Marsha Canham's Blog

December 17, 2010

Perogie Making Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — marshacanham @ 6:18 pm

Yes indeed. An evening of fun scooping a blend of mashed taters and cheddar cheese into little round circles of dough then pinching them together to seal the pockets, dipping them in boiling water to partially cook, then tossing in a frying pan of butter.  My daughter in law and her sister, my adopted DIL, look forward to this evening every year *snort*  They usually try to find some excuse to miss it, but I try to make it on a different pre-Christmas weekend every year just to throw them off *evil chuckle*

If you’re of European descent you already know what a perogie is, but if not…it’s similar to an Italian ravioli, or a Chinese won ton dumpling.

We grew up on them.  It was a weekly staple in our house.  My mother spent the afternoon making dough and rolling it out paper thin then cutting out circles with a round lid, stuffing them with a mixture of mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese, or cottage cheese, or mushrooms, or saurcraute  (I’m sure that isn’t spelled right), sometimes ham and pea if she had leftovers, or prunes if she thought we all needed a little boost *snort*.   Basically she used whatever caught her fancy that day, but the most common ones were cheese and potato.  My grandmother used to make them by the bazillions.  We had Polish neighbours in Etobicoke and their grandmother used to make them by the bazillions.  I felt it was incumbent upon me, even though I was never allowed in the kitchen to help make the little suckers, to figure out how it was done.  Watching the process over 18 years gives you a fairly good idea, but when it comes to actually making the dough…fu-gedaboutit.  Absolutely no grandmother, mother, aunt, or friendly Polish neighbour ever used a recipe, so asking them how to make the dough was like asking a fly how to fly.  Blank looks, basically, and a response something along the lines of:  I just put a little of this and a little of that and mix it until it feels right.

Great.  I’ll just do that.

My first attempt at making dough was like the first attempt at cooking a turkey, except that it took weeks to get all the flour off the walls, behind the appliances, off the window sills.  Clouds of it went everywhere, because of course I had always watched my mother knead and beat the stuff half to death.  Rolling it out was another excusion into the unknown because of course, I had nothing quite as modern as a rolling pin.  A wine bottle was about the right size, so there I stood, rolling out half beaten-to-death dough on an unfloured counteredtop (NO ONE SAID I HAD TO FLOUR IT) with an unfloured wine bottle.

The garbage bin was fed well that night.

Next attempt (at least two years later if not more), I tried hunting down a recipe for the dough, then bought an actual rolling pin, and used flour on everything.  Victory. I had my dough.  I even rolled it out and cut it into circles.  I put the egg around the outside of the circle, the potato and cheese on the inside and made my little pockets of yumminess.  I boiled them, six at a time cuz I only had small pots back then, and after putting the first twenty into the pot and removing them in a a large brain-like mass, I changed tacks and dropped in only six at a time.  Cool.  They came out of the boiling water and into the frying pan, getting coated with the butter before…augh…going into another pan so the layers didn’t stick together…then eventually onto cookie sheets in a warm oven.  It took me most of the morning and all of the afternoon to make those suckers and I was so proud to say:  I made them all by myself.  And they weren’t too too bad either…if you could get past the consistency of the dough, which was so thick you could have whapped someone over the head and knocked them out.  However.  They TASTED good, which was the whole point, and they were certainly filling.  The part that made me stand there and blink was, although they took all farking day to make and my kitchen was again flour-filled, and every pot and pan I owned was either slick with flour or butter or both….it took the hub and son a mere ten minutes to eat every last one and sit there looking at me for dessert.

Ten hours hard labour vs ten minutes chewing.   What’s wrong with that picture?

Flash forward another twenty or so years during which there was a steady supply, by request, from mothers and grandmothers.  I was not proud. I asked.

Then we moved to Ajax and it was a little harder to get regular deliveries, but HO!  I found a little Polish deli that had little gray haired grandmothers making perogies all day long and selling them for…*gasp*  $2/dozen.  Nirvana.  All flavours, they even took requests if you gave them enough warning.

When we moved to Newmarket, there was a sense of impending doom.  I had tried the store bought frozen ones, and they weren’t bad, but….  And the Clone told me there was a Polish deli in town, but I never found it.

I did, however, stumble across one of those light-bulb-flashing-on-over-the-head moments one night when I was attempting to make Chinese dumplings.  The wrappers come paper thin, already cut in perfect circles, and when brushed with the egg wash and pinched shut, form perfect, delectable, delicious perogies.  I made them the first Boxing Day for dinner and…they were snorfed up so fast the bowls barely made it all the way around the table.  Next year, I doubled the amount and…they were snorfed up so fast the bowls barely made it all the way around the table.   The next year I enlisted the help of the girls and we made so many the kitchen looked like a perogie factory. HAH.

There was only one year we had a small blip.  That happened three years ago when a neighbour gave me her recipe for dough and said it was foolproof, easy, and rolled out paper thin.  Sucker that I am, I believed her.  I believed a woman who, searching for a warm place where the dough for her annual dill bread could rise, chose the back window of her car, thinking it was in sunlight and would be nice and warm.  She left it for an hour and it took over the whole window ledge, the back seat, and–like the movie The Blob–started creeping into the front seat.  Yes, I trusted her.

Needless to say, we’re back to using the dumpling wrappers.  I’m just off now to boil up and mash the taters, add the cheddar so they’re tart enough from the cheese to make your eyes squint, then clear everything up for the assembly line.  The DIL’s stuff and pinch.  I do the boil and butter-coating then file them into ziplocks to await the big day.  The last three or four years the munchkins have gotten involved too, and they’re pretty good at it.  At least when they get older they won’t be able to say they never had hands-on learning at Grammy’s house.  *S*



  1. Umm…do you take mail orders? *g*

    Comment by Jill Metcalf — December 17, 2010 @ 11:08 pm | Reply

  2. Can you believe it? I work in a town that has an annual Polish holiday – Dyngus Day – every year on Easter Monday. Polish food everywhere–to die for noodles–but the perogie is something I’ve never tried. We can even buy them in the freezer case here, but I’m sure those are nowhere as good as fresh-baked. Had no clue what was in them, either. After reading your posts, I’ve now added them to my “to-be-eaten” list this year. 🙂

    Comment by JavaQueen — December 18, 2010 @ 12:38 pm | Reply

  3. have to try them! The store bought frozen ones aren’t bad, but you still have to boil them, then fry them in a little butter with maybe some bacon or some onion. They don’t have nearly enough cheese and are mostly potato. If you have a Polish day, then chances are a bazillion grandmothers were making a bazillion perogies, so look for ones that are homemade. Or come visit and I’ll make you a batch LOL It’s been 8…9 years since you and Shannon were here?

    Comment by marshacanham — December 18, 2010 @ 1:11 pm | Reply

  4. Yeah, at least that long. Gray was a baby and he’ll be…*counting fingers* 9 this spring. Geez, it has been a long time! Where the heck did the time go?

    Comment by JavaQueen — December 18, 2010 @ 2:45 pm | Reply

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