This week Sunday Supper is celebrating Hometown Foods. While I’ve lived in Maryland for the past 13 years my hometown will always be Pittsburgh. Whenever I think of Pittsburgh I think of pierogies.
Why do I think of pierogies whenever I think of Pittsburgh? Well there are several different reasons. This first is that this is the only town I know of that has pierogi races. That’s right. At the Pittsbrugh Pirates games you can find 4 giant pierogies racing around the baseball field in between innings. If that’s not enough, the pierogies have names. There are 4 of them and their names are: Jalapeño Hannah (green hat), Cheese Chester (yellow hat), Sauerkraut Saul (red hat), and Oliver Onion (purple hat). You can tell them apart by their hat color.
A second reason I thin of pierogies when I think of Pittsburgh is because we have several pierogi only shops. You can literally go in them and just buy pierogies. It’s not just one flavor either. They have pierogies stuffed with sauerkraut, with sausage, with potato and sauerkraut, with cottage cheese, with jalapenos and cheese, and even with dessert fillings like apple or apricot.
The last reason I associate Pittsburgh with pierogies is that when I was little my great aunt used to make us homemade pierogies about once a month and they were amazing. It was always a treat to go to Aunt Kaye’s house because you knew you would come home with pierogies. She usually made the traditional potato and cheese ones, but on occasion she would make a few other versions.
My Aunt Kaye has since passed away but my dad and his sister have taken over the pierogi making in our family. It took a few tries to get the recipe right, but they make pierogies that taste just like Aunt Kaye’s. They also have tried some different combinations including bacon potato, potato cheese, and even a brussels sprouts and potato one that my dad made with my brother. Last year he came down to Maryland and showed me the secret of how to make a good pierogi.
I’ll let you in on another secret of making the perfect pierogi. It isn’t just about the dough and the filling. Yes, that is a huge part of it. You don’t want the pasta to be too thick or else you can’t really taste the filling. You don’t want your filling to be runny or else it won’t stay in the pierogi. The biggest secret is in the way you prepare them. So many people simply boil pierogies. Yuck. While it does take care of cooking them it isn’t the best way to do it. The best way to cook a pierogi is to steam it. My dad, my brother, my aunt, and I all have a special contraption to steam the pierogies over a hot pot of water. Once they come out we pour sauteed onions and browned butter over top. Divine! If you haven’t had them that way you need to make them like that!
So, when thinking about my hometown food I chose pierogies. I’ve never made them by myself but I watched my dad and I think mine ended up pretty good. I made half using my dad’s potato and cheese recipe and made the other half with my own filling. My filling has caramelized onions, bacon, potatoes, and cheese. They are pretty awesome and I can’t wait for my dad to try them!
A quick note before I give you my family recipe. Pierogies are not something quick to make. It took me about 4 hours to make 8 dozen pierogies. A lot of time but totally worth it. I find it best to make my filling the night before and then make the pasta the next day. This saves about 45 minutes the day you will be making the pierogies.
- 5 lb. red skinned potatoes, peeled
- 1 lb. cheddar cheese, shredded
- 10 strips of bacon
- 2 onions, , thinly sliced
- 2 T. butter
- 2 t. sugar
- 6 c. flour
- 3 eggs
- 1½ c. warm water
- 2 t. salt
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 T. butter
- In a large stockpot bring water to a boil. Place the potatoes in the water and cook until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes and run cold water over them. Pull the skins off the potatoes and place in a large mixing bowl.
- Place the bacon in a large skillet. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until brown and crispy. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Drain the grease then finely chop and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a medium skillet. Add in the onions and sugar and cook over medium low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the onions have caramelized. Set aside.
- Pour the cheddar cheese into the mixing bowl with the potatoes. Use a potato masher and mash the potatoes and cheese together until smooth. Add in the bacon and onions and mix until well combined. Put the bowl with the potatoes in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Put the flour in a large mixing bowl. Dig a well in the center of the flour and add in the eggs. Begin to mix the dough. Add in the water and continue mixing. Add in the salt, olive oil, and butter. mix until the dough just comes together.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding additional flour or water as needed. The dough with be firm and smooth.
- Roll the dough into a cylinder. Cut off a piece that is 2 inches by 1 inch. Using a pasta roller set on 1 roll the dough out. Then put the dough through the rollers on the 3 setting and then the 4 setting. If you can, get it through the 5 setting as well. If not, don't worry.
- Once the dough is rolled thin, use a 3 inch biscuit cutter to cut out rounds. Place the round on a floured cutting board.
- Place a heaping tablespoon of the potato filling into the center of each round. Pull one side of the dough round up and over top of the filling. Press down on the edges to seal. The piergoies should be in a half moon shape. Use a fork to crimp the edges of the pierogi. Set aside.
- Continue until all of the dough or filling is used. Then bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in 8 pierogies at a time and cook for 4-5 minutes or until they float to the surface. Using a slotted spoon remove the pierogies and place on a cookie sheet to dry.
- Flip the pierogies over after the tops have dry in order to dry the under side. Once they have dried pack them into gallon sized freezer bags, one dozen in each bag. My aunt likes to pour melted butter over top of hers before freezing but I like to leave mine plain.
- If freezing place directly in the freezer. Pierogies can be frozen for up to 4 months. When ready to eat simply remove the frozen pierogies and cook in boiling water for 4-5 minutes or until heated through. You can also thaw the pierogies in the refrigerator over night and then fry in butter or steam in a pot for 3-4 minutes.
- Note: Potato and cheese filling can be made the night before and refrigerated. The process from start to finish can take anywhere from 3-5 hours so make sure you have plenty of time to dedicate to the pierogi making process.
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