Pierogi are ubiquitous in many Eastern European cultures and are often present at a celebration. In fact, they take such a lot of effort to make, the very making of them can become a celebration in of itself when enough jovial pierogi makers are gathered together.
We mark a special anniversary every October 8th. This is the day our son came home after a long stay in neonatal care after being born unexpectedly early and very, very tiny. This year, to mark the occasion, we made pierogi together. Making pierogi is a very tactile and engaging experience. The dough needs to be mixed and kneaded. Then, after a rest, it is rolled out and cut into circles before being filled with a flavourful stuffing. Children love this kind of work and it is fun to include them.
Sauerkraut and Mushroom Pierogi
It is very usual to find pierogi stuffed with potato and cheese. These can be very satisfying to eat, but my favourite pierogi are stuffed with sauerkraut. In fact, the idea for making these arose when I was canning my own sauerkraut, discussed here, which had completed its fermentation and was ready to be removed from the crock.
Similar to home canning, I am happy to make small batches of pierogi as I am not interested in production line work on a Saturday afternoon. The method outlined here is adapted from the book, From a Polish Country House Kitchen, and produces a small batch of two dozen.
Take a palmful of dried porcini mushrooms and drop them into a bowl. Pour a bit of boiling water over them and let them rest. Meanwhile, clean and finely chop about 1 cup of fresh mushrooms such as shiitake or button mushrooms.
Heat a nugget of butter in a heavy pan and fry the fresh mushrooms until they colour nicely. Remove the rehydrated mushrooms from their water, finely chop them, and add them to the pan along with 2 cups of good quality sauerkraut that has been first briefly rinsed under a cold tap. Pour in the mushroom liquid, taking care to ensure any grit is left behind.
From a kettle tip enough warm water to allow everything to simmer nicely and give a good grinding of pepper. Simmer until the sauerkraut is tender. Perhaps 20 minutes or so. The liquid should be almost entirely reduced.
Let cool prior to stuffing the dough.
Mastering pierogi dough is a challenge and takes experience. The dough needs to be soft, but not sticky, and it needs to be kneaded well to develop gluten, but shouldn’t be tough. It needs to be rolled out thinly, but not too thin, or the pierogi will have a poor texture and break apart when being boiled.
- 3 cups flour
- 1 egg
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup + boiling water
Sift the flour and salt. Crack and drop in the egg, and add the oil without mixing it into the flour. Slowly add the water, working it into the egg and oil from the centre of the flour outward, adding water enough for the dough to form. Add more water, as necessary, to form a soft pliable dough that is not too sticky. Add more flour if necessary.
Knead for 10 minutes and let rest covered for about an hour.
Roll out, cut into circles, and stuff with the filling. Pinch together and place the pierogi on a floured kitchen towel. Keep the dough covered to prevent drying out. Ensure the pierogi do not touch or they will stick together.
Drop into salted boiling water and cook for a few minutes until they float, but do not over cook.
Layer in a serving dish with fried onions and butter. Be generous with the butter to ensure they do not stick together.
Serve with sour cream and watch your child smile.