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Pittsburgh Pierogies in Four Flavors

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Even as I write the words, I can barely believe it: for the first time in 21 years, the Pittsburgh Pirates—a baseball team long considered a punchline and a write-off—not only have a winning record, but are headed to the playoffs.

This is historic. This is epic. This is a time to make pierogies.

4 flavors of pierogies

As we’ve previously discussed on Good. Food. Stories., Eastern European food is a major part of Pittsburgh’s culinary heritage.

It’s a city where platters of grilled kielbasa and steaming aluminum trays of halupki are just as often to be found at tailgates and cookouts as hot dogs and coleslaw.

And though it’s common for major league ballparks to celebrate their cities’ popular foods and dishes with concession items like carne asada fries and crab dip-topped sausage sandwiches, the Pirates go one further.

homemade pierogies
Photo: Casey Barber

Sure, they feature the Pulled Pork Pierogi Stacker at Manny Sanguillen’s Familee Bar-B-Q—that’s a roll stuffed with pork that’s been smoked on-premises, then topped with potato pierogies and caramelized onions—but pierogies have an even bigger role at PNC Park.

After the fifth inning of every home game, the team celebrates the city’s love for the iconic dumpling with the one and only Pirates Pierogi Race.

Four mascots—Sauerkraut Saul, Cheese Chester, Jalapeño Hannah, and Oliver Onion—sprint around the field as fast as their non-aerodynamic costumes will allow.

pittsburgh pirates pierogi race
Photo: Casey Barber

I have a hard time rooting for one pierogi over the other, since I’m a fan of all fillings represented in the race (as well as a fan of wacky mascot races in general).

I find it more amusing to cheer for everyone and for the concept of racing foodstuffs as an accepted and beloved thing we do as part of watching America’s Pastime.

As for the actual team on the field, I’m hoping for the best but bracing for the worst: the Pirates may not make it past the Wild Card game on October 1, and of course I’ll be disappointed if that’s the end of the line for this phenomenal season.

homemade pierogies
Photo: Casey Barber

(Let’s not get started with the disappointment that is this year’s Steelers squad. Yoi and double yoi. Go Pens!)

No matter the postseason outcome, I’ll either need to drown my sorrows or steel my nerves with a plate of comforting carbs.

And apart from a Primanti’s sandwich straight from the Strip District griddle, I can’t think of a better food for mourning/celebrating than pierogies.

4 flavors of pierogies
Photo: Casey Barber

The recipe below takes the classic base of potato pierogies and turns them into Pittsburgh pierogies by adding mix-ins inspired by the Pirates Pierogi Race.

Caramelized onions, sauerkraut, Cheddar cheese, and fresh jalapeños are all worthy additions to any pierogi filling.

Try one or all four, and use my tutorial on how to make pierogies to get you going.

homemade pierogies
4 flavors of pierogies

Pittsburgh Pierogies in 4 Flavors

Yield: 24 pierogies
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Pierogies are one of the specialties of Pittsburgh, and it's fun to make them in different flavor combinations. Try them with Cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, sauerkraut, or jalapeños.

Ingredients

Potato Filling Base

  • 1/2 pound russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For Chester Cheese pierogies:

  • 1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese

For Sauerkraut Saul pierogies:

  • 1/2 cup drained, chopped sauerkraut

For Jalapeño Hannah pierogies:

  • 1 seeded, minced jalapeño
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded pepper jack cheese

For Oliver Onion pierogies:

  • 1/2 cup chopped caramelized onions

Dough

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces; 113 grams) plain Greek yogurt (any fat percentage)
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces; 43 grams) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces; 240 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

Instructions

Make the filling:

    1. Peel the potatoes and cut into rough 1-inch cubes.
    2. Place in a small stockpot with enough water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
    3. Drain the potatoes and mash into a clean bowl with a potato ricer, food mill, or electric hand mixer.
    4. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream and the salt, then add the third tablespoon of cream if the potatoes are still too dry. The consistency should be firm enough to roll into a ball with your hands, not loose and batter-like.
    5. Stir in any of the additional ingredients (cheese, sauerkraut, etc..) if desired.

