Traditional Ukrainian Pierogies: History & Recipes

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Varenyky with cherries

Varenyky, along with borscht, are the two pillars that represent Ukrainian cuisine. We gathered classic recipes to prepare traditional Ukrainian pierogies.

History

Varenyky are traditional Ukrainian dumplings with a variety of fillings from sweet like cherries to sour like Sauerkraut. Each Ukrainian host has an own recipe of varenyky, but the cooking method stays the same: wrapping unleavened dough around the filling. Even Nikolai Gogol wrote about the dish, carrying a useful tip throughout the centuries: don’t forget to serve sour cream and dip varenyky in it before eating.

The exact origin and date varenyky appeared are unknown, but it's safe to say that the dish along with borscht has been well-known to Ukrainians since the ancient times. The dumplings are often mentioned in folklore songs as well as literature - for instance in the iconic 19th-century Eneïda by Ivan Kotliarevsky.

As for the fillings, varenyky were traditionally cooked with cheese, fried cabbage, boiled potatoes, poppy seeds, apples, cranberries, cherries and other berries. Sweet varenyky with cheese, fruits or berries always were served with sour cream or riazhanka, traditional fermented milk.

Despite the common misconception, varenyky weren't the basis of a typical Ukrainian peasant's diet. The dish was mostly prepared on Sundays or during holidays. Varenyky have been and still are an integral part of festive meals on weddings, christenings, feasts and church holidays in rural Ukraine. The dish was served to the bride-to-be on the second wedding day or an expecting mother. In these cases, varenyky symbolized fertility and procreation.

Varenyky vs pierogies: what's the difference?

Technically, there's no difference between varenyky and pierogies. Varenyky is a Ukrainian word that can be used synonymously with Polish pierogi, as both of them mean dumplings with various fillings. In English, pierogi is a generic term especially popular in North America to call all types of filled dumplings.

To continue with the linguistic approach, etymology of Ukrainian "varenyk" most likely comes from the word "varyty", which means "to boil". In some Ukrainian dialects, especially in the western regions influenced by Polish language, people use the word pierogi when talking about patties ("pyrizhky") and varenyky. Naturally, recipes differ from cook to cook - some people prefer varenyky boiled, while others can additionally fry pierogi after they have been boiled.

Classic varenyky

Classic varenyky with potatoesThere's hardly a more iconic Ukrainian dish than varenyky with potatoes. The most important part of the recipe is preparing the dough. Don't worry if varenyky don't come out picture-perfect at the first attempt - usually, it takes years of practice. Make sure kefir is room temperature before following the recipe.

Ingredients:

For dough:

  • 1 glass of kefir
  • 5 glasses of wheat flour
  • 0.5 tsp. of baking soda
  • 1 pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 8 potatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 3 tbsp. sunflower oil
  • 10 g butter
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 0.5 tsp. black ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Wash and peel the potatoes, wash once again. Cut in large pieces. Put the potatoes in a saucepan and pour it with cold water, add salt and put on medium heat. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook until ready for about 25 minutes.
  2. Peel the onion and cut in cubes. Preheat the frying pan with vegetable oil and fry the onion on medium heat until golden for about 5 minutes, occasionally stirring with a spatula.
  3. Drain the water from boiled potatoes. Add butter, a third part of the fried onions and blend the potatoes. Add salt, pepper to taste and mix thoroughly with a spoon. Put the filling in a plate and leave to cool off.
  4. Pour kefir and soda into a separate bowl, add salt and mix thoroughly. Then add the flour by half a glass each time, carefully mixing with a spoon. Spread the dough on the processing board for kneading and knead until homogeneous. It shouldn't stick to hands.
  5. Cut off a 2cm dough strip and cut it into cubes on the processing board. Mash the cubes in flour on both sides and roll out with a rolling pin.
  6. Put the potato filling in the middle of the circle of dough and pinch the edges. Put dumplings on a processing board sprinkled with flour, so that they do not stick to the surface. The dough is enough for about 25 varenyky. You can freeze dumplings in a freezer and cook them later.
  7. Pour cold water in a saucepan, salt to taste and boil on high heat. Put the dumplings in boiling water, moving them with a spatula so that they do not stick to the bottom of the pan. Leave to cook on medium heat. Remove the heat in 2-3 minutes after the dumplings pop up on the surface. Dry the water, put varenyky in a bowl. Mix with the rest of the fried onion. Serve hot with sour cream.

