You could be forgiven for thinking they are a Canadian national food. Comforting and calorific , these little dumplings native to eastern Europe, are to be found all over, in shops and restaurants, fresh or frozen. Never having eaten a perogy, I muttered something about never having tasted them on my first visit to Canada a couple of years ago.

Baba Hania's perogies, Toronto, November 2007
This remark was picked up on by my better half’s grandmother whose parents were born in Ukraine and who arrived in Canada in the early 1900′s. Despite being due to fly back to Manitoba that afternoon , the fact that someone close to her grandson had never tasted perogies jolted her into action and there were 12 dozen perogies whipped up by mid morning.

The food of an immigrant culture is often more then just food, it’s a way to explore and connect with the stories told by relatives and friends of places you feel you are from but have never been to or places you don’t feel any connection with but feel that you should. Smothered in melted butter and fried onions, perogies are unapologetically less then good for you but also, I imagine, a link to a past or to a heritage not quite known.

I asked this wonderful lady, who has been kind enough to welcome me into her family and share with me her memories and her recipes, to explain a little of the history behind the perogy and she had this to say:

….In Polish, we say 1 perog, 2 or more perogy; in Ukrainian, it’s 1 perih, 2 or more perohy. The root, rog or rih, means horn, & rogy or rohy is the plural for horns. Perogies are crescent-shaped filled dumplings with 2 horn-like pointed ends. Gradually the plural name of this dish was Anglicized in Canada by taking “perogy” (already plural) and changing the y to i and adding es — as taught in English classes — hence the word perogies. A touching and welcome modification that says, “You’re in.”

Ukrainian and Polish pioneers brought the custom of making perogies to Canada with them. As in their homeland, the “breadbasket of Europe,” they grew wheat and potatoes and other vegetables, and raised cattle for their own dairy products. The ingredients for this tasty dish were thus on hand at all times. We now relish perogies as a special treat, if we can find someone willing to make them — it is a labor-intensive but rewarding task.

Even Canada’s banner Maclean’s magazine, during Manitoba’s Flood of the Century in 1997, legitimized their simple but strategic importance to survival by referring to the countless sandbags used to form dikes for warding off the flood waters as “Red River Perogies.” The sandbags did have pointed ends and were plump and cream in color — an appropriate metaphor, for it symbolized how simple, readily-available materials can make all the difference in times of great urgency: common sand in bags to fight floods, and potatoes with cheese wrapped in dough to ward off hunger among the pioneers.

- Anne Yanchyshyn, Winnipeg, August 2009


DSC_1069

The hand-written recipe I now try to follow in a Paris kitchen not quite getting it right but having fun all the same.

Ingredients (will make 10 dozen or more)

- 6 cups of flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the following three ingredients together:

- 1 beaten egg
- 3 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon oil

Making

Add the water to the flour to make a smooth dough. Knead on a floured surface until smooth. Let the dough sit for at least an hour (covered and cool). Then cut in hlaf to make two long rolls. Roll these in flour, set aside and let stand. Alternatively divide the dough into three or 4 patties, cover and set aside.

Filling

- 8 medium potatoes
- 250gr cheese (cheddar, Gruyère or Swiss as you wish)
- 2 or 3 onions, diced
- butter for frying

Making

Peel and boil the potatoes and mash together with the cheese. Fry the diced onions in butter until soft and translucent. Add some of the oil or butter left from the onions to the potatoes.

If using long rolls  slice the dough to get small discs that can be filled. Place a little filling in the centre then bring the bottom end to the top folding in.  Then gently pinch the ends together. Fill each disc of dough and fold over pinching the ends together. Boil water and cook the perogies in batches dunking them for about 8 minutes or until they float to the top.

Then eat while hot smothered in butter and fried onions.  If eating from chilled, then just sauté in a hot pan. Amazing.

Note - If you don’t want to eat them straight away they can be refrigerated or frozen. They do need to be boiled beforehand though. Some people put them, raw, on cookie sheets, well apart, & freeze them, then bag them & keep them frozen till needed but otherwise boil them, butter them, chill them then bag them for the freezer. Or just leave them in the fridge to be eaten that day.