but they taste the same

When they float they are done. The whole wheat pirogi look weird to me but they taste the same

I hope you get the chance to make these. Remember, use what you have on hand and don;t worry what they look like!

Wigilia

First Star, time to start the Wigilia

Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia. This is how we say Merry Christmas in Polish. Jedzcie, pijcie i popuszczajcie  pasa. This is how we say Eat, drink and loosen your belt. For tomorrow is the Wigilia, a very important holiday for Poles.

Both Steve and I are Polish, but neither of us were raised in households observing Polish traditions. We do however still have older relatives who know the customs and language and we want to pass something along to our children. Together we decided to adopt the Wigilia. Last year was the first time and the kids loved it because they got to open presents on Christmas Eve.

The Wigila (pronounced Vi’gilja) starts as soon as the first star appears on December 24th. There are  a lot of customs about hay and odd numbers and empty seats, but we’ve adopted what we can.

533544_4706547056792_373159534_nOnce the kids see the first star we sit down for wieczerza wigilijna, the Christmas Dinner. There is a Polish saying “a guest in the home is God in the home,” so we invite our neighbors to join us. The picture above is from last year. The Wigila meal is usually meatless, but I made Golapki (pronounced Gawompki) because it is one of the dishes my Polish grandmother taught me to make. It is cabbage leaves stuffed with beef and rice. We also had pierogi, sauerkraut, borscht (beet soup), uszka (mushroom dumplings), sernik na zimno (like a cheesecake with fruit and jello on top). To drink we enjoy Oranzada with wodka which is really vodka with orange soda.

This year I am adding fish to be more traditional. I am also going to try to make Chrusciki, which is like little fried dough cookies. I’ve found a recipe for a Rose of Warsaw cocktail made from vodka, cherry liquor, orange liquor, and bitters. We don’t have the ingredients on hand but it will make the shopping list for next year. Of course we will make pierogi for our dinner. I learned to make these cheese and potato dumplings when I was really young and this year I hope to teach my daughter Sophie. Check back on Wigilia for a blog entry tutorial on making pierogi.

After dinner we will go to church. Good Poles would go to a midnight mass but we will attend the 6 pm family service at our Methodist Church. When we come home we will open the presents we gave to each other or received from other friends and family. In Polish tradition the kids pass out the presents. We will leave out cookies for Santa, but will also talk about Gwiazdka which means “the little star,” who is the Polish gift-giver. This relates back to the Wigilia theme of the star of Bethlehem.  

However you celebrate, have a Merry Christmas!