Varenyky with Sauerkraut

Varenyky with SauerkrautOne more popular recipe for varenyky includes Sauerkraut. Fermented raw cabbage is popular in Ukraine as a winter dish, so it's no wonder it can become a filling for varenyky.

Ingredients:

For dough:

  • 1 glass of kefir
  • 5 glasses of wheat flour
  • 0.5 tsp. of baking soda
  • 1 pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 700 g Sauerkraut
  • 3 onions
  • oil for frying
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 0.5 tsp of black ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Wash Sauerkraut in a colander under a stream of running water and finely cut with a knife on the processing board. Preheat the frying pan with vegetable oil on medium heat and put out the cabbage for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a spatula.
  2. Peel the onions and cut into small cubes. Preheat the frying pan with vegetable oil and fry the onion on medium heat until golden for about 5 minutes, occasionally stirring with a spatula.
  3. In a deep bowl, mix a spoon of Sauerkraut and the third part of fried onions. Add black pepper, salt, stir and leave to cool.
  4. Mix water, soda and salt in a separate bowl. Then add the flour by half a glass each time, carefully mixing with a spoon. Spread the dough on the processing board sprinkled with flour. Knead until homogeneous, it shouldn't stick to hands.
  5. Cut off a 2cm dough strip and cut it into cubes on the processing board. Mash the cubes in flour on both sides and roll out with a rolling pin. Put the filling on the middle of the circle of dough and pinch the edges.
  6. Pour cold water in a saucepan, salt to taste and boil on high heat. Put the dumplings in boiling water for 5 minutes until ready. Dry the water, put varenyky in a bowl. Mix with the rest of the fried onion. Serve hot with sour cream and butter.

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Varenyky with cherries

Varenyky with cherriesCherries are the most well-known and popular fillings of sweet varenyky. The traditional Ukrainian recipe will help to make the dish fluffy and delicious, preventing varenyky from falling apart while boiling. The dish, in this recipe, is steamed.

Ingredients:

For dough:

  • 1 glass of kefir
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 glasses wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 0.5 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil

For the filling:

  • 2 glasses of cherries (apr. 50 cherries)
  • 0.5 glasses of sugar
  • butter to grease

Directions:

  1. In a big bowl, mix kefir, vegetable oil, salt, sugar and egg. Gradually add flour. Thoroughly mix.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of flour and soda. Mix and pour on the table, rubbing the dough into it. In the end, you should have a homogenous mass that doesn't stick to your hands. Put the dough in a refrigerator for half an hour.
  3. Wash cherries and dry with a paper towel. Remove pits.
  4. Get the dough from the refrigerator and spread it on a table sprinkled with flour. Roll all the dough into a thin layer and make small circles with a glass.
  5. Put a bowl with a gauze attached to the top and filled with water on medium heat. The gauze should be stretched enough to carry the weight of the dumplings and not sag. Bring water to a boil.
  6. Make varenyky - put 2 cherries and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a dough circle and pinch the edges. Put varenyky on the gauze and put a lid on top. Boil for 7 minutes.
  7. Drain the water, put in a bowl and grease with butter. They can be served with sour cream or butter.

Varenyky with mushrooms

Varenyky with mushroomsMushrooms are the perfect filling for varenyky during summer when the common fungi like champignons can be found in numerous forests. Sure enough, you can also buy the mushrooms in a store and follow the recipe to make hearty varenyky.

