I’m sure you have a few recipes that are considered “family traditions”, passed down to the next generation around the holidays. Sometimes a recipe is written down on the back of an envelope but more often than not, there are no set quantities for the ingredients but rather everything is mixed by “feel and consistency”. For my family, that recipe is our Polish Pierogies. We have them once a year around Christmas time and I’ve seen my Mum making them at various stages throughout the process but never paid close enough attention to actually know the steps.
Mum has been out to Australia to visit us on her usual annual month long trip and we decided it was time to get this written down for our whole family. Of course, I think they turned out perfectly, but Mum is ever-critical of her work in the kitchen so she would have changed a few things. I’ll make note of those in the recipe.
If you’re game to make these, give yourself a full day as it is a definitely a labour of love! I hope you enjoy these as much as we do each year at Christmas.
Ingredients for the filling:
- 3lbs or 1.5kg rusett or washed potatoes, peeled
- 1 large brown onion (or 2 medium brown onions), peeled and diced
- 2 cups of cheddar cheese. If in the US, use longhorn cheddar. If in Australia, use 1 cup shredded Tasty and 1 cup Sharp Cheddar block (you’ll likley have to grate this on your own)
- 4oz or 125g unsalted butter
Ingredients for the dough:
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup water, room temperature
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 4 cups of flour, measured into a bowl
- 1 tsp salt
NOTE: For the amount of potato filling, I normally need to make 2 recipes of the dough but make one batch at a time. Doubling the recipe will not work.
Peel your potatoes and dice them into large chunks. If you make them too small, they will take on too much water and be mushy.
Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. They should only take about 15 minutes once the water is boiling. They are done when you’re able to easily pierce them with a fork.
While the potatoes are boiling, finely dice your onion.
Saute the butter and onion in a large pan while your potatoes boil.
Keep the heat really low on the butter / onion combo. You don’t want the onion to brown. It should just be translucent.
Once the potatoes are ready, pour off the excess water and then put the pot back on low heat while you mash the potatoes to dry them out. Make sure it’s the lowest heat setting, you don’t want to burn them, just help the last of the water evaporate.
Scrape every last bit of the butter/ onion goodness into the potatoes and fold through.
Fold in the cheese and mix well. Taste testing is vital right now. Add more cheese if needed. Once you’re happy with the flavour (and try not to eat it all!), allow the filling to cool, cover and place in the fridge. It doesn’t have to be chilled to work with but it does hold it’s form better when cool as you are folding it into the dough.
You can make the filling the day before if you are pressed for time.
Now it’s time to prepare the dough. Whisk the egg and vegetable oil very well in a large mixing bowl.
Measure 4 cups of flour into a bowl and be sure to keep it loose and light, do not pack the flour into the measuring cup. This is important because if you pack it in too tightly, you’ll end up measuing out too much flour.
Gently add 2 cup of flour to the egg and oil mixture and mix through with a fork. Continue stirring until the dough just holds together.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead the remaining flour in 1/2 cup at a time. You may not need to add all the remaining flour, just keep kneading until the dough is smooth and no longer tacky to the touch. You’ll know it’s ready when the dough no longer sticks and stays on your fingers.
If you are as patient as my Mum, invite your little ones in to help knead the dough. Getting them involved in the kitchen and cooking is one of the best gifts you can give to them.
Cover the dough with a glass bowl and allow it to sit for 30 minutes.
Pinch off a walnut sized piece of dough and keep the remaining dough covered under the bowl. Using a floured rolling pin to roll the dough into a circle. The dough is very elastic so you might need to stretch it out a bit as you work. I usually pinch off 4 dough balls at once and toss them into a bowl of flour for coating.
Using a size small cookie scoop (OXO Brand) or a tablespoon, scoop one ball of potato filling into the centre of the rolled circle.
Gently pull the dough and firmly pinch along the edge ensuring there is no air left in the pocket. Lay the pierogies out on parchment paper and continue until the filling is used up. Flip them at least once to allow them to air dry on both sides and don’t allow them to touch as they will stick together.
This video with Mum will really help you pull it all together (literally!) and sometimes it just helps to see this delicious process in action.
You’ve made it to the final stage! You’re going to need a big pot of boiling water and not just bubbling, you need it to be a rolling boil. You’ll also need a large bowl in your sink filled with cold water and lots of ice. If you don’t have an ice maker, I recommend purchasing a bag of ice because you’ll go through a lot of it.
Start by bringing the pot of water to a rolling boil and stir the water while gently dropping 10-12 pierogies in the centre of the swirl.
Bring the water to a boil again and wait for the pierogi to rise to the top. Simmer them for 2 more minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the floating pierogies to the ice water and leave them in there until they sink. Finally, transfer them to a drying rack to cool and “dry”.
If you’re not planning on frying them right away, coat your hands with olive oil and gently rub the pierogies before laying them in a tupperware container. This will ensure they don’t stick. You can freeze pierogies but I’ve always found we eat them up in a few days!
If you’re family is anything like mine, they will hover around the pierogies asking to taste test. Get a large pan and heat enough butter to coat the bottom. fry the pierogies until golden brown on both sides. Allow to cool and ENJOY!