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Nettie’s Perogies

Nettie's perogies

It’s okay, I think, to adopt other families’ culinary traditions when it suits you. Having not grown up with a Ukrainian baba, and having married into a Ukrainian family that doesn’t cook (!!!), I’m perfectly happy to learn the art of perogy making with a friend who learned from her own baba Nettie, who was the type to turn out thousands of them with her crew for a church supper, celebration or fundraiser in Saskatchewan, or just to fill the freezer to feed the extended family from week to week. It’s particularly fitting that this year marks the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada.

I love any opportunity to cook with my favourite people – the best part of Thanksgiving is the crammed and chaotic kitchen – and getting together for other reason than to mass-produce perogies by hand while catching up on what’s going on with who, while getting well floured in our sock feet sounds like a pretty good kind of dinner party to me. These peroghy makers were the best kind of multitaskers – socializing while pulling together dinner from scratch, and occasionally raising enough money to build a church or barn.

Another selling point of the humble perogy is its versatility – you can transform virtually anything in your fridge into perogy filling, stabilized with mashed potatoes. Although potatoes, bacon, sauerkraut and cheese are the norm, Thanksgiving leftovers come to mind – leftover mashed potatoes, shredded roasted turkey and finely shredded Brussels sprouts, all moistened with gravy, produce little pillows of comfort – perogies at their best. I’ve made them with sweetened saskatoons and the last of the pulled beef short ribs. They don’t all have to be the same (perogy roulette is fun!) and because each one is self-contained, there’s no reason to care about following a particular formula. With perogies, it’s all about the dough.

Peroghy ingredients

Nettie made hers with very hot water – recently boiled, in fact – but many babas use the hot, starchy cooking water left over from boiling potatoes to make the filling. When you’re turning them out by the hundred or so, there are ways of streamlining things that work just as well when you’re only in it for a dozen; roll the dough into a long, thin rope and cut into pieces, then roll each into a circle, instead of rolling and cutting and winding up with scraps. And roll your filling – assuming it’s mostly mashed potatoes, that is – into balls the size of a large marble for easy insertion into each circle of dough, rather than spooning some onto each piece. But really, whatever works.

Perogies 11

Make them big or small – whatever you like. They can be frozen on a baking sheet, then transferred to heavy bags to freeze for months – boil them fresh or straight from the freezer until they rise to the top of the pot, then add a minute; I like to have a big pan of bacon and onions going alongside, and remove the perogies with a slotted spoon straight into the hot pan to brown and crisp up before moving to a plate and adding a glop of sour cream. Truly one of the best – and most prairie-patriotic – meals you can eat. Especially if you manage to borrow-inherit Nettie’s recipe for your own.

peroghies 10

Peroghies 5
Peroghies 5

Nettie’s Perogies

Recipe link

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May 29, 2016

Ingredients

Dough:

5 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup canola oil

1 large egg

2 cups recently boiled (very hot) water

Filling:

mashed potatoes

gravy

shredded roasted turkey

grated cheese

crumbled cooked bacon

caramelized onions

sauerkraut

chopped leftover roasted veggies (try Brussels sprouts!)

anything else you can think of

Directions

1In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. In a smaller bowl, stir together the oil and egg, beating together lightly. Stir into the flour. It will not combine well, but keep stirring and working at it until you have a coarse meal, like biscuit dough before you add the liquid.

2

3Pour the hot water into the flour and egg mixture all at once. Immediately start stirring. It won't look like it’s coming together, but keep stirring until it comes together into a somewhat lumpy dough. Cover with a damp tea towel or loosely cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 15 minutes, preferably 30. 

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5To make your perogies, roll the dough out about 1/4-inch thin and cut into rounds with a glass rim or round cookie cutter – or not. Cheryl rolls her dough into a long rope, cuts off 1 inch sections and then rolls each ball into a rough circle, thus not wasting any dough nor needing to reroll scraps, which can make dough tough. However you do it, fill each with a small spoonful of filling - mashed potatoes spiked with cheddar or cottage cheese, cooked bacon, or even leftover chicken and gravy - and fold over, pinching the edges to seal. Freeze in a single layer, then transfer to freezer bags, or cook (fresh or frozen) in boiling water until they float to the surface, then give them another minute. If you like, pan-fry with onions and bacon after they’re boiled and well-drained.

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16 comments on “Nettie’s Perogies

  1. Carpe Crustum
    May 29, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    Great article! The most delicious Ukranian perogies are stuffed with fresh sour cherries (preferably pitted) and a sprinkle of sugar.

    • Julie
      May 30, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      Oh yes! Sour cherry perogies.. Yum.

  2. Laura
    May 29, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    I favour a combination of cheeses with a wee bit of bacon, but I’ve rarely had a perogie that I didn’t like :) When I make them, I use a recipe that I was given at a cooking class, because no one has my own grandmother’s recipe anymore. Even if I’m adding sour cream to the dough when she didn’t , all the good memories of making perogies with her and my own mom are still there! I’m totally going to try some of the tips here the next time I make a batch – rolling out the little circles just makes sense, and I’ve never thought to freeze them!

  3. Lesley
    May 30, 2016 at 7:54 am

    We made perogies for a grad fundraiser back in 1997 at Shevchenko School in Vita, MB, and I think the grade 12s still sell homemade perogies!

  4. Sue D
    May 30, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Oh MAN! I’m so going to have a perogy dinner party.

  5. Jules @ WolfItDown
    May 31, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    I love traditions! Whether it’d be my own family’s or other’s. From across the seas, og the neighbouring countries, and it is so much fun making new dishes! One of my quick favourites might be Algerian “Silk” which is a lovely brothy mix with spinach and potatoes. I have been wanting ti make perogies for some time too though! Cheese, potato and caramelized onions sound like a great combination for us herbivores 😀 Thanks for the inspiration! x

  6. Vivian
    May 31, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Yes, Carpe Crustum…nice idea to PIT the cherries…otherwise a nasty surprise, no? Kinda like crunchy tapenade…yikes!

    Perogies…little dough pockets…by lots of other names are a staple of world-wide cuisine and often I thought that a food truck offering “Perogies of the World” might be kind of fun. I like to fill mine with a taco mixture, maybe a kimchi offering, maybe mango chutney and lamb. The combos are endless (but they would need to be crispy-fried!) That’s the best. So, guys out there with the verve…make it happen!

  7. Thomay
    October 10, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Making the “left over” periogies as we speak! What a creative way to mingle cultures and traditions! I placed left overs (turkey, ham, stuffing, roasted potatoes and a little gravey) in a food processor and pulsed to bring all the yummy ingredients together. Just letting the dough rest and the assembly line will begin.

    • Julie
      October 10, 2016 at 12:29 pm

      Hearing this makes me so happy! :)

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