In my family (Sara here), Christmas eve is a really special holiday for us, and it could be because it is really the only holiday we actually have traditions. My grandmother, I’ll go ahead and introduce her, Nans, makes tortiere (for those non-Canadians out there that’s French Canadian meat pie) and potatoe & cheese pirogies every year. Now, why this food combination? I actually have no idea. Interesting, hadn’t even thought about that until now. There’s no french canadian blood in this family, and my grandmother comes from good german stock.
Besides the point. This year, Abe and I spent Christmas with his family. What has stopped me before from making pirogies myself was my total avoidance of anything baked, phyllo wrapped, add flour to, knead…you get the point. So, now that Abe is full steam into bread making, and not scared of things made from flour like I am, we have become the perfect pirogi making couple that ever was. This year I had no Nans made pirogies, a man who likes to make dough, and two parents-in-law who seemed to be bored and willing to please. And all four of us made the team. The pirogi team.
I asked Nans to email me her recipe, thinking it would be sort of like “I add a handful of flour, and when it looks right I wrap it all up”. A grandma recipe done many years repeatedly! What I got instead from her?
A Martha Stewart recipe link.
I was a little shocked. She said it was about the same, and to use that. Okay, well I don’t normally turn to Martha for a recipe, but heck I was game. And after consulting google for other options, turns out that every grandma out there has a different way to do it, so Martha/Nans was the way we were going to do it.
The filling: I followed the recipe as it concerns the filling in my own way. Which means not that closely, but approximately (why I’m a terrible baker). Pretty much you are making the richest, bestest mashed potatoes you have ever made. To this recipe, I added about a half package of bacon I cooked up and used the grease as well with it all, and an onion. Bacon makes everything better, and onion is a pretty close second here. Mashed ‘er all together and the filling was ready. And let me tell you, the bestest mashed potatoes there ever were. This is important to remember. I mean, couldn’t keep people out of them.
Dough: Abe did this. I think he followed the recipe. Things happened, it came together. Take that for what it’s worth.
Time: When nans makes them, she does the stuffing and dough, and Pops (that’s my grandpa!) mans the boiling water. It takes the two of them almost all day to get a batch big enough to satisfy about 6 people who haven’t seen a pirogi all year. It took 4 of us, Abe rolling out and cutting the dough, Abe’s mom and I stuffing each one, and his dad manning the water, about 3.5 hours. Keep this in mind, it is no small undertaking.
The forming of the pirogi: So, here we were. Abe rolled out the dough to about 1/8th to 1/16th inch, and cut out circles using the open end of slightly bigger than normal glass.
Rolling and stuffing!
My trick for stuffing was to put a scoop of filling bigger than I thought would actually fit into my circle of dough and that was always the right amount. I would stretch out the dough a little to get it all around, and they would be nicely filled. It’s all about proportion. We found a little water around the edge helped it close a little easier. Now, I have made ravioli before, and sealing that dough was way more of an issue than this dough. Pirogi dough is a little stiffer and seems to handle the handling we were giving it.
My assembly line
See all the stuffing in that one?!
As a note, I think our pirogies were a little bigger than my nans has ever made, and they really started to get BIG by the time we were done. I think it was us getting tired. They still tasty great!
Once they are stuffed, they go into a pot of boiling water. They are good little guys, and pop right on up to be fished out when they are ready! Abe’s dad was perfect for this fishing expedition. He would keep a cycle of about 6 in, 6 out.
Look at them come out!
And then Abe’s dad would put them on a towel to dry out. After dry, we stacked the little guys on a cookie tray 2 levels deep with wax paper, wrapped in lots of saran wrap and froze until Christmas Eve day! They really freeze well at this point, but just make sure they are dry before you do, so you don’t get those white spots that you get when dough is wet and then frozen. You know the ones.
Here they are drying!
We finished about 80 in total. Used up all the dough and stuffing almost perfectly.
Cooking: Unfrozen pirogies sit in a bath of butter and slowly roll around as lightly frying. There can never be too much butter. And a LOT of fried onions. LOTS. At my family house, they all get cooked together. We were cooking a lot for this Christmas, and not a lot of frying pan space, so I did onions before in the butter and kept them hot. Now, pirogies are a little sensitive at this stage so you have to keep it low and really only push them around a little and not actually flip them by shoving but individually and carefully. I like my pirogies soft and not crispy so I keep them low and soaking. Less butter, more heat, and you’ll get crispy!
Serve with more sour cream than is healthy.
How did ours turn out? Nans would be proud. Man, I was proud! I’ll admit it though. The dough was over the top good. The stuffing level was great. They were cooked well. But you know, that fantastic mashed potatoe combo? It wasn’t flavourful enough. Not bland for sure, but it needed more bacon. More onion. More cheese. More pepper, more everything! You need crazy big flavour to make it stand up to the dough, butter, onions and sour cream.
Enjoy! And it was totally worth it, all 4 persons by 3.5 real-hours of time. Good stuff. Great tradition to have in the family!