A Family Affair: How This Family Recipe Became a Two-Day Tradition.


imageWhen and how did the tradition of your two-day pierogi making festival start?
It started when I was very young. My mother would make them. Pierogi is such a time-consuming recipe. Everything is hand-made. I remember as a young girl coming home from school, my mother would be rolling out dough and making the pierogis. At that time it would be just for the family. So maybe she would make a hundred of these pasta pockets. That’s how it started. I also remember helping her with a little rolling pin and a little oven that had a light bulb for heat (laughter). Then when we all got older, and we maybe did it once a year, making the pierogis. Because it’s very time consuming and very rich, and it’s not exactly healthy for you. It’s pasta and ground pork and the topping is also ground pork and onions. It’s an acquired taste and very polish. We used to make them with potatoes and mushrooms, but that was years ago. It got to be too much for the family to make all that. Everybody liked the ones with the ground pork, so they’re the ones we make. Not too many people know about the pork filled ones. I don’t know anyone else who makes them like that. I’m polish, both of parents immigrated from Poland. My mother came over when she was 2 years old. My father came over when he was around 11. They met later in life. So I’m first generation. Don’t ask me anything in Polish though. The only time they spoke Polish in the house was when they didn’t want the children to know what they were saying. When we got older, I teased my mother about not teaching us Polish. My grandparents all spoke Polish, they never spoke English. My mother spoke both languages. When I was just married I’d go over and she’d say she was making them and we’d all go over, my husband, sister and brothers with our families and eat these pierogis. As my mother got older, in her 90’s, she’d come to my house with my sister and daughter-in-law, to make pierogis. This was about 12 years ago. As she got older, it was easier if I did it because I was a stay at home mom. When my daughter got married and my sons got out on their own, they’d ask “when are you making those pierogis?” We’d just get together. My daughter would call me up after work or something and tell me she had a day off. Then her daughter would come as a teenager after school and we’d all pitch in and do it. My grandson, who is married, his wife would come over. In fact, last year she came over with an electric pasta machine. That made it a lot easier.

I had graduated from rolling out the dough with a rolling pin, which is murder on your back, to a pasta machine that was a hand crank. It also increased it size, the amount of pierogis that we made. At first it would be maybe 150-200 and we’d eat it and that would be the end of it. Then somebody said, “let’s freeze them, so we’ll make more”. Last year we made over 800 because people took them home in freezer bags and froze them and a month or two later they’d be like “let’s have pierogis” and they’d pull them out of the freezer. Last year I was here, my daughter, my grandsons wife, her little kids, my other granddaughter came over and she helped. Then the whole family comes over and we eat. And because we do it only once a year, we have to start the day before. Somebody will make the little, tiny meat balls and somebody else will cut up the onions and even start making mounds of dough and keeping it in the refrigerator and then bring it to my house and then we’ll roll it out and make it.

So your pierogis are filled with pork?
Yes. It’s not the ones you buy frozen. What it is, is ground pork and onions, salt and pepper rolled into tiny, little meat balls. (We usually do about 6 or 7 pounds of ground pork).
The dough is about 3 cups of flour, 1 egg, some lukewarm water. You knead it and add the water as it goes. Knead it till it’s soft, thin (not too thin). Then we have the pasta maker on the lasagna setting and make strips of dough. We cut it out with an aluminum cup since it has the perfect circle. Then the filling goes into the pasta pockets that you fold over and seal into a “C” shape, half circle. We hand squeeze them. (We take turns and I’ll even take 20 minute naps in between. It’s a lot of delegating). Then we put them aside, single file so they don’t stick together on a cookie sheet. We flash freeze them. After about half an hour they’re hard enough to put in a plastic bag for people to take home. The fresh ones that you cook right away: we put them in salty, boiling water for about a minute. Bring them out to drain, then put them on a platter. Waiting on the sideline is the topping.
It’s cubed, salt pork (you can buy that at any grocery store. It’s bacon that is very thick and fatty) and onions that have been rendered in a frying pan. You fry it like bacon until the fat melts (don’t burn it). Once the pork gets a little crispy, you let it calm down because it’s very hot, you add the chopped onions. Cook them till they’re a little soft and crispy. You put them on the finished pierogis.

Do you think this is a tradition that will carry on through future generations? They must be pretty great for everyone to want to give up two days to cook!
Yes. I do. I’m actually waiting to hear from them (the family). My youngest son brought up that it was after the holidays and we haven’t made them yet. Everybody’s busy. But it carries on. The little ones come in and see all the flour and us making them. It’s a fun day. It’s a tiring day, but a fun day and it has been for the last 40 years that we’ve been doing it at my house.

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3 thoughts on “A Family Affair: How This Family Recipe Became a Two-Day Tradition.

  1. Love perogies, i remember the days when I was much younger when my mom and dad would spend the day making them. Ours were filled with potatoes, onions and cheese. Wenever did meat filled. Happy memories…

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