Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pyrohy or Varenyky....the Worlds most Perfect Food

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.
I sincerely hope that everyone had a positive experience with this months challenge because it represents my very favourite food....ever!  Where I grew up (in Thunder Bay) is so commonly available that is is hard to avoid.  In fact I would bet that you would have to look very long and hard to find a person living there who did not at least know what they were.  (So it is very strange for me to hear that there are people who have never even heard of them....very strange indeed)  Its popularity is no doubt due to the very large Ukrainian and Polish communities living there.  You can find fresh pyrohy for sale nearly any day of the week.  The best places to buy them tend to be from the Ukrainian Churches or from the Ukrainian or Polish Halls (of which there are many to choose).  And the fund raising dollars raised by the sale of these delicious little parcels would boggle your mind. (It's in the millions)  One dozen fresh (and I mean fresh, hot and ready to eat) sell for $4.50 per dozen.  It is such big business there, that some of the kitchens preparing them have machines to help roll the dough, and an army of volunteers to do the filling. You can of course find 'Perogies' (the double plural) in the freezer section in all the grocery stores as well.......but they are really bad in comparison. 
Without question the most popular filling for Ukrainian Canadians would be potato and cheese, (served with melted butter, fried onion and sour cream) while back in the Ukraine, it would be cottage cheese with dill.  My personal favourites are potato and cheese, (as in the top photo) cottage cheese with dill, sauerkraut, and blueberry. 
Just in case you don't know what pyrohy are..........Pyrohy (at least in North America) are something very similar to ravioli in that they are a rolled dough with a filling that is boiled to cook.  Now, in the Ukraine, and Russia pyrohy are something a little different.....they are a baked yeast bun with the same filling.  My parents found this out while visiting relatives in the Ukraine.........when they asked for pyrohy they were given small baked yeast buns with a filling.  When they discussed what they wanted in more detail they were told..' What you want are not pyrohy....what you want are called Varenyky.'  So the only real difference is the dough (yeast or not) and the cooking method (baked or boiled).  And if you are Ukrainian this would be obvious to as the word varenyky means 'boiled'.   How these names got confused with Ukrainian Canadians is something I don't know, but my dad corrected me quite a few now it's Varenyky.  I am guessing that in Polish there is only  the boiled variety which they call pierogi ....but I really don't know for sure.  The word pyrohy is already plural with a the singular pyroh......but you would never hear that word.....because honestly.....NO ONE EVER asks for just one:) 
Since I had just made potato and cheese varenyky I decided that I really wanted to try something different.  I remembered that mom had a recipe for a rhubarb sauce and a white sauce to serve on cottage cheese varenyky that I had not had in years.  This is a variation served by Mennonite families and for me is a little bit different than what I'm accustomed to.  Plus I was going to be in Thunder Bay prior to the reveal date........and my mom  has been making cottage cheese from scratch.  Well it seemed the obvious choice to me:)  We even tried a new dough recipe using evaporated milk which I liked.  It made a nice soft dough that was easy to work with.  In the end we made some potato and cheese, some cottage cheese, and a few blueberry.  It is common to boil up the scrap dough to serve as a type of noodle should you run out of filling. (Ukrainians never waste anything)
We used our scrap dough cut out with maple leaf cutters (because Canadians really love maple leaves) ......and served them tossed in melted butter and fresh blueberries we had just picked and a sprinkling of sugar.  We called them inside out blue berry veranyky.....and they were delicious.  Dessert or sweet Varenyky are not as well known....I think.......and when I was little it was such a marvelous treat when gramma would make them:)
Making varenyky is a bit time consuming so it is a nice activity to do with a friend (thanks mom).  So if you are going to do it, it's best to make a lot and freeze some for later.  Always freeze them before cooking them....because frozen cooked varenyky are gross.  And like freezing berries, make sure to freeze them on a cookie sheet (not touching) before bagging them.    When you are ready to cook them, just throw them in the boiling water while still frozen and wait until they rise to the top.  Let them continue to boil for only one minute more and immediately remove them from the water.  Having frozen ones on hand always makes for a quick supper.  Oh, and don't bother buying a mold to make them, all you need is a cookie cutter or even a thin edged drinking glass will do.  A mold will just slow you down and is a waste of money, and they won't look right either.  Mom and I had some of the Mennonite Style cottage cheese varenyky with rhubarb and white sauce for a night time snack with tea.  They were perfect, soft and warm, and not too sweet!  You could use any other fruit sauce that appeals to you.
Varenyky Dough
(makes about 150)
5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
100g butter, melted
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup water (as much is needed)

