Pierogies are soft dumplings stuffed with a variety of savory or sweet fillings. They can be boiled or fried and served with sauce or cream on top or the side. They're definitely what you call comfort food.
The basic ingredient is dough made from flour or mashed potatoes. Or sometimes a combination of both. The dough is stuffed with a pre-cooked filling, which can be anything from meat and vegetables to cheese and fruit.
Just by looking at the pierogies, you can’t say anything about what’s inside. But once you bite, you’ll unravel their secret.
What makes them so popular and loved is their versatility. They can be in a semi-circle or a rectangle shape depending on the way the dough is cut. After it is kneaded by local chefs, it is cut into circles or squares. These are later filled with the good stuff that goes inside.
The filling goes in a pocket made of dough, which is carefully sealed. This is so the filling will remain inside when the pierogies are boiled or fried.
The secret is to make the dough firm enough, so it won’t fall apart during the cooking process. But at the same time, it needs to be light, soft, and chewy.
Apart from the shape, another great thing about this dish is that it can be both sweet and savory. Served with different toppings and sauces, there is an option for everyone’s preferences.
Thus, savory pierogies can be filled with ground, pre-cooked meat, mushrooms, onion, cheese, mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut.
Additionally, in the US there is a local twist to the savory version. This is with fillings like cheddar cheese, bacon, jalapeno peppers, chicken, and spinach.
The sweet ones however have fruit fillings. The most common fruit choices are strawberries, blueberries, plums, cherries, or saskatoon berries. The fruit inside can be used fresh or as a fruit jam.
But what gives them that final, satisfying taste are the sauces served with both sweet and savory dumplings.
The savory pierogies can be simmered in butter. Or simply served with some sour cream and chives, fried bacon, bacon bits, mushroom, and dill sauce.
This sweet variant can be served with applesauce and sour cream too.
Even though there are many origin stories and legends, it is believed that they were born in Central or Eastern Europe.
Few legends are entwined around the Polish Dominican priest Hyacinth of Poland.
After a storm destroyed all crops, he told the starving people to pray and the next day all the crops rose back up.
So as a gratitude for the priest, the people made him pierogies. Another legend says he fed the people with them during a famine.
But the pierogies were most probably imported to Poland in the 13th century. This was from their east neighbor Kievan Rus (today known as Ukraine).
It was perhaps thanks to the above-mentioned Hyacinth who became the patron saint of this food.
Whereas some believe the pierogies originate in Italy or Turkey, still most people connect them with Poland and other central, eastern, or south European countries.
The word pieróg is a generic term for filled dumplings. The plural form is pierogi, but sometimes native English speakers add their plural to the word, and thus we have the colloquial term pierogies.
The term pieróg derives from an old Slavic word meaning feast.
However, there are varieties typical for some countries. Examples are the Ukraine varenyk or West and East Slavic pirog which indicate the method of cooking them, by boiling, baking, or frying.
Today their popularity among Americans and Canadians is thanks to the Central and Eastern European immigrants who brought the pierogies with them.
First, they prepared the dumplings in their homes. Then the recipe was spread mostly among ethnic restaurants.
But post-WWII and especially in the 1960s, they were a common meal. And they even got their frozen version in the stores and markets.
Today they are known and loved by many. But they are particularly common in cities with large Polish and/or Ukrainian populations. These are places such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, and New York, including New Jersey.
Furthermore, pierogies are widely spread and celebrated in different cities in Pennsylvania and Indiana. And their popularity even extends up to Canada.
Another great usage of these special dumplings is their lasagna and casserole variations.
As the name suggests, these are made with lasagna noodles. The resemblance is in the ingredients typically used as pierogi fillings, such as mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese, ricotta, onions, and bacon.
The result is a comforting, creamy lasagna that tastes like its dumpling counterpart.
For the casserole variety, delicious pierogi are baked together with sausages, sour cream, cream cheese, onions, and Cheddar cheese to a mouthwatering fusion dish.
The Frozen Pierogies
Although at their best when they are fresh, some local chefs make a larger batch of pierogies to save you time when ordering. These are usually pre-cooked, so it takes a little time for boiling, baking, or simmering to be perfectly done.
The Polish Pierogies
The traditional Polish pierogies are made of simple ingredients - flour, water, and sometimes an egg for the dough, and mashed potatoes and cheese, for the filling.
They can be boiled shortly, just enough to be cooked but not become soggy, or slightly fried on each side.
Ground meat, mushrooms, and cabbage make for another popular filling for Polish pierogies. In Poland, they are eaten for many holidays and on different occasions.
They even have an annual Pierogies Festival in Kraków, where around 30.000 pierogies are eaten daily!
In a serving of 3 pieces of pierogies (114g), there are around 222 calories. This includes 7g of total or 9% of the daily value based on a 2000-calorie diet.
Additionally, there are 4.6 g of cholesterol (2%), 540mg of sodium (23%), 34g of total carbohydrates (12%), and 6g of protein.
Finally, we got 40mg of calcium (3%), 1.4mg of iron (8%), and 122mg of potassium (3%).
When in Pennsylvania, order some homemade pierogies from Nino’s Pizzarama. You can choose classic ones with sour cream on the side or go for Texas Pierogies with cheddar cheese, mozzarella, and bacon.
And if you're in New Jersey then Nicola's Pizza is the right place for you. This famous eatery in Califon is open 7 days a week. Plus, you can order takeout or delivery via Slice, and their catering includes pierogies, too.
Pizza, pierogies, and especially the cheesesteaks were cooked PERFECTLY! Food was delivered on time and the driver was friendly.
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