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Barbara Rolek

Pierogi Making a Tradition for Christmas

By December 13, 2012

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Polish Pierogi
Polish Pierogi
2009 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.
In Poland and other Eastern European countries that enjoy filled dumplings, many people don't think twice about whipping up a batch of pierogi, koldunai (Lithuania), piroshki (Russia), varenyki (Ukraine), or Jewish kreplach. But, in America, pierogi making is usually relegated to holidays like Christmas or Easter because people see it as too labor intensive.

It used to be that extended families, 20 or 30 adults, got together before the holidays to make pierogi in their basement kitchens. Every self-respecting Polish-American I know had one, or had access to one. A basement kitchen, that is. Today, it's iffy if one has a basement at all, what with homes being built on slabs, condo and apartment living and all.

But I digress. At these pierogi parties, each family would bring a different pierogi filling, and the dough would be made up at the host's house by the matriarchs of the clan. Then it was a process of rolling, cutting, filling and freezing or boiling on the spot.

Out came every pierogi-making gadget imaginable, as cousins tried to sell each other on their latest acquisitions. Some would roll out individual rounds of dough as for Russian pelmeni, while the diluted Polish strains opted for pasta rollers. In the end, however, the trusty rolling pin, some close to 100 years old, held sway.

Polka music or Christmas koledy (carols) played in the backgbround, kielbasa and sauerkraut provided sustenance, and a little piwo (beer) slaked the thirst.

Pierogi-making parties were the highlight of the season and no one was left out because skill was superfluous. There was always something for the less culinary inclined to do -- chopping onions, sauteing onions, boiling, bagging, labeling, freezing. The crimping, however, was left to the dumplling divas. No one wanted a pierogi exploding in the boiling water because of trapped air. Non-Eastern Europeans considered it quite a coup to be invited to one of these extravaganzas.

Today, with families scattered across the country, pierogi parties are becoming a dying breed. But that doesn't mean the tradition can't be revived with friends, or that it can't be done on your own with smaller batches. Check out this pierogi-making video from John Mitzewich that only requires 1 cup of flour (with more for kneading and rolling, of course). And, from me, here are step-by-step pierogi-making instructions with links to recipes for pierogi doughs and pierogi fillings. It's a great project to share with the kids and grandkids. Roll on!

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December 13, 2009 at 10:34 pm
(1) Susan Adcox says:

A pierogi party sounds like too much fun! It’s sad how we are losing the tradition of families and friends coming together to prepare (and eat) foods. I hate to see families celebrating at restaurants. A home get-together is more comfortable for the children and they get to see how the older generation does things.

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