Make the dough:

  1. Whisk 1 egg, yogurt, and butter together in a bowl.
  2. Whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the flour. The dough will initially be very dry and shaggy, seeming as if it will never come together, but have no fear: Keep stirring, and it will pull itself into shape.
  4. Once the dough starts to come together, press and smash it against the sides of the bowl with your palms, picking up dough bits and essentially kneading it within the bowl until it forms a ball.
  5. Tip the dough and any remaining shaggy flakes out onto a clean work surface. Knead until smooth, about 1 minute.
  6. Cover the dough with the bowl and let rest 15 minutes.
  7. Make an egg wash by whisking the remaining egg and water in a small bowl.

Assemble the pierogies:

  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper.
  2. Divide the rested dough into 4 equal pieces. Set aside 3 dough pieces and cover with the mixing bowl.
  3. Roll the remaining dough as thinly as possible into a rough 8- by 12-inch rectangle.
  4. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 6 rounds of dough. If the dough isn't quartered evenly, you may get 5 rounds from one piece and 7 from another. Resist the temptation to re-roll dough scraps for additional rounds. It seems wasteful, but the dough won't be as tender the second time around.
  5. Place 1 teaspoon filling into the center of each dough round. Using your finger, swipe a very scant amount of egg wash—just a light touch—around the dough edge.
  6. Fold into a half-moon shape: Either fold the dough over the filling on the work surface—I call this "the blanket"—or gently cup the pierogi in your hand in a U shape—I call this "the taco."
  7. Gently but firmly seal the pierogi by pinching and squeezing the edges together with your thumb and pointer finger. Start with one pinch at the top, then move to one "corner" of the pierogi and pinch along the edge back to the top. Repeat on the opposite side to finish sealing the pierogi.
  8. Transfer to the baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough rounds and filling.

Cook the pierogies:

  1. To boil and pan-fry fresh or frozen pierogies, bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add pierogies and cook until floating, about 2 to 3 minutes for fresh and 4 to 5 minutes for frozen. Drain well.
  3. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add as many pierogies as will fit in the skillet in a single layer without crowding.
  4. Cook until pierogies are brown and crispy, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat with additional butter and pierogies.
  5. To deep-fry fresh or frozen pierogies, use an electric deep fryer or a large, high-sided pot filled with at least 2 inches of vegetable or canola oil (fill the pot no more than 1/3 full).
  6. Heat oil to 350 degrees.
  7. Add pierogies and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes for fresh and 5 minutes for frozen—frying time may vary based on your equipment.

Notes

Filling can be made up to 2 days ahead. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

Pierogies can be frozen for up to 3 months before cooking.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 468Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 125mgSodium: 284mgCarbohydrates: 62gFiber: 3gSugar: 7gProtein: 13g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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9 Comments

  1. I usually only make a gigantic batch of pierogies during the holidays, freezing some to eat until they’re gone and then resorting to fundraiser pierogies or, sigh, Mrs. T’s. However, I think in celebration of the Pirates, I should make a batch STAT. Good call!

    Thanks!

    1. I fully admit to stashing Mrs. T’s in the freezer for emergency situations – sometimes you just need a ‘rogie!

      1. I had the privilege of growing up across the alley from the Woodvale Athletic Club where every Friday, the Womens Auxillary (I was related to a majority of them) made pierogies in the basement. Onions frying in butter, the rollers (grandma was a roller) putting baby powder under their arms to prevent chafing while they worked … oh the memories. We made dough jewelry out of the scraps of dough. My ring had an M&M jewel. It was the best.

    1. Yes, let’s definitely remake it! I’ll make pretzel rolls and we’ve got some of Pittsburgh’s own Isaly’s barbecue sauce in the fridge. (This is one time where you’re going to have to bow to Northern BBQ, my dearest Texan.)

  2. Do they serve pierogies at pizza places out in Pittsburgh? Darron grew up with pizza places that serve pierogies, but no one around here does… I’ve been trying to tell him it’s not normal.

    Of course, now I will have no excuse not to make pierogies for him… I imagine he’ll want them on pizza night. :)

    1. You know, Jen, I don’t recall a place that served pierogies and pizza simultaneously in my hometown, but that’s not to say that those spots don’t exist – I mean, Jioio’s serves a pierogi pizza that is pretty much the greatest thing. Maybe you can attempt one of those for him?

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