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add the butter and milk and mix together.  Add water as needed to form a soft dough.    Remove dough to a board and knead until soft, about 10 minutes(mom likes to knead a tbsp of melted butter into the dough by pouring it onto the kneading board before she starts kneading the dough).  Oil a bowl and roll dough in it to coat the dough.  Set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes. Take 1/4 of the dough to roll out on a floured board until 1/8 inch thick.  Cut with 3" round cutter dipped in flour to prevent sticking.  Fill each circle with 1 tsp of filling, and fold dough in half around the filling.  Pinch closed around the half circle to seal in the filling.  You must be careful not to get any wet filling touching the edges to be sealed or they will not seal and may break open during boiling.  Remaining scraps can be kept and rerolled at the end or may be cut up and boiled to serve as a noodle served with butter and seasonings.  Drop 12 varenyky into salted boiling water and give the pot a gentle stir to prevent sticking to the bottom.  Let boil one minutes more after they rise to the top of the pot.  Strain and rinse briefly and toss with melted butter to prevent sticking.  Keep these cooked varenyky in the oven at low heat until ready to serve.
Cottage Cheese Filling
2 cups cottage cheese, (dry cottage cheese, not wet)
1 beaten egg
salt to taste, if needed
1 tsp chopped fresh dill
Mix all ingredients, and chill until needed.  The filling must be stiff enough to not flow.  If it is runny it will be difficult to work with, so be careful in the amount of egg you add.  If you wet the edges of your circle with the filling, it will not seal.  You might want to add half just to make sure the filling is stiff enough.  Chilling helps to keep it firm.
Rhubarb Sauce
2 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar, (or to taste)
4 tbsp water
Put rhubarb and water into a sauce pan and heat to a gentle simmer.  Add 1/2 of the sugar and let simmer another 15 minutes.  Check for sweetness and add remaining sugar if necessary.  Once sugar is dissolved set aside to cool.

White Sauce
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 cup half n half cream (10%)
In a small pan heat butter and flour to make a roux.  Let bubble a few minutes, but do not burn the flour.  Whisk in the cream and bubble gently for a few minutes cook away the starchy flavour. Your sauce should be smooth and pourable.  Add additional cream to thin it out if necessary.

Serve cottage cheese Varenyky with warms white sauce and  warm rhubarb sauce.  Something a little least for a Ukrainian French Canadian girl:)


Lori said...

I would love to have all that pierogi available to me! We have a decent size Polish community here. I am very glad to get kielbasa that is fresh and delicious. All locally made.

You did a fabulous job on your peirogi. YEAH- that is me cheering you on!

LittleRed said...

Thanks, I always love making them....and eating them even more:) I know what you mean about the kielbasa. In Thunder bay there are a few places to get hand made, really nice and lean and not over-processed kielbasa....but where I live in Prince George, there is no where like that:( Thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for dropping by, Debbie. Glad you liked the challenge. Wow, $4.50 for a dozen piping hot pierogies?! We pay $11 here on Pierogie Friday (first friday of the month) at the Ukrainian Church in Vancouver. And you should see the line-up! And the hall is packed. It's a heckuva deal. And a lot of fun. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Excellent photos, wonderful food, gorgeous presentation. Imagine what Gramma K. would think about selling a dozen pyrohy for $11.00....

Pam said...

Wow! This looks and sounds delicious! We have lots of pierogie's in this neck of the woods and I will have to try it. I'm new here and thanks for the great informative post!

LittleRed said...

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you find some that you'll like:)

Merry said...

I must admit that I had never heard of pierogi before I moved to Calgary. I really like them now! I would like to try making them sometime but I'll definitely have to invite a friend over to help. Great post!

LittleRed said...

There are areas of the US that I've been to that they have not heard of them. Where as in Thunder Bay if you walk around the corner and aren't might step on one:) One of these days....I might just show up on your doorstep with a bag of potatoes and a bag of flour and surprise you:)

Anonymous said...

I want to cook the pyohy in advance, since I am serving 23 for Christmas and I would like to know if there is a way of keeping them from sticking without using a ton of butter? Any suggestions would be welcome. Thanks Pat

LittleRed said...

Hmm...that's a tough one. You will need something to coat them (like butter) or they will stick together. The best I could suggest is to add butter and toss them to coat with the least amount that will still coat them:) Hope it all turns out well for you!