Monday, November 8, 2010

The pierogi incident


Long time no talk eh?.. why, I've been busy, reading, making cuff links, writing blog posts and never finishing them or posting them, you know, the ush... well, actually, a couple days ago I made pierogies, from scratch!

So, a bit of backstory, I emailed my mom asking her for my aunt's recipe... it went pretty much like this:

Can you send me out a good recipe for pierogies (maybe cocia's? (ed: aunt's)). And what kind of sauerkraut and mushrooms she uses? I want to try to make them!



M** P** to


i JUST finished talking w Ciocia,she wants to know when u coming?she will make for u to take .We both agreed that is time consuming plus needs practice,may be one day we will make them all of us together?


Geez, that email makes me feel like the biggest momma's boy loser ever. Maybe one day, Mom??!! I just want to make pierogies!

Also, I love how they both agreed (read: decided) that I should wait for them.... lol!

Just kidding mom, I love you. Actually, re-reading that email, it's kinda sweet, but if you're going to play a new character in this blog you're going to have to roll with the obnoxiousness. Just hold your head high and look where it got Spenny.

Anyway, so I pretty much took this as a personal challenge. I mean, I have this potluck on tuesday and I volunteered to bring some food (I suppose that's what one does for a potluck), and I didn't just want to bring something like a bag of chips and vodka (all the girls are used to that already). So, I narrowed it down to my vegetarian lasagna or ... I pretty much got nothing else. I searched the internet for a bit, and thought, meh, pierogies.

I'm not about to buy pierogies from No Frills. I mean, really? Also, being the only Polish person within 200 kilometers limited my options. So, after getting some huge help from home (I'm kidding! :), I ventured onto this thing called the internet and found this recipe:

Ok, it go good reviews, and looks legit. I'm not about to make potato pierogies. I don't like them and they can go fuck themselves.

I also made a few amendments to the sauerkraut mix. I doubled the onions in the filling and added 1/3 cup diced mushrooms. I ended up making one spicy batch and one garlic batch. The spicy batch actually weren't originally supposed to be spicy... I got a few peppers from Derek and Lisa's garden during a visit down to T.O. and decided to throw a few in... and man were they HOT!.. like, I like spicy food, and yeah, these were hot.

Kneading. Kneading is possibly the worst cooking experience in the world. You mix eggs, sour cream and flour, and you actually have to fight with your new creation for 20 minutes. Almost literally. It sticks to everything. I can't believe people still do this by hand. I have a new found respect for kneading machines. I now realize why they exist. Kneading totally sucks.

HAHA!.. my first dough roll! Four!... four pierogi! This was not going well. After about 20-30 minutes of preparing the dough, I got an output of four dough holes. ok. hmmm... what you want to do, those doing this for the first time, is try to get the dough thinner.

Here are those four pierogi.

This is all trial and error. They turned out fine.. well, perhaps not really. Perhaps they were a bit on the doughy side, and perhaps they were a tad waterlogged. Make sure you close up your damn pierogies, otherwise water gets in and they taste like garbage.

Ok, test number two... starting to slowly get the hang of things..

If that's not a thing of beauty, you are not a person of God.

Second batch!

These were keepers. Things I could feed to other people and not feel bad about. That above is 25 pierogi. I figured I needed to get to 75 to make a decent potluck meal... time to double my efforts. It's cool though.. the first two batches only took 5 hours.

What is that you ask? Why that's just two large bowls of soaking sauerkraut. You haven't seen that before?.. get outta town.

I wanted to get that caustic, stingy taste off them, and as recommended by the web, thoroughly soaking and rinsing a few times does the trick.

Also, on a side note, you'll be happy to know that the Brazilian nut effect also applies to sauerkraut in a liquid. As usual, Sixty Symbols also has a great video about this, err, not specific to sauerkraut however. 

Chopped up sauerkraut. No one like stringy pierogies.

This is one pierogi that didn't make it... it got waterlogged. But, as I was eating it, I got an idea, I never really thought of it before, and not sure if it's standard practice, but why do those burnt up caramelized crisps of onion need to be only the topping to a pierogi. I mean, why can't I just cook them right into the thing?.. And so I did.

Now we're cooking!

So, I went through my entire batch of second filling. 82 pierogi. As I got better economizing my dough and filling the pastries with more substance, I actually went though it quite quickly. I ended up having a load of dough left over, so I decided to take some frozen blueberries out of the freezer...

... doused them with sugar, and add a banana! Exclamation mark!

One thing that was a bit different about these was that they are a lot harder to fold. When you're folding the dough overtop of the filling, it is crucial not to allow any filling to escape through any cracks. Because the liquid sugar does not allow the dough to congeal (something to do with activating the gluten), any liquid that escaped formed a permanent hole in the fold. YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO CLOSE THAT HOLE. opps, caps lock. Yeah, you won't be able to close that hole; the dough won't congeal there. I had to be extra careful with these. There was certainly a higher attrition rate, but some delicious and unexpected desserts were born.

So, in the end, 82 sauerkraut pierogy, 25 of which are extra spicy, plus 26 blueberry and banana pierogi. I'm probably being biased here, but these things are unbelievable. Like, close to the best I've ever had. The sour cream in the dough really made them creamy, very unlike most I've had, and the carmelized onions inside just make the taste jump out. They're great on their own without toppings. Probably not that good for you (I may have added a bit of extra butter), but so delicious. I'll try to save a few for my next weekend visitors. Also, the blueberry banana pierogi are a bit sweet, but out of this world. Like, such an expected but pleasant flavour combination.

Helpful tips:

preamble: Obviously the hard part isn't the filling... it's so easy and so delicious. Just chop everything up real fine, pre-caramelize/crisp the onions, soak and rinse your sauerkraut, cook everything (mushrooms too) in a bit of butter for 15-20 minutes, and you're flying. No, the hard part is of course dealing with the dough. Fear the kneading.

1. Sticky dough? I wish someone told me to use a ton of flour. When kneading it, when rolling it, and especially when forming the pierogi. It really blows when you have shaped a great one only to find that you can't lift it off the counter. Don't use so much as to alter the recipe significantly (so the internet says), but be prepared and willing to coat all surfaces with flour.

2. Dough not spreading right for you? Stick it back in the fridge/freezer for a bit.

3. Make sure your perogies are closed before putting them into the boiling water! Waterlogged pierogies taste like garbage. To close them properly, moisten your fingers before you fold the delicious morcel, and pay special attention to where the flaps join! Yeah, that's right.

4. It is extremely time consuming. It took a good 7-8 hours for 100+ pierogies. This is obviously due to a first time thing, and a general lack of experience working with dough. My second, third and four batches already started to show improvement.

5. Don't eat the nice ones... they'll be plenty of deformed, drowned children for you to eat.

Also, as a bonus, here are two pictures from TEDxQueensU over the weekend. Sara, Jowi and Peter came up on Sunday to present...

Afterward we all went out with a bunch of friends to Curry Original, which, if you find yourself in Kingston for some 'reason', although nice, it is not as good Indian as Cafe India, which incidently is owned and run by Mitali's brother... ahhh, small world indeed.

Anyway, then I come back to this.
Just like home, eh Ma?!

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