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Thursday, 21 June 2012


Summer, 1967.  I’m leaving home at the age of 20 for a job in a big city in another province.  Mom puts 2 cookbooks into my trunk; one of them is  Traditional Ukrainian Cookery by Savella Stechisin. 
Fall, 1967.  I want to impress my new WASP boyfriend with my most favourite Ukrainian food – those dumplings that nowadays everyone calls perogies.  At home, we called them pyrohi – even though their real name is, as Mom told me, vareniki.  Pyrohi/vareniki, whatever, I was going to make them for Mr. White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (common terminology back then) and he was going to swoon with delight. 
                  I could bake a cake --  the sum total of my culinary skills at that time, but I had confidence and I had Savella.   Not only would I make dozens of plump, pretty, little pyrohi but they would be cherry pyrohi.  (Savella p. 212)   I’d never actually had cherry pyrohi but they sounded good.  Details on how to make them were a bit sketchy but that turned out to be the least of my problems. 
The scene as my friend arrived:  a kitchen counter piled high with unwashed dishes, a floury floor, and a pot boiling over onto the stove.   I placed a bowl of thin, watery, grayish blobs onto the table.   My friend looked at them and then we went out for dinner.

Christmas, 1997.    My mother did all the cooking, of course, and beamed with all our praise. 
As I stuffed myself once again on her pyrohi (starting with four and then taking a couple more and then a few more and then a few more) I realized it was high time to learn from the master.  Mom was delighted.
 “It’s all in the feel of the dough,” she said.  “If it’s not right, you just add a handful of flour -- ”

“Stop,” I said.  “I can’t do it like that.  I need exact measurements.” 
Patiently, Mom deposited her handfuls into measuring cups and we came up with the following no-fail recipe for Cottage Cheese and Potato Pyrohi/Vareniki/Perogies:

Pyrohi (Perogies)
Prepare the filling first.
Cottage Cheese and Potato Filling:  (enough for 2 batches: 50 perogies in each batch)
1.  Boil 1 ¾ pounds to 2 pounds of potatoes in their jackets until fork tender (about 25 minutes).  Drain and peel while hot.  After peeling each one, mash it.
2.  Add ¼ cup melted butter or margarine.
3.  Add 1 ½ to 2 cups of dry cottage cheese.
4.  Add 1 ½ teaspoons salt.
5.  Add ½ teaspoon pepper.
6.  Add a beaten egg.
7.  Mix all together.
Dough (one batch – about 50 perogies)
1 egg beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water (quite warm, but not hot)
3 cups flour
1.  Mix egg, oil, salt, and water in mixing bowl before adding flour.
2.  Mix well and knead into a dough.  Dough should not be hard. 
3.  Leave the dough on the table on a floured surface.  Turn mixing bowl upside down over the dough.  Leave one-half hour. 
4.  Punch down or knead a bit.  Now it’s ready to use.  (You can let it stay much longer.)
5.  When rolling it out, use a little flour, but not much.  This is very important – as this is what will make the difference in having tender or tough perogies.
Making the Perogies 
1.  Put a tea towel on the kitchen table and sprinkle it lightly with flour.  Lay another tea towel over that one.
2.  Put some filling in a small bowl and set it on the table beside the towels.  Put a small spoon in the filling.
3.  Put some flour in a small bowl and set it beside the filling. 
4.  On the kitchen counter, cut a piece of dough out and roll out on lightly floured surface.  Cut in strips about 2 inches wide.  Then cut in squares.  Put these squares on the floured tea towel and cover them.
5.  Fill a square.  After you secure it once, dip fingers in flour and go around once more to make sure it’s sealed.

6.  Dip the bottom of the perogy lightly in flour and cover it with the towel.
7.  Use up all the dough in this way (one batch).
Boiling the Perogies
1. Set large pot of water to boil.  Water should be 3 inches from the top.  Add 4 tsp. salt to water ( 3 teaspoons in my smaller pot: this won’t be too much).
2.  Fill a large mixing with cold water and set beside the stove.
3.  Put a slotted spoon beside the large pot.
4.  Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine in a mixing bowl and set aside.
5.  Set up another mixing bowl in the same way. 
5.  Set a colander in the sink.
6.  The water in the pot should be at rolling boil. 
7.  Put in about 25 to 30 perogies.  Stir them and cover with lid.

8.  Bubbles will come up under the lid.  Stir again. 
9.  Boiling time from when they go in is 3 to 4 minutes only.
10.  If you are freezing this batch, dip the perogies out and drop into cold water.  Then drain them and stir them in the melted butter.  Set aside to cool.  Then bag them and freeze them.
11.  If you are serving this batch immediately, skip the cold water bath.  Mix them with the butter and set aside.

12.  Drop the rest of the perogies (about 25) in the same boiling water and proceed as directed above.
Reheating Perogies
Steam for about 5 to 10 minutes.  They’re ready when they look swollen.
Heat in Oven:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put about 25 to 30 perogies in casserole.  Put in about ¼ pound butter or margarine and ¼ cup water.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes.  They’re done when they look swollen. 
Fry:  Melt butter or margarine in frying pan over low to medium heat (4 on dial) and add the perogies.  Cover with lid and turn when they are browned (about 5 minutes on each side).  Check to see that heat is not too high after 3 minutes.


Note To Bloggers:  My mother made the best perogies ever and I have shared her recipe.  If you decide to use and copy her recipe, great, but I would appreciate it if you would acknowledge her when you do so.  Thanks!