Perogy, pierogi, pyrohy, varenyky, pedaheh. Whichever way you say it, it all boils down to the same thing. Delicious dumplings.
Who are the Mennonites?
My family on my mom’s side comes from Mennonite descent. I’ve always known this, and never questioned it. But as I was beginning to write this post, I became curious about my ancestors, and where they came from. Upon some research, and a conversation with my sister (our family’s heritage expert), the Mennonites are a Christian religious sect named after Menno Simons, who shared in his beliefs and ways of teaching. Our ancestors were among those who came from Holland, moved to Germany, then to Prussia, Russia, finally settling in southeastern Manitoba, Canada in the mid to late 1800s.
So, What Does This Have to do with the Perogy?
I grew up in two different cultures. There were the French Catholics on my dad’s side, and the Low-German (Plautdietsch) speaking Mennonites from my mom’s family. These two cultures had different foods and traditions, and I grew up assuming the perogies that I enjoyed while at my Grandma Hiebert’s home were a Mennonite dish. Imagine my surprise when I learned that this wasn’t necessarily the case.
Because of their religious beliefs, Mennonites were forced to move from country to country to maintain their religious freedom. And along the way, they picked up the local food traditions. This delectable treat, as I know and love it, is a dish originating in central Europe. While traditionally the fillings of savory perogies included potatoes, farmers cheese, sauerkraut, meat or mushrooms, the Mennonites did put their own spin on the dish. They filled the pockets with cottage cheese, and smothered them in schmauntfat, a heavy cream gravy (that, while delicious, is probably a heart attack waiting to happen!).
The best part about making perogies is that you can fill them with almost anything you want. We have made all sorts of fillings for these delectable little dumplings – potato and cheese, potato, bacon and cheese, potato and onion. The possibilities are endless, especially if you start to think about dessert perogies, where you fill the pockets when any kind of fruit, berries, or jam. As long as you can mash a potato and shred or chop fillings, you can fill these babies with anything. My favorite filling however, is cottage cheese. Though Gaby doesn’t care for them as much as he does the other fillings, this one is a tradition in my family, and a real treat whenever I get to make them. And because it’s my favorite, it is the recipe that I am going to share with you today.
Cottage Cheese Filling
- 2 cups dry curd cottage cheese
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- salt (to taste)
- pepper (to taste)
Combine the first two ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 cup warm water
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Fill a glass measuring cup with 1 cup of warm water. Add 3 tbsp butter and stir until melted. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and mix together to form a dough. Roll into a ball and cover. Take a portion of the dough and roll out to approximately 1/8” or slightly thinner. Using a cup, or something round, cut out circles. Spoon a small amount of the filling into the center of the circle. Fold over and pinch closed.
To cook the perogies, either boil them in water (they’re done when they float) or fry them in a pan with butter or oil (they’re done when lightly browned). I prefer the cottage cheese variety boiled, and the potato filled fried.
If making an abundance of perogies to fill your freezer, blanch them in a pot of boiling water for about a minute, and let drip dry on a rack. To freeze, lay the perogies out on a pan (you can separate layers with plastic wrap) and place the pan in the freezer. Once the perogies are individually frozen, you can bag them in meal sized portions.
Schmaunfat (Cream Gravy)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 pkg farmer sausage (can be substituted for ham)
- 2 cups heavy cream or whipping cream
- 2 tbsp corn starch
Cut farmer sausage into individual portion sizes. (I like to cut the long links into threes or fours and split down the middle lengthwise for faster cooking.) Heat oil and place farmer sausage in the pan and cook until browned and cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside in a covered dish.
Add the cream to the pan and set heat to medium high. Mix the cornstarch with a small amount of cold water and set aside. Heat the cream, stirring constantly until it begins to boil. Add the cornstarch mixture to the pan and continue to stir until the gravy thickens. Pour into a bowl or gravy boat and serve.
From my Mennonite roots, thank you to those who provided a home to my ancestors, and shared with them the local food traditions. Perogies are a staple in our family, and we make large portions of these recipes to fill our freezer a couple of times a year.
What traditional foods do you enjoy making for your family? Have you ever made perogies? What do you fill them with? We’d love to know your thoughts. Please leave us a comment below, and if you have a recipe on your website or blog of your favorite ancestral foods, we’d love to read about it.