How to make traditional Polish Pierogi
What are Pierogi?
Put simply, pierogi are (the word is actually plural in Polish, the singular is pieróg) stuffed dumplings, boiled and then served with melted butter, bacon bits or sour cream depending on the contents but they are so much more than this. They are the national pride of the Polish culinary art and perhaps the most famous food export from this cuisine proud nation. The shape is usually semicircular, like crescent moons, and the stuffings range from the sweet to the savoury.
Pierogi: history and importance
It is believed that pierogi have been made in Poland since the 13th century although the first written mention of the dish appeared in the late 17th century with the advent of the first Polish cookbooks. Originally prepared as a meal for special occasions with different stuffings and shapes, marking Christian celebrations but unfortunately, this tradition has ceased to be relevant today.
The fame of pierogi has pushed beyond the boundaries of Poland and today the dish is popular across Europe and to North America, mainly as a result of Polish immigration to the United States. Pierogi are today consumed in Germany, Slovakia, Ukraine as well as host of other countries but its importance to Polish culture remains steadfast, as demonstrated by the annual Pierogi Festival held annually in Krakow where over 30,000 pierogi are consumed over a 3 days period.
What are Pierogi similar to?
Due to its simplicity to make, there are many similar dishes found across the globe. Perhaps the most famous are the Italian ‘Ravioli’ and ‘Tortellini’ but similar stuffed dumplings exist in Russia as ‘Pelmeni’, in Germany as ‘Maultaschen’, in Turkey and Central Asia as ‘Manti’ and in Georgia as ‘Khinkali’. Furthermore, in Asia similar dough encased meals such as Chinese ‘Jiaozo’, Korean ‘Mandu’, Tibetan ‘Momo’ and Mongolian ‘Buuz’ are popular street side and home cooked delights.
What can you put inside Pierogi?
The beauty of the pierogi is the sheer variety of stuffings that can be applied. It can be a main meal or a dessert and the meal leaves a lot of scope for the chef’s imagination. Popular ingredients for savoury pierogi include mashed potatoes, onions, white cheese, sauerkraut, minced meat, spinach and mushrooms. Whilst in summer, fresh fruits such as cherry, strawberry, plum, raspberry, blueberry, and apple are popular in making sweet pierogi.
There are some set recipes of course and in Poland, ruskie pierogi – mashed potato with white cheese and fried onions, and mushrooms & sauerkraut are just two extremely popular and common dishes.
Ingredients to make pierogi…
Ingredients for 4 people include:
– 500g of wheat flour (+ a bit more to spread on the kneading board or table)
– 200ml of warm water
– 2 egg yolks
– salt to taste
– 2 teaspoons of butter
Filling – whatever you like :)
– pierogi cutter or a glass
– rolling pin
– large pot to boil or a frying pan to fry
– skimming spoon (large spoon with holes)
– large bowl / kneading board / flat surface
How to make pierogi…
Pierogi are extremely easy to make and they can be boiled or fried. If you wish to boil them (like in the video) it helps to freeze them so they don’t fall apart in boiling water. So make sure you prepare your pierogi the day before serving.
Follow these simple steps to make pierogi dough and form them. We didn’t cover making the filling, as you can use virtually anything, so exercise your imagination :)
1) Put 500g of flour in a large bowl or directly on the kneading surface
2) Add egg yolks, butter and salt to taste
3) Slowly pour warm water and start mixing the dough. Knead the dough until there are no lumps
4) Spread some flour on the kneading surface and the rolling pin and roll your dough. Make sure it’s not too thick or too thin.
5) Cut round shapes using a pierogi cutter or glass.
6) Place some filling in the middle and close your pierogi. If you are using a cutter, simply close it and make sure there are no gaps. If you are using your fingers, start from the middle and work towards the edges.
7) Place your pierogi on a plate covered in flower and freeze them overnight.
8) Boil salted water in a large pot and insert your frozen pierogi. Wait for 2-3 minutes after they start floating on the surface before taking them out.