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What are Pierogi?
Pierogi (/pɪˈroʊɡi/ pih-ROH-ghee)[a] are filled dumplings made by wrapping unleavened dough around a savoury or sweet filling and cooked in boiling water. They are often then pan-fried before serving.
Pierogi are most often associated with the cuisine of Central and Eastern European nations. Pierogi are also popular in modern-day American cuisine, where they are sometimes known under different local names.
The English word "pierogi" comes from Polish pierogi [pʲɛˈrɔgʲi], which is the plural form of pieróg [ˈpʲɛruk], a generic term for filled dumplings. It derives from Old East Slavic пиръ (pirŭ) and further from Proto-Slavic *pirъ, "feast". While dumplings as such are found throughout Eurasia, the specific name pierogi, with its Proto-Slavic root and its cognates in the West and East Slavic languages, including Russian пирог (pirog, "pie") and пирожки (pirozhki, "baked pastries"), shows the name's common Slavic origins, antedating the modern nation states and their standardized languages. In most of these languages the word means "pie".
While the origin of the pierogi is often under debate, the exact origin of the dish is unknown and unverifiable. It likely originated somewhere in Central Europe or Eastern Europe, and has been consumed in these regions long before any of the present political nations existed. Today, it is a large part of many Central European and Eastern European cultures.
One legend relates that in 1238, Hyacinth of Poland visited Kościelec, and on his visit, a storm destroyed all crops; Hyacinth told everyone to pray and by the next day, crops rose back up. As a sign of gratitude, people made pierogi from those crops for Saint Hyacinth. Another legend states that Saint Hyacinth fed the people with pierogi during a famine caused by an invasion by the Tatars in 1241. One source theorizes that in the 13th century, pierogi were brought by Hyacinth from the Far East (Asia) via what was then the Kievan Rus'. Some believe pierogi came from China via Marco Polo's expeditions through the Silk Road. None of these legends is supported by evidence, such as the etymological origin of the root pirŭ-.
Pierogi may be stuffed (singularly or in combinations) with mashed potatoes, fried onions, quark or farmer cheese, cabbage, sauerkraut, meat, mushrooms, spinach, cheese, or other ingredients depending on the cook's preferences. Dessert versions of the dumpling can be stuffed with sweetened quark or with a fresh fruit filling such as cherry, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, apple or plum; stoned prunes are sometimes used, as well as jam
Polish History of Pierogi
Traditionally considered peasant food, pierogi eventually gained popularity and spread throughout all social classes including nobles. Some cookbooks from the 17th century describe how during that era, the pierogi were considered a staple of the Polish diet, and each holiday had its own special kind of pierogi created. Different shapes and fillings were made for holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Important events like weddings had their own special type of pierogi kurniki – filled with chicken. Also, pierogi were made especially for mournings or wakes, and some for caroling season in January.
Pierogi are an important part of Polish culture and cuisine today. They are served in a variety of forms and tastes (ranging from sweet to salty to spicy) and are considered to be the national dish. They are served at many festivals, playing an important role as a cultural dish. At the 2007 Pierogi Festival in Kraków, 30,000 pierogi were consumed daily.
Polish pierogi are often filled with fresh quark, boiled and minced potatoes, and fried onions. This type is called in Polish pierogi ruskie, which literally means "Ruthenian pierogi" (sometimes being mistranslated as “Russian pierogi”). Ruskie pierogi are probably the most popular kind of pierogi in North America and Poland. The other popular pierogi in Poland are filled with ground meat, mushrooms and cabbage, or for dessert an assortment of fruits (berries, with strawberries or blueberries the most common). Sweet pierogi are usually served with sour cream mixed with sugar, and savoury pierogi with bacon fat and bacon bits.
U.S. History of Pierogi
Pierogi were brought to the United States and Canada by Central and Eastern European immigrants. They are particularly common in areas with large Polish or Ukrainian populations, such as Pittsburgh, Chicago, and New York City along with its New Jersey suburbs. Pierogi were at first a family food among immigrants as well as being served in ethnic restaurants. In the post–World War II era, freshly cooked pierogi became a staple of fundraisers by ethnic churches. By the 1960s, pierogi were a common supermarket item in the frozen food aisles in many parts of the United States and Canada, and are still found in grocery stores today.
Potato and cheese or sauerkraut versions are usually served with some or all the following: butter or oil, sour cream (typical), fried onions, fried bacon or kielbasa (sausage), and a creamy mushroom sauce (less common). Some ethnic kitchens will deep-fry perogies; dessert and main course dishes can be served this way. A good method is to par-boil the dumplings, then after drying, they are pan fried or deep-fried.