A Primer on Pyrohy

Hello and Ласкаво просимо!

(If your browser can handle Cyrillic lettering, you’ll see a pair of unusual words up there. You pronounce this “laskavo prosīmo” and it means “Welcome!” in Ukrainian.)

Today, I’m following up on a request from a reader in Australia who wants to learn how to make pyrohy.

First things first. What are pyrohy? (Most often, you will hear non-Ukrainian speakers pronounce this word as “perogies”.) Pyrohy (or perogies) are wonderful little round dumplings made of a lightweight dough and stuffed with all kinds of imaginative savoury fillings. You can bake, boil or fry them and they are most often served with butter, onions and sour cream.

I live in Alberta, one of the western provinces of Canada. Alberta was largely settled by immigrants from the Ukraine and they have left an indelible stamp on the cuisine of my home. I, for one, am very grateful for this influence. I love pyrohy and their cousins, holubtsi (cabbage rolls) and nalysynky (crepes). I’m sure that I’ve eaten at least my body weight in these yummies over the course of my life.

So, I’m not surprised at all that someone in Australia wants to learn how to make them.

Here are my pyrohy, in all their pillowy goodness,  ready to be boiled

Here are my pyrohy, in all their pillowy goodness,
ready to be boiled

And Then the Truth Comes Out …
But I’m embarrassed to admit that the only time I eat homemade pyrohy is when someone else makes them. The rest of the time, I buy pre-fab ones.

Now that I’ve cleared my conscience, the next thing I can tell you is that I hit up my home library in search of a book that would teach me the finer points of making them by hand. “A Feast of Perogies and Dumplings” by Samuel Hofer fit the bill perfectly. This little book was a veritable encyclopedia of Eastern European carbohydrate treats.

I tested out Samuel’s “No Fail Perogy Dough” recipe and then created an adaptation that worked for life hacking. Here it is, step-by-step:

Get two medium-sized potatoes, scrub them (don’t take off the skins) and then cut them into 1/2″ pieces
Put them on to boil and let them cook until they’re reasonably soft. While they’re cooking, you can:
a) cook any other ingredients (like sauteed mushrooms) or
b) start the dough
Here’s my dough recipe:

  • Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a bowl.
  • Beat 1 egg into the butter.
  • Take 1/4 cup of water from the boiling potatoes, add to it 1/4 cup of cold milk. Beat the milk and water into the butter-egg mixture.
  • Throw in 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir
  • Begin adding all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time. By the time you get to about 1 1/2 cups, you should have a dough that’s starting to form a ball. Keep adding until you have a ball that sticks together.
  • Cover your bowl of dough and set it aside for about 20 minutes to rest.
While the dough is resting, mash your potatoes very well, and beat in about 1/3 cup of milk or cream or sour cream. Once the potatoes are reasonably smooth, you can add some fillings. The dough recipe makes about 18 pyrohy, so you can make more than one kind of filling, if you like. These are what I experimented with blending into my potatoes:

  • Basil and asiago cheese
  • Sauteed mushrooms and truffle oil (I found a small bottle of truffle oil for $10 at the Italian Centre Shop in Edmonton)
  • Chopped smoked salmon, dill and cream cheese

These were all very, very good, but feel free to experiment with your own creative ideas. (And then make sure to write and tell me what you did.)

Once the dough has rested, pull it from its lazy slumber and get out your rolling pin. Roll out the dough until it’s about 1/8″ thick.
Now you need something circular that’s between 3″ and 3 1/2″ wide. (Jar lids and very small plates work well.) Use your circular thing to cut the dough into round pyrohy wrappers. Once you’ve cut out as many as you can, you can start building your pyrohy.
This next step is a little fiddly, but it’ll make a difference to the speed of your work, and the quality of your finished product. Wet down a paper towel and drape it over all but three of the cut pyrohy. This will keep the dough from drying out while you’re assembling.
Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of your wrapper, stretch the dough so that the edges meet and pinch to seal. (If you’re worried about the edges not staying stuck together, put a small glass of milk at your workspace, and use your index finger to trace a small line of milk around half the wrapper, to act as a sealant.)
Once you’ve filled and sealed up this first round, mash the scraps of dough together and then roll again. You should get about eighteen pyrohy wrappers from this recipe.
You’re in the home stretch! From here, your pyrohy can be either boiled or pan-fried. Boiling will take between 5 and 7 minutes. If you panfry them, brown one side and then flip them over to brown the other side. And I recommend butter.
Serve them with more butter, sour cream, fried onions and crumbled bacon. And marvel at how something so simple can make a person sublimely happy.
Pyrohy also lend themselves remarkably well to being “tossed”. Try lightly frying up some garlic, green onion, capers and sun-dried tomatoes. Toss your freshly-boiled pyrohy in the saute. Put sour cream on the side, and prepare to swoon.

Show Me the Money
I tried making pyrohy multiple times, so I really can’t give you an exact price figure. Be assured, however, that these are not expensive to make. With the exception of the fillings, the bulk of the ingredients are staples in most kitchens. The extras ran me about $10.

Pre-fab pyrohy aren’t expensive either, but — like many of our experiments on this blog — there’s just no comparing between pre-fab and homemade. The homemade ones are about 127,000 times better. And given that they take about half an hour to create, it’s well worth it.

Library Resources
Samuel Hofer’s wonderful little book, alas, is no longer in print. The copy at my home library has also been taken out of circulation recently. However, I located an excellent fall-back in the form of “The New Ukrainian Cookbook” by Annette Ogrodnick Corona. She calls pyrohy by their alias, which is “varenyky” and there are 7 pages of varenyky recipes in this lovely, recipe-packed book. If you take the book out of the library instead of buying it, you’ll save yourself $19.75. Which is not bad at all.

And that’s it! Thank you for reading all the way down to the bottom of this very long post. If you’re reading this from Canada, let me take this opportunity to wish you a belated Happy Thanksgiving. Tune in again — in a few weeks’ time — for another travel essay!

3 thoughts on “A Primer on Pyrohy

  1. Pingback: Omelet | librarylifehack

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