Tuesday, September 15, 2009


This is my family's homemade pierogie recipe--I am half Ukrainian and half French, and this recipe comes from the Ukrainian side. It takes a lot of work, but is well worth the effort. Because it's so labor intensive, when I make it, I typically make a large batch--about 11 dozen pierogies. If you want to pare the recipe down, you'll have to attempt it yourself. :)

Now, there are lots of different types of pierogie recipes out there--potato, meat, or cabbage/sauerkraut. This one is your traditional one, filled with potato, cheese, and onions. It also happens to be my favorite. The techniques that follow were developed by my loving mother, who made and sold about 300 dozen pierogies one year to make money so we could have an awesome Christmas (I think I was 11 or 12?). She's the master!

Here are the ingredients. Detailed instructions follow.

Filling (makes 11 dozen pierogies)

5 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 pound (8 oz) grated cheese, typically Farmers Cheese
salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds medium yellow onions, finely diced
1 stick butter

Dough (you'll need to make 5-6 batches worth of dough to equal 11 dozen pierogies)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 egg
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp melted butter

The first thing I would recommend is to prepare the onions. You'll need about 2 lbs yellow onions and 1 stick of butter for this part. If you have a food processor, the easiest thing to do is to peel your onions, slice into quarters, and pulse them a few times in the processor. This saves your eyes...you can definitely do it the old fashioned way with a knife; it will just take you a bit longer. Once you get all the onions diced pretty finely, add them to a large saute or frying pan along with the butter. Cook over medium heat, until the onions caramelize or turn brown. Watch them carefully so they don't burn. I usually add up to 1/2 cup water to help keep them from burning. Depending on how many onions are in your pan, this could take 20-30 minutes.

Once you get the onions cooking, peel and quarter your potatoes. You'll need 5 pounds of russet potatoes. Don't use any other kind of potato (red, large baking, etc). Russet only. Just trust me. Place the potatoes in a large stockpot along with a bunch of water. Boil the potatoes until tender and drain. Add a couple Tbsp butter, mash them well with a potato masher, or use a potato ricer if you have one of those (I don't, but it's on my wish list!). You don't want lumpy pierogies. Whatever you do though, don't use an electric mixer--this makes the potatoes too fluffy.

Add about 2/3 of your onions to the mashed potatoes. (Save the remaining 1/3 onions to use for topping the pierogies.) Make sure to salt and pepper your potato mixture to taste...these need lots of salt. Grate 1/2 pound (8 oz) cheese and add to slightly cooled potato-onion mixture. (If it's too hot, the cheese will start to melt and get stringy. Not a pretty sight.) Traditionally, the cheese used in this pierogie recipe is farmers cheese, a soft, mild cheese similar in texture to mozzarella. Cheddar cheese also works well, but I'm picky. If I go to the trouble to make these things, I want them to be GOOD. So I use farmers cheese. You can usually find it in the specialty cheese section at your local grocery store. (TN residents--I find this fairly easily at Kroger.)

Because this is such a large recipe, I typically make the onions & potatoes a day ahead of time, then refrigerate for use the next day, when I make the dough, fill the pierogies, and cook them. It breaks it up, especially if no one else is helping you prepare them.

When you're ready to start assembling the pierogies, make a doubled dough recipe (4 cups flour, 2 eggs, etc). Do not try to use an electric mixer to make the dough. It's fragile and just take it from someone who's experienced. Use a regular old bowl and wooden spoon. Mix all dough ingredients until well blended but try not to overmix. Let the dough stand for 30 minutes, covered with a damp dishtowel. Then take about 1/3 of the dough, roll out onto a lightly floured surface until you get a thickness of about 1/4-1/8 inch. Not too thick, not too thin. Don't be afraid of the dough...it doesn't hurt. Take a round biscuit cutter or the rim of a glass, lightly floured, and cut out dough circles. Take up the pieces of the dough left, re-roll and cut out more circles. When you sense the bits and pieces of dough getting tough, discard it & start again with the remaining dough in your bowl. Always keep dough you're not working with covered with a damp towel to keep it fresh.

Next, you'll want to fill these dough circles with the potato/onion/cheese mixture. In our house, we take it a step further and roll the potato mixture into small/medium balls with our hands. This makes it a bit easier to work with and works well when you're cooking "assembly line style." Put the potato ball or small spoon of mixture in the center of the dough circle and bring the round edges of the dough together, pinching as you go along to form a seal, keeping all the potatoes inside. You can use a commercial "pierogie maker" or ravioli maker if you want to, but we find that wastes a lot of dough.

Bring a large stockpot full of water to a boil; place filled pierogies into water and boil for about 2-3 minutes until the pierogies float to the top. You can cook up to 10 pierogies at once this way. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a cookie sheet with edges (to catch any drips of water).

Now your pierogies are cooked and ready to eat. They're yummy this way, but not super attractive. A great finishing touch is to fry your pierogies in a bit of butter until golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. Serve with remaining caramelized onions and sour cream.

**You can freeze pierogies after they are boiled. Simply allow them to cool, then place in freezer bags. They'll last several months this way and taste just as fresh when they defrost and you fry them up. You can also freeze any remaining onions for topping. Do not freeze any leftover potato mixture, though. I tried that already and trust me, it doesn't work!

I know this seems like a lot of work, and I won't lie to you. It is. But the end result is so worth it, so much better than any pierogie you buy from the freezer section of your grocery store....you'll never want to go back. I promise!

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