Baba’s Traditional Ukrainian Perogies Recipe
This traditional Ukrainian perogies recipe has been passed down through generations in my family. It uses simple, frugal ingredients, and makes enough to feed a small village, just like back in the old country:)
You see, I’m Ukrainian-Canadian. And although I’m 4th generation Ukrainian Canadian and have never actually lived in the Ukraine (although I have traveled there), it’s still a big part of my identity and my family never lets me forget it.
Ukrainian Family Traditions
I grew up doing traditional Ukrainian folk dancing, beginning at age 3 and performing and competing until I was 19 years old. My mom danced too, longer than I did, and she even moved to the Ukraine to study dance for a year when she was 21: in the 1970s when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union. That was definitely something most people from here did not do, especially in that day and age, so she still wears it like a badge of honour, and rightfully so.
My aunt danced too, and my cousins still dance competitively today. I’m Ukrainian on both sides of my family, see, but the music and dancing comes from my mother’s mother’s lineage. My mother’s mother even used to dance around the house, dusting and vacuuming to traditional Ukrainian music!
And it was my grandma’s mother -my great grandmother who I called Baba Sophie- who passed down the real cultural gem in my family: Her traditional Ukrainian perogies recipe that we still get together to make every year.
If you’ve never heard of perogies before, they are essentially dumplings filled with mashed potatoes that are then boiled or fried and topped with loads of fried onions and sour cream. At least, that’s the traditional way to eat them. There are, however, many varieties of perogies, including meat-filled ones, fruit-filled ones and sauerkraut-filled ones. But traditionally they are made with potatoes, and they’re a crowd pleaser, I tell you what!
A Traditional Family Recipe Passed Down Through Generations
Baba Sophie was also in the orchestra that played the music for the dancers. She played the mandolin and a couple other Ukrainian stringed instruments called the domra and the balalaika. In other words, she had nimble hands and fingers, which made her an excellent perogy-maker.
She was a good writer too. I like to think I’ve inherited some of her talents. While I know full well I’ll never be able to pick up a stringed instrument and play like she did, I believe my love of writing and my knack for making some killer perogies runs in the same bloodline.
I was only four years old when she died, so I never got to make them with her. But my aunt used to go over to Baba’s place every Friday and make a batch with her.
She learned the recipe from her first hand and practiced it many times before I was old enough (and took an interest enough) to learn.
Nowadays we usually only get together to make them once a year. We usually do it in January, sometime around Ukrainian Christmas (January 7th) and Malanka (Ukrainian New Year, January 13th).
How to Make Perogies
Perogies are stupidly easy to make from scratch, and they freeze really well too. You can easily make a large batch and fill your freezer rather than buying them pre-made and pre-frozen from the store.
Start by making your potato filling. My family recipe combines potatoes with sharp cheddar cheese and sautéed onions, although you could use just potatoes or substitute a different cheese… My other side of the family makes their perogies with potatoes and cottage cheese, so this recipe is flexible!
Start by peeling and quartering your potatoes. Place them in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until soft and easy to mash. Strain potatoes through a colander but reserve potato water for making the dough (this is optional, but the extra starch in the potato water makes for a really good perogy dough!)
Transfer potatoes back to the pot and mash them. Add in grated cheddar and sautéed onions and mash everything together until all of the ingredients are well-combined.
Place filling in a container and refrigerate. Chill for at least an hour or two or even overnight.
To make the dough, sift flour together with a little salt. Then mix reserved potato water (or fresh water), eggs and a little bit vegetable oil (use olive oil if you’re looking for a healthier option) and slowly pour it into your flour mixture, mixing it as you go, either by hand or with a stand mixer.
Mix it all together and knead it until everything sticks together but the dough is easy to work with (not too sticky on the outside). Then wrap dough in plastic wrap or in a Ziplock bag and let it rest for about half an hour.
Roll dough out over a lightly floured surface to about ⅛-inch. You want it thin but not so thin that it breaks, so use your own judgment. Then cut out rounds of dough with a biscuit-cutter or an upside-down glass.
Fill each round with about a tablespoon of potato filling. I like to roll my filling in a ball first but you can skip this step and just scoop it in if you like. Then fold the perogy dough over the filling and pinch the edges together to seal it. Repeat a couple hundred times:)
To cook them, bring a pot of water to a boil and place the perogies in boiling water for a few minutes until they float to the top (this signals that they are ready). You can cook them from fresh or frozen. It helps to add a little oil in your pot of boiling water to prevent the perogies from sticking together.
Remove perogies from