Friday, December 18, 2009

Pierogi Party

This year I hosted my 5th annual Pierogi Party. What is a Pierogi Party? Well, a group of us get together and make lots and lots of pierogi. Last year we set a record at nearly 30 dozen. Yes, you read that right, 30 dozen! Generally, we make them primarily for our Polish Christmas Eve Dinner, called Wigilia. The Pierogi Party tradition started after I met the wife of a coworker, a wonderful woman named Ewa (pronounced evah) who is originally from Poland. As a second generation Polish American I was intrigued and we quickly became good friends. So we decided to hold a joint Christmas Eve (Wigilia) dinner and have done so ever since. In my family, we have always celebrated Wigilia, and I've always kept up that tradition. Before I met Ewa, I made my pierogi alone. Now we do it as a group, enlisting Ewa's husband, Joe, as well as various friends through the years. 

If you don't know a lot about what pierogi are and their history, i suggest you read this article, or any of a number of other things on the Internet. Over the years we've made several different varieties, but for Wigilia, we always have at least these three: savory cheese, potatoes and cheese, and sauerkraut and mushrooms.

Of course, there's a reason for the "Party" part of Pierogi Party, and we manage to consume some other delicious victuals--as well as beer, drinks, and shots of Luksusowa Vodka during the party--though saved much of the liquid refreshments for towards the end of the evening....we do take our pierogi-making seriously!

Appetizers were provided by Ewa and were absolutely delicious. She made an appetizer of crostini topped with  bit of lettuce, a slice of roasted beets, a horseradish-greek yogurt sauce, and dill. It was wonderful, just out of this world! Also we had a plate of cut up Kabanosy (a thin smoked sausage) and pickles, again, very wonderful stuff. We did not go hungry at all.

But, now about the star of the show, the pierogi making. And I'm going to share my recipe for the world's best pierogi dough with you, too!

This year, we ended up making six varieties of pierogi for Wigilia with these quantities:
  • Sauerkraut and Mushroom (20)
  • Potatoes and Cheese (30)
  • Savory Cheese (30)
  • Crab and Parsley (30)
  • Russian--Potatoes, onion, and farmer cheese (32)
  • Russian--Potatoes, onion, and farnmer and parmesan cheeses(20)
For Wigilia we saved out two dozen of each (where we had that many). The rest Joe and Ewa took home as I'l have Wigilia here and so will have those leftovers. When we've had others join us in other years, we've divided them up as well.

This year we also had a "dessert pierogi" contest. The contestants, variety, and number we made are:
  • Tommy -- Apple Pie (13)
  • Joe -- Ricotta, almond, and honey (17)
  • Me -- Bread pudding (12)
  • Ewa -- Farmer Cheese and cinnamon (13)
We were all in agreement, however that they were all winners.

The pierogi dough recipe we've settled on (after several years of experimentation with various iterations) is the following:
  • Stir together 3 1/2 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Scald 1 cup milk and add 1/2 stick (4 Tablespoons) butter
  • Add the hot mix mixture to the flour mixture and mix well
  • Then add two beaten eggs to the mixture.
  • Knead a minute or two. Add a bit more flour if too sticky, but it will be just a bit sticky.
  • Form into a ball, put on a plate or cutting board and cover with a tea towel, and let rest for 20 minutes.
  • When it's rested, roll out thinly and cut out circles.
One batch of dough will make approximately 36 3-1/2 inch circles. The recipe came from my mother's cousin Stella Kokaly who got it from a family friend, Lottie Szemeraj. As a person who has experimented with well over a dozen varieties of pierogi dough in my time, this is hands down the best ever.

Here's how we divided the tasks. I made all of the dough (we ended up doing six batches). Joe began the rolling and cutting and rolled out the first four, I believe. Tommy and Ewa did the actually  making... taking each round of dough and stretching it a bit, adding a precise amount of filling, then crimping and sealing the edges. As you can see in the pictures, we have a variety of sealing techniques. Ewa's is more dramatic, pinched somewhat reminiscent of a piecrust--as taught to her by her grandmother. Tommy discovered a fork works well. I just crimp crimp crimp by hand, how I've always done it and how my mother does it.

When i was not busy making dough, I jumped in and did some pierogin assembly as well. Once we had a bunch done, we began the boling process. A number of years ago I bought a turkey deep fryer to use to make beer (I've never used it to fry a turkey!) and we use the smaller pot that came with it to boil the water and cook the pierogi. So once we got to that point, Joe went and began the boiling process, keeping meticulous track of what we made and what was on each tray. We boiled each batch for 5 minutes, then transferred to an ice bath to chill them. After that they went to "storage phase." Once Joe moved to the cooking station, I doubled as the roller/cutter as well as helping assemble when I had a moment. 

Ewa and Tommy were the real troopers who kept at it assembling the pierogi. We made and boiled the crab pierogi last, then change the water to boil the dessert pierogi. Meanwhile I cleaned up as Tommy and Ewa finished the last of the pierogi. 

Once everything was cooked, Joe did the storage and labeling phase. Two dozen of each of the six for Wigilia went into Ziploc containers and right into the freezer, the others went into appropriately labeled ziploc freezer bags (freezer bags with the double lock are the best!) and those went home with Joe and Ewa the next day.

Once the dessert pierogi were boiled, I fried 8 of each variety in butter, then we sat down for dessert (with the requisite shots of vodka, too). I'd made a bourbon creme sauce for my bread pudding pierogi, and we also had the traditional sour cream accompaniment. We ate 28 of the 32 we prepared, and all agreed....they were all fantastic.

Of course I had the guest room prepared, as after all the beer and vodka, though no one was really that tipsy, still it's best not to drive. We know how to party! 

2009 was our fifth annual pierogi party and I'm sure we'll do it again next year in early December, thanks to good friends and a great tradition called Wigilia--it gives us the reason. I'll be sure to blog about our Wigilia too, especially since I'm doing some cooking for it.


  1. whoa that looks like a lot of fun! and tasty! nice leon! have you been to this place in manhattan called veselka? i hear they have great pierogies

  2. Great looking food! My wife and I owned Heartworks Cafe Dba Scribes Cafe in Five Points Jacksonville Florida until we were eveicted for my running for the U.S. Senator office in Florida 2010.

    So it is.

    Keep up the good work and have a nice holiday.

    Jorge Antonio Lovenguth

  3. What a great day of fun. I can attest these are great. Thanks for sharing the dough recipe! One of these years I'll have to learn how to make my some point Mom won't be able to do it anymore.

    Marshfield, WI

  4. I need to try making pierogi (it's still pierogi rather than pierogis when plural?). The closest I've been to making them are the frozen ones from the supermarket. Fresh are so much better!