It’s actually a funny thing about pierogies with my wife and me. I didn’t grow up in an eastern European or Catholic home and so we never had pierogies. I would hear about all the churches in the area who had pierogie sales but it wasn’t a dish we had in our house. (I wonder if my mom didn’t like them.) On the other hand, my wife grew up with pierogies as a regular dish on Fridays, especially during Lent. She described to me how she and her mother would spend a good part of a day making pierogies. Her mom also helped on occasion making pierogies when her church had sales.
Pierogies are a kind of dumpling that originated in eastern Europe made with an unleavened dough that is rolled out. My wife tells me that they used a water glass to cut out the pierogi dough. Theirs was usually a relatively simple recipe, with boiled and mashed potatoes for filling. The dough was folded over and the edges wetted and pressed together. Then the pierogies were first boiled and then fried in butter or oil. While some recipes use other ingredients for fillings including cheeses, meat (not during Lent), sauerkraut, or fruit and could be topped with fried onions or other toppings, they kept it simple. In her family at least, this was a form of fasting and usually a meal was simply of pierogies and boiled cabbage. It was hearty and filling without being extravagant.
The other oddity of our story is, having discovered pierogies only as an adult, I like them. On the other hand, my wife would say that at best, she tolerates them. Needless to say, if I get pierogies, it is not at home! But, as they say, opposites attract, and it must work since we are going on 37 years of marriage.
Here is a recipe from Wikipedia for pierogies that covers the basics. There are a couple of recipes for pierogies in Recipes of Youngstown found on pages 63 and 170. I’ve also learned that there is a second Recipes of Youngstown coming out soon, the proceeds from which will benefit the Mahoning Valley Historical Society. I’ve pre-ordered mine and you can order yours through the Mahoning Valley Historical Society website, which also has instructions for ordering by mail or phone. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if there are additional pierogi recipes along with lots of other great Youngstown dishes!
Pierogies are a hearty and sustaining food made from simple and readily available ingredients. Working class families on a budget could make them for a meal and freeze them for another time. They are work intensive as are many good foods and assumed there was someone in the home who could devote the time to that work. I suspect there is probably a special reward in heaven for all those women who made pierogies for those countless church sales! And maybe they finally get someone else to make dinner.
Read all the posts in the Growing Up in Youngstown Series by clicking the “On Youngstown” category link either at the top of this page or in the left column of my home page.