When I think about my sweet Ukrainian Nana, the first two things I think about are love…
And FOOD! When I was growing up, she was constantly making something. Canned everything, jams, birthday cakes with coins inside and buttercream icing, shortbread CHRISTMAS COOKIES!!!
Banana splits every time I stayed overnight, Easter dinners, homemade pizza, lasagne, cabbage rolls, and of course, pierogies.
Looooved her pierogies. She used to make batches of them and send them along to us. It was always such a treat. Those pierogies remind me of childhood. In my family, we always called the pierogies pedaha. I think it is a Ukrainian thing.
My Nana turned 100 a couple weeks ago, so for her birthday celebration we made some of her favourite dishes. My cousin sent me Nanny’s pierogi recipe, and I was on pierogi duty.
The pierogies are not overly difficult to make, but they are definitely time consuming. I made them over two evenings, after work. Along with wine, which I always recommend when cooking.
- 6-8 large potatoes (I actually used 10 because I didn’t want to run out, and I had a bit of mashed potato leftover)
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (so I used a pre-shredded bag of cheddar and mozzarella, and I definitely noticed a difference between my filling and my Nana’s. Hers was more yellow in colour and just a bit tastier. Nana is adamant about the sharp cheddar cheese)
- Salt to taste (Nana uses a lot, always. Salt in everything)
- 6 cups flour
- 1/2 lb butter (half a stick)
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp sour cream (secret weapon!)
- 1 1/4 cups water
Yield – 55-60 pierogies
As my cousin tells me, our Nana used to boil the potatoes with the skins on, and then peel them after they were soft. As you can imagine, trying to peel boiling hot potatoes is not a fun time. We think Nanners did this to add more flavour to the potatoes, but I’m sure it isn’t necessary. My cousin Chrissy has made these a bunch of times, and she followed Nanny’s directions to a T and finally she was all “Why am I trying to peel these boiling hot potatoes?!” so, yeah. Peel the potatoes and then chop them up prior to boiling. Much more boiling-friendly. Add chopped onion to the peeled, chopped potatoes.
You can do this the night before and leave in the fridge if it’s easier (I did, but not necessary).
Once the potatoes are boiled and soft, you can remove the onion or keep it in the filling. I chose to keep the onion in, because I LOVE ONION.
Add cheese and more salt if you like (Nana likes!), and mash those puppies up.
Nanny suggests that you boil the water and add the butter, and then wait for the butter to melt and the water to cool. My cousin assumes this was because when Nana was first making her pierogies there were no microwaves. This is silly. Melt the butter in the microwave. Use lukewarm water, add the butter, eggs, and sour cream. Mix together, and then add the liquid to the flour.
You can use an electric mixer if you like, but I know our Nana is all about using her hands. This is how she inserted her love into everything she made (and love makes things taste better). So make sure your hands are nice and clean, and then mix that dough up. Knead it until it is smooth with no floury bits.
It doesn’t look like much, but it goes a long way.
You can also make the dough the night before and use chilled dough the next day, but I actually found that warm dough worked best for me. It is the opposite of Nana’s shortbread Christmas cookies. In that case the dough is easier to work with when chilled because when it’s warm it sticks to evvvvverything! But with the pierogi dough I found the stickiness to be manageable. I also use parchment paper with my Nana’s Christmas cookies, and roll the dough between it, but for the pierogies I did not because I found using parchment paper was actually more of a hinderance. I know my Nana likes to feel that dough with her fingers!
Get a good handful of dough, and put it on a well-floured surface (the flour is KEY for no stickiness).
Also put flour on top of the dough. Roll the dough into 1/8 in thickness.
Use a cookie cutter or a cup to cut in 2″ circles. Add a spoonful of filling in the middle.
Seal by pressing the edges together. If the edges are not sealing, dampen them with water. Create your semicircle of pierogi deliciousness.
After cutting your circles in the dough, put your leftover dough scraps back in your bowl of dough to be re-rolled.
Repeat until you have all the amazing pierogies.
Place in a singler layer on a baking sheet, cover with a damp cloth, and then freeze the pierogies. Once frozen, lightly flour, put them in freezer bags, and back into the freezer. This stops them from sticking to each other (for the most part, I find it is almost unavoidable to have a little stickage once you cook them, even with Nana’s pierogies – I remember them being a bit sticky).
To cook the pierogies, boil water, salt, and some butter, and throw in 10-15 pierogies at a time. Once they rise to the top they are ready!
You can fry them afterwards if you like, but our Nanny never did, so I have always liked them just soft and doughy like she used to make them.
Eat them with lots and lots of sour cream! (and salt!!!)
Nanny loved her own pierogies when I made them for her birthday!
So go forth and make your pierogies and enjoy them with your family!!!
Photo source – quite the article written about our Nans on her birthday 😀