Pierogi for the Holidays

Despite the fact that my maternal grandmother and her ancestors lived in Lithuania, my ancestry is 100% Polish. Even so, my family celebrated very few Polish traditions at Christmas.

Nonetheless, during the Christmas holidays we visited traditionally visited several relatives and shared holiday meals with them, the most memorable of which were the meals at my Grandmother Danko’s home.

Grandmother Danko did very little cooking herself, but my Aunt Helen would prepare the holiday meal at Grandmother’s house. Aunt Helen spent days cooking, preparing pierogi (dumplings) and gołąbki (stuffed cabbage, literally “little pigeons”) from scratch, and making sure there was enough szynka (ham), kiełbasa (sausage), kapusta (cabbage), ziemniaki (potatoes), buraki (beets) bułki (rolls), chłeb (bread), and masło (butter) to go around.

For my sisters and me, the best part of the holiday meal were the pierogi. Oh, how we loved pierogi! We could have eaten pierogi with every meal. We still could.

Aunt Helen made three kinds of pierogi: potato and cheese, sauerkraut, and cheese, but I only remember her making the cheese pierogi once. A few years ago, I asked her for the recipe. Like my mother’s recipes, Aunt Helen’s recipes resided only in her head. Nothing was written down. In fact, nothing really had precisely measured ingredients. Aunt Helen’s recipe for pierogi dough was something like, “add water to the dough until the consistency is right”.

Even then, I’m not sure Aunt Helen gave me all her secrets for making pierogi. I’ve made pierogi several times, but they don’t taste quite the same. I don’t make pierogi very often because their preparation is very time and labor intensive. But, maybe this Christmas…

Written for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – Day 3.

Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko

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4 Responses to Pierogi for the Holidays

  1. Hmmmmm Pierogi! I sound like Homer Simpson when I say that, complete with drool down the chin.

    Not sure if you are familiar with Saveur magazine – last month they had two great articles on the Polish butcher tradition here in Chicago and a short list of the different types of Polish pork you would typically find in a butcher store here.



  2. suburbanlife says:

    Ooh!pierogis – the devil’s temptation for those on a diet.
    Interesting – you wrote – szynka, kielbasa, kapuszta for what is named in Hungarian – sonka, kolbasza, kaposzta – the same foods.
    I know what you mean by handed down recipes – my mother taught me to make plum-filled potato dumplings by the same manner – by feel. I struggled for many years to get the dough part right, and my poor family was treated to some interesting variations. Go for it for Christmas – treat your family. Yummm! G

  3. T.K. says:

    Oh, man, two pierogi bloggers in a row. You people are torturing me! I’m droolin’ in my keyboard!

  4. Melanie Fouse says:

    Hey, Steve! Remember all of us at FTM advanced when you make those pierogis this Christmas. I’ll bring the virtual cookies!

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