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Homemade Ukrainian Varenyky (aka Pierogi) – a Step by Step Recipe

16 Jan

Cabbage (Kapusta) Varenyky

Potato & Onion Pierogi

Potato & Onion Varenyky

What are varenyky? They are the Ukrainian version of filled dumplings.  People in North America are more familiar with a term “pierogi”.  Commercially made pierogi are available in the frozen section of all major supermarkets in Toronto.  I personally can’t eat the store-bought dumplings – they are too thick and heavy, and have no flavor.  You can’t even taste any filling in them.  The homemade varenyky are very delicate, with a thin dough and should have a good amount of flavourful filling.

Varenyky (or pierogi) are comfort food for many people across Eastern Europe and they are such a treat.  We made these for our Christmas Eve Meal.

Many people have their own version of the dough but the one below is our favourite.  Yields 20 to 22 pieces.

The Dough

  • 1 ½  cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup hot water

The Filling

  • Cabbage (Kapusta) Filling: finely chop a small head of cabbage, about 1/4.  Fry in oil oil with onion until very tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Potato & Onion Filling: Boil 2 large baking potatoes.  Sautee 1 finely chopped large onion in olive oil (or butter) until golden brown.  Mash the potatoes with sauteed onion adding salt to taste and lots of pepper.

The Toppings

  • Butter
  • Sour Cream
  • Fried Onions
  • Crispy bacon and sauteed onion

Directions:

Mix all 3 ingredients together, and knead just a bit.

The dough should not be very smooth, and it will be quite sticky.

Cover it with an inverted bowl and let it stand for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the working surface with some flour and roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness.

Use a drinking glass or a round cookie cutter to get the perfect round circles.

Potato and Onion Filling

Potato & Onion Filling

Cabbage Filling

Cabbage Filling

Add about a teaspoon of filling to each circle.

Seal the edges tightly together with your fingers.  At this point you can freeze them.  Or if you are ready to eat them right away place them carefully in the boiling water.  Varenyky will be ready when they float to the surface, in about 5 minutes.

Serve with a topping of your choice.

Pelmeni (Пельмени), the Famous Russian Dumplings

12 Aug
Pelmeni / Пельмени

Pelmeni / Пельмени

Originally popular in Siberia, pelmeni spread all across Russia and its neighbouring countires and they are still a favourite dish for many people.  In modern Russia and Ukraine pelmeni are commonly made at home and can be bought in stores. The store-bought variety is considered to be a fast food and is associated with students’ or bachelors’ lifestyles.

Pelmeni come from the family of dumplings, and are cousins to Ukrainian varenyky and Polish pierogi. There are 3 important differences between pelmeni and varenyky:

  1. The size – a typical pelmen’ (singular) is about 2 to 3 cm in diameter, varenyky are often twice that size.
  2. The dough – as thin as possible,  with a higher proportion of filling to dough
  3. The filling –  always raw meat (varenyky filling is typically precooked), and never made with anything sweet (varenyky could be made with cherries, sour cherries, sweet cottage cheese, blueberries, etc.)

Russian people are somewhat obsessed with their pelmeni, same as Ukrainians are obsessed with their varenyky, and each family has their own recipe and preparation method. Pelmeni could be a royal pain in the you-know-where to make 🙂 During my recent trip back home my aunt gave me her old pelmeni mold (pelmennitsa / пельменница) – it speeds up the process tremendously!  Enlist some help if making pelmeni by hand – I am a great believer in child labour in kitchen 🙂

Pelmeni Mold / Пельменница

Pelmeni Mold / Пельменница

Yields about 65

Pelmeni filling

  • ½ lb ground beef
  • ½ lb ground pork
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Finely grate the onion or chop it into very small pieces in a food processor.
  2. Add it to the ground meat along with salt and pepper and mix everything very well;
  3. Use any leftover filling to make meatballs, chili, or meatloaves.

Note: 50/50 mixture of beef and pork is traditional; you can also try lamb, chicken, or turkey or any combination you may like.

The doughclick here

Toppings:

  • Butter, vinegar, sour cream – my favourite combination
  • Chopped dill, chopped green onions, ketchup

Instructions:

If using a pelmeni mold: 

1. Roll out a chunck of dough into a circle.
2. Place over mold. Place 1/2 tsp meat into each pocket space on the mold.

Making pelmeni in the pelmennitsa

Making pelmeni in the pelmennitsa

3. Roll out another chunk of dough and place over the mold.
4. Use a rolling pin, roll the top, working from the center – outwards

Making pelmeni in the pelmennitsa

Making pelmeni in the pelmennitsa

5. Turn the pelmeni maker over and push the pelmeni out onto a well-floured cookie tray.  I used some waxed paper to invert pelmeni on.

