Pierogies like Mom used to make

Amy Knapp

When I was living at home in Johnstown, Pa., I didn’t think about what my mom was cooking up.

We ate the same things as others living in the area. It wasn’t until I went to college – just 30 miles down the road from home – that I realized my mom’s culinary know-how would win me friends forever.

My friends marveled over my mother’s homemade pirohi (pierogies), halushki (noodles and cabbage) and gobs – that’s a wonderful treat I will explore at another time.

My mom and her dad have always been what I gage culinary know-how on. My grandfather made dinner for the family every Sunday and mom was always cooking up dinner or baking us a tasty treat.

As a youngster, I often found myself standing in the kitchen with my mom dreading what she wanted me to do. Sometimes she really didn’t want my help and there were many times I didn’t want to be there. In hindsight I wish I would have paid a little more attention to what she was doing, but I am trying to catch up now.

My mom learned a lot of her recipes from her grandmother. Thank goodness she paid attention to what she was doing or the recipes would have been lost. The problem with these recipes ... my mom doesn’t write anything down. She just knows how to do it. That’s a problem for me. I have to measure, remeasure and remeasure again before adding an ingredient to my dishes.

Since moving away from home, my brother and I both are always longing for mom’s cooking.

My friends get excited when my mom makes her way to Ohio. They know it is likely she will cook us one of her specialties, and my friends are always willing to be taste testers.

So when my mom recently spent the week in Ohio, I took advantage of learning how to make homemade pierogies.

Pierogies are king in western Pennsylvania. Churches have replaced roofs, bought new kitchen equipment and financed renovations by making and selling them. Even the Pittsburgh Pirates get in on the action. The Great Pierogi Race pits contestants racing in giant pierogie costumes against each other during the game.

Slavic in nature, pierogies of some form are common for many nationalities including Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine and Russia.

Ingredients for the dough-filled delight is pretty simple – flour, water, eggs and salt – and of course you need potatoes, onions, cabbage and prunes for your filling.

There are various fillings for the pierogi, but the most common is potato and cheese and cabbage.

My favorite is prune-filled pierogies. I know, I wouldn’t eat a prune normally, but in a warm dough covered with butter and onions it is the greatest.

The whole process takes time. First you have to make all of the fillings, then make the dough, then cut-out each pierogie and then boil them.

Let’s just say that making pierogies is a family affair, so I enlisted the help of my sister-in-law Marcie and her 3-year-old daughter Evie.  Over time, we have perfected the assembly line approach so the pierogie making is a little less daunting.

While Mrs. T’s pierogies will do in a pinch, there is nothing like the ones mom makes. I hope you all give it a whirl.

By the way, I have never fried a pierogi but I know a lot of people who do. To me it’s a sin but I’ll forgive those who do. Some people just don’t know how to eat a pierogi.

Pirohi (pierogies)


6 eggs

1 teaspoon of salt

5 pounds of all-purpose flour

warm water

Put all but 2 inches of flour in a large bowl and add eggs and salt. Mix with hands. Add some water and mix dough. Continue to add water until all flour is gone in the bowl. Dough may be sticky.

Take a small amount of dough to roll out. Add flour to rolling pin and board. Roll dough until 1/8-inch thickness. Cut 2-inch circles – with glass or round cookie cutter – into the dough.

Fill each circle with filling. Do not over fill. Fold over and use a fork to seal together.

Drop 12 pierogies in a large pot of boiling water and mix. When pierogies float to top, cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove pierogies from the water and repeat process until all pierogies are cooked.

Sauté chopped onions with butter or margarine, pour mixture on pierogies.

Chef’s note:  When making the dough do not knead it too much, the dough will become tough. If you add too much water, add a little more flour. Make sure to keep hands, surface and rolling pin floured.

Potato and cheese filling

5 pounds of potatoes

1 pound shredded yellow cheese (colby, cheddar or longhorn)

1/4 cup dried chopped onions

Peel, cube and boil potatoes until done. Drain, add cheese and onions and mash potatoes. When finished roll into 3/4-inch balls.

Cabbage filling

1 medium head of cabbage

1 onion

1/2 pound butter or margarine

Shred cabbage and onion in pan. Add 1/4 cup of water. Cook, stirring occasionally. When all water evaporates add margarine and fry until cabbage is slightly brown.


Box of uncooked pitted prunes or a jar of prune plum filling or prune lacquer.

The Independent of Massillon, Ohio