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December 10, 2023

Plain Talk About Food | Pierogi for the Holidays, With Love

My hubby Norm and I had been married for one year when he announced that it was time we spent Christmas in Chicago with his parents, whom I had yet to meet. Now being away from home at Christmas didn’t sound like a great idea to me, yet how could I deny this request? Saying ‘no’ to someone you love is difficult indeed.  

The day prior to boarding the airplane, my thermometer read 101. and I was sick. But board that plane I did, bundled in a heavy coat and with a box of Kleenex in my hand, I settled into my seat. While taking our place in line for takeoff, I do remember begging the flight attendant to give me a cup of boiling water, a slice of lime and two small bottles of bourbon. Thank the Almighty: She understood my need and doubled my order. I slept through the entire flight.

The next day we drove from our hotel to meet Norm’s parents. I slept through that entire visit on their couch.

The next day, Christmas Eve, we shopped for Christmas presents and then drove the gifts to my new in-laws’ home where we were to have dinner. I slept through that entire dinner on their couch. I slept through Christmas day on their couch as well. That entire visit was a blur.

A few years later, I was determined to learn the ‘art’ of making pierogi, the Polish dumplings Norm’s mom made and he loved, but hadn’t eaten since leaving Chicago.

I engaged Alycia, the wife of a Polish engineer Norm had hired, to give me lessons. One problem was Alycia did not understand English, nor I Polish. The second problem, Alycia measured nothing. For Alycia, making dough was all about the feel of the ingredients she added.

I finally came up with a great idea. Each time she reached into the bag with her hand for flour, I had her pile it on the breadboard where I would scoop it up into a measuring cup.

When she added eggs, I counted the empty shells. Milk was easier. I measured her ‘pinch’ of salt and scoops of sour cream as well.

While the dough was resting, we turned to making the filling of her choice – mushrooms and onions sautéed in butter. Easy, no problem there.

And then it came time to roll out the dough, cut rounds to size, fill, fold and crimp. By the time we were finished, there were almost 100 of the little half-moons of pierogi.  

This week, while making those little half-moons, I thought of that day in Alycia’s kitchen, and I smiled, wondering if she has been watching from ‘above’ as I filled and crimped 200 pierogi.  

I have expanded my fillings to sauerkraut, potatoes and cheese, cabbage and cream cheese and even plum and blueberry fillings.  My dough recipe remains the same as Alycia taught, soft and easy to work with.

I make my fillings one day, and the following day I make the dough, rest it for two hours and then cut and fill.

The little half-moons freeze beautifully. Lay them in rows on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, freeze solid and then add to Ziploc freezer bags. They will keep for several months.

When you are ready to cook the pierogi, make sure the water is at a full boil.  If cooking frozen pierogi, do not thaw. The pierogi are almost ready when all have floated to the top.  Let cook for another minute or two and then using a slotted spoon, remove from water and drain on a rack.

There are two ways to serve the pierogi once they have been boiled.  One is to pour melted butter over them and sprinkle with chives. The second way is to heat butter in a frying pan and fry the cooked pierogi on each side until lightly browned. Sprinkle with chives or parmesan cheese.

I’m smiling, remembering the hugs from my hubby when I made these little half-moons.  Absolutely yummy!

Pierogi Dough 

(4 dozen)

5 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

1 cup warm water

1 large egg

3 Tbsp. sour cream

4 Tbsp. melted butter, cooled.

1 tsp. butter

In mixer, mix until dough comes together. Add additional flour if too sticky. Knead for 4 min.

Rest dough on counter top for 2 hours.

Roll 1/3 of dough out to 1/8 in. thickness.

Use a 4 in cookie cutter.

Fill each round with 1 full tablespoon of filling. Fold over to half-moon shape and dampen top edge with water and crimp edge tightly, making sure all edges are sealed.

Freeze or cook. See directions above.

Pierogi Fillings

2 lbs. finely diced mushrooms 

2 cups finely diced onions

2 garlic cloves, minced.

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Saute together and when cool,

Add ¼ cup cream cheese. 

Mix well. Refrigerate.

Cabbage or Sauerkraut Filling

1 small head of cabbage or one jar of sauerkraut, steamed.

When cool, squeeze out water by using a dishcloth until dry. Dice and set aside.

In a frying pan add:

2 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 cup finely diced onion.   

1 minced garlic clove

Saute until onions are translucent.

Cool and then add 4 Tbsp. cream cheese.

Mix well. Refrigerate.

Plum or Blueberry Filling

2 cups fruit, well drained

½ cup gran. sugar. Taste and add more if needed.

1 tsp. almond flavoring

2 tsp. corn starch.

Cook until thickened. Cool.

Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].

Colly Gruczelak
Colly Gruczelak
Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].


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