Ingredients:

For dough:

  • 300 g wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 100 ml water
  • 1 pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 250-300 g mushrooms (preferably champignons)
  • 100 g onions
  • 70 g butter
  • Salt to taste
  • 80 g sour cream

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, mix egg and salt with a fork. Add a bit of water and mix again. Gradually add flour and make dough until homogenous. Cover with a towel and leave to cool for 30 minutes.
  2. Cut onions and mushrooms. Put the frying pan on medium heat, pour some of the oil. Lay out the onions first, and when they become transparent, add mushrooms. Fry under a lid on low heat until all the mushroom juice evaporates. Add salt and remove from the heat. Cool down the stuffing.
  3. Put a pot filled with water a medium fire until it boils. Now, form varenyky. Separate the dough into portions and form circles. Put mushrooms filling with a teaspoon into the circle. Pinch the edges to form dumplings. Repeat until no dough left.
  4. When the water boils, add salt and put in varenyky in portions. Boil until they resurface. Drain the water with a colander and put varenyky in a bowl. Add butter and gently mix the dumplings. Serve with sour cream and optionally a vegetable salad.

"Lazy" varenyky with cheese

"Lazy" varenyky with cheeseCheese, whether cottage or regular, is often an irreplaceable ingredient in authentic Ukrainian recipes, including perogies. This recipe is memorable for the older generation of Ukrainians who used to eat "lazy" varenyky for breakfast. The preparation takes way less time than the usual varenyky, hence the name.

Ingredients:

  • 400 g hard cheese
  • 2/3 cup wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • salt to taste
  • sugar to taste

Directions:

  1. Rub the cheese through a sieve or grind in a meat grinder so it's homogeneous. Put cheese in a bowl, add sugar and mash with a potato masher. Add egg to the cheese and mash again. Pour sifted flour and thoroughly knead the dough until homogeneous.
  2. Separate the dough into three parts. Generously sprinkle the processing board with flour. Take one of the portions of the dough and form a 2m sausage. Cut into 1.5cm pieces. Form small circles and put a small indent with your finger in the middle. Repeat until no dough left.
  3. Pour water in a big pot, add salt and bring to a boil. Pour in varenyky and reduce heat to low. Carefully mix with a spatula so that varenyky don't stick to the pot. Boil for 2-3 minutes after the dumplings resurface.
  4. Drain the water, put in bowls. Serve with sour cream, butter, jam or honey. Indents help to keep the condiment.

Varenyky with meat

Varenyky with meatAnother popular filling in varenyky recipes is meat. This kind of varenyky is especially spread in Poltava region. This recipe calls for a mix of pork and beef.

Ingredients:

  • 300 g beef
  • 300 g pork
  • 3 onions
  • 4 tbsp. wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 0.5 cup kefir
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar 9%
  • 1 tbsp. corn oil
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 50 g butter
  • 1 pinch of soda
  • salt to taste
  • black ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Boil the meat in salted water. Note that beef takes longer than the pork, so it's better to boil beef first. Cool the meat once boiled, force in a meat grinder.
  2. Peel onions and cut into small pieces. Grease saucepan with oil and fry onions until golden, continuously stirring. Add minced meat, fry and stir for about five minutes. Add salt, pepper and remove from the heat. Let it cool.
  3. In a bowl, mix eggs, kefir, vinegar and corn oil. Continue mixing and add two tablespoons of flour and mix again. Add salt, baking soda, one tablespoon of flour and make the dough. It should be homogenous, elastic and not sticky.
  4. Put a pot filled with water on medium heat. Add salt. Separate dough into four parts, roll sausages. Divide each sausage into four parts. Now we have sixteen bits of dough. Form varenyky: put 1 teaspoon of stuffing in each dough piece and firmly pinch the edges.
  5. Put varenyky in the boiling water in portions (6-8 pieces a portion). Put a lid on and let boil three times. Stir varenyky so that they don't stick to the pot.
  6. Serve hot with sour cream. You can serve vegetable salad as a side dish for varenyky.

Sources: cookery.com.ua, krasnokutsk.org, kulturamovy.univ.kiev.ua.
Photo source: depositphotos.com. All images belong to their rightful authors.

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