I am keenly aware that pierogi are Polish. But I think in our attempt to recreate our Polish Christmas tradition here on the boot peninsula, the pierogi was besmirched by Italian karma. My mother-in-law once told me my motto should be "Have Tradition, Will Travel." I guess that comes with it's own risks.
We were determined to be in solidarity with all our family who were scattered about the United States making pierogi as well. Normally we make hundreds of them together a few weeks before Christmas and then gorge ourselves with pierogi drenched in butter on Christmas Eve. You can read about last year's pierogi experience here. So we did our best to gather the necessary ingredients to make our favorite of the three kinds: cabbage pierogi. For anyone who's been following our time in Italy, you know how difficult it was to find the right components for Thanksgiving. Making a polish food turned out to be no different. Cabbage pierogi are filled with cabbage and pot cheese. Cabbage was no problem. Pot cheese or farmer's cheese, as it's also called, cannot be found in Italy, unless perhaps, you have some sort of inside track with the cheese shop and know enough Italian to make use of this connection. So we decided that well-strained ricotta cheese would have to do. I chopped and boiled the cabbage two days before pierogi day. Then I strained it several times and added the sauteed onions. On pierogi day we added the ricotta cheese minus the one cup of liquid that came out of the two pounds, or should I say the 200 ml that came out of the 800 grams. Tasting it, it seemed to have the right cabbagey taste. It was just quite a bit creamier than normal. Italian pierogi.
The dough wasn't really too bad to make, except that I have no US measuring cups, so I was stuck guesstimating how much looked like 4 cups or 2 tablespoons. I judged the measurements all right, I guess, because everything turned out okay, although the dough was little less stretchy and far more orange than normal. Have I ever mentioned Italian eggs? For some reason at least half of them have yolks that are cadmium orange (almost neon!). You can see this in the little YouTube video of our pierogi dough. I rolled the orange dough out on our little counter with an empty Cabernet bottle, which also seems so very appropriate. I'm not sure where Italians buy rolling pins, apparently not at the supermarket. After rolling out the dough, I used our widest drinking glass to cut the circles out. These were then transferred to the table for the pinchers.
And so, everything was thus set-up when our pinchers arrived. We had invited Andreas and Astrid, our Danish neighbors to partake in the pieorgi with us, informing them that eating them meant making them. Being exceptionally tradition-loving and also up for anything, they were happy to join us. So they came over, wheeling their son, Vilhelm, who was sleeping in his carriage, onto our terrace for his afternoon nap in the fresh air while we worked and visited inside. They caught on very fast and, together with Matt, they all made excellent pinchers. We only broke one out of the entire batch of 70!
While they pinched, I melted a pot of butter, boiled the pierogi, rinsed them in cold water, and packed them in layers surrounded by butter and divided by cellophane. It sounds complicated, but since we were going fairly slowly, it wasn't too hard to keep up. It was also an advantage that the burners are about 5 feet from the table, 1 foot from the sink, and 1/2 foot from the counter-top where I was packing them. At least close proximity does have some benefits.
We finished the pierogi in about an hour and a half, just in time, because all the kids woke up within ten minutes of our finishing. We cleaned up the kitchen and readied ourselves for our Polish feast.
Frying up the first batch, we began consuming our butter-laden cabbage-and-ricotta-stuffed pasta (here I don't mean spaghetti or something, I just mean dough, which they also call "pasta"). Mangiamo!
Delicious. A little creamy and a little yellow-looking, but delicious. A taste of home (or of Poland) in this far away land of Italy.