Roll that dough to the left, roll that dough to the right, pat it to the left, pat it to the right, pat it again, we've got all night, turn and pinch, just like me, turn and pinch 123. ~ The Perogy Dance by Ukrainian Oldtimers
Growing up in Nova Scotia I only knew two people that ate perogies. One was my friend Amanda, and that is because she lived in Regina as a child and got hooked on them, and the other was my friend Tanya, and that was because she was born and raised in Sasktatoon and they were part of her culture. Recently I told one of my Halifax friends that I was invited to attend a perogy making party. Her response basically summed up what most east coasters would think when hearing the word perogy - "Are those the things that are stuffed with potato?". Yes they are and they are delicious!
Since I moved to Manitoba in 2007 perogies have become part of my life. They are very common here, a celebrated food, one that everyone looks forward to at family gatherings. I have had perogies at Ukrainian weddings, purchased them from Ukrainian dance groups raising money, at feasts in homes of Manitobans, and at community events, similar to a hot dog stand on the east coast.
So what is a perogy? Well basically they are a Ukrainian dumpling. You make a dough, roll it out and cut it into circles, then stuff them with something, and then pinch the sides shut. You then boil them and eat them.
Just before Christmas I received an invite to learn how to make perogies. Five women got together in a kitchen and made dozens and dozens of them for the upcoming holidays. We made two kinds of perogies - potato cheese and sauerkraut, although there are many other versions such as potato onion, potato bacon, dessert perogies stuffed with fruit, plain potato, etc. Basically if you can dream up a new flavour for perogies then you can make it.
Before the party I was a bit intimated. Could I make perogies as well as a Baba (Baba = Ukrainian grandmother known for making the best perogies)? Turns out I can! It was surprisingly very easy. The basic recipe that we used for the dough is very simple. You use five cups of flour, two cups of lukewarm water, two pinches of salt, quarter cup of oil. Mix the dough. Wrap it in saran wrap and cover with a tea towel and let it sit for an hour. Then you roll it out thin and cut out circles. You stuff the circles with your chosen stuffing (my favourite is the classic potato cheddar), pinching it closed nice and tight. You then boil them until they float. After draining them you place them individually on parchment paper lined cookie sheets and put them in the freezer until frozen. Once frozen you put them into portion sizes in freezer bags and store in the freezer until you want to make them for supper. To get them ready to eat you simply boil them in water again until they float. Super easy. I like them best if they are served with fried onions and sour cream, however bacon bits are also popular.
Attending a perogy party was a wonderful way to bond with friends and learn something new about Manitoba and the Ukrainian culture. We had a great time pinching perogies, laughing, and drinking wine. It was certainly a very Manitoban way to spend an afternoon, one that I will never forget.