Ready to boil or to freeze

Ready to boil or to freeze

6. Arrange evenly, sprinkle with flour and place the tray in the freezer.
7. Once pelmeni are fully frozen, put them in large plactic or ziploc bags, and keep them in the freezer for future meals.

If making pelmeni by hand:

  1. Roll out dough, cut out small circles by using a tall shot glass or the smallest round cookie cutter
  2. Place meat in the middle, and seal, by pinching the edges together.
  3. Connect the two edges together like so

Making pelmeni by hand

Cooking Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot (to allow apmle floating space) of water to boil and add 1 tsp salt
  2. Add FROZEN pelmeni and return to a boil. After pelmeni float to the top, boil for another 3 mintues
  3. Drain pelmeni and place them in a clean bowl. Toss pelmeni with your favourite toppings and serve hot.

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Svjata Vecherya / Holy Supper – Ukrainian Christmas Eve

7 Jan

Varenyky (dumplings)

Whole Roasted Stuffed Fish

Last night we had our twelve-dish meatless Christmas Eve meal.  I’ve invited over some of my friends as my daughter and  I don’t have any family here.  What a great night we had!  One of the Russian girls said that it was a blast from a past, in a fun way 🙂  We all stay until 2 am and if it wouldn’t be a Sunday night (many had to go to work today) we could have easily stayed another hour or so.

This is what we had :

  1. Kutya 
  2. Herring
  3. Pickled mushrooms
  4. Sauerkraut
  5. Roasted Peppers
  6. Salad “Vinegret”.  Sounds like “Vinaigrette”  but it’s not the oil-and-vinegar dressing in this case.
  7. Borsch /  (no, this is not a typo.  There is no “t” in this word in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish! Here is the actual word written in Cyrillic:  Борщ)
  8. Cabbage Rolls
  9. Whole roasted stuffed fish
  10. Potato-Fried Onion Varenyky
  11. Cabbage Varenyky 
  12. Uzvar 

Herring, pickled mushrooms and sauerkraut were store-bought.  Everything else my daughter and I made from scratch, including Kolach.  I will be sharing some of these recipes in my posts.

2012 Toronto Ukrainian Festival

27 Sep

Вітаємо / Welcome!

For the last three years my daughter and I make a point of attending Toronto Ukrainian Festival held in September on Bloor West, between Runnymede and Jane.  We always look forward to sampling traditional food, listening to live bands and people-watching.

Roasted whole pig.  We are pork eaters!

I love food and am open-minded while trying different foods however when it comes to traditional Ukrainian fare – varenyky, kapusta, borsch (by the way, it’s not “borscht”, there is no “t” in the “borsch”!), holybtsi, I become super-critical.    Let’s start with varenyky, a.k.a. perogi.  Canadians and some Ukrainian Canadians love the potato-cheddar cheese variety.  This variety is unheard of in Ukraine!  It has to be some crazy North American invention as cheddar cheese was not available  in Ukraine.  I lived there until 1993 and can assure you that nobody made those.

We like to visit different vendors and marvel at their displays.

Rushnyky (towels)

These are the traditional Ukrainian embroidered rushnyky (towels).  They are used to decorate religious icons, during wedding ceremonies or just to decorate a Ukrainian home.  They are also used as table runners, panels to make pillows or any other place that needs a little embroidery.

My family is from Bukovyna, a region in the Western Ukraine. This is a partial shot of the hand embroidered Bukovynian blouse.  We believe that this kind of embroidery is protecting against the bad spirits.  The blouse is heavy, up to 20lbs because of all the tiny beads that are sewn on it.  It’s not cheap, $600 CDN and I couldn’t it get it cheaper even in Ukraine.  My aunt make these blouses and they go for $500 US.

Keptar, a fur-trimmed Bukovynian vest

Me in my embroidered blouse, trying on a Bukovynian headpiece 🙂

Another traditional costume from a different region in Ukraine

My boyfriend joined me on Saturday and got to sample some Ukrainian beer:Brewed since 1715!

I don’t think he liked it too much so Lvivske Pyvo didn’t get his stamp of approval 🙂

My daughter and I participated in the vodka tasting.  We had to compare “Slava” to “Stolichnaya” and Zirkova” to “Absolut”.

Well, Ukrainian vodka won, hands down.  Absolut is too harsh and Stoli has this “chemical” aftertaste.   Zirkova has a clean, crisp taste and Slava trickles smoothly down the throat.

Interesting piece of trivia:

Canada has the world’s third-largest Ukrainian population outside of Ukraine.  Ukrainian Canadians represent the ninth largest ethnic group in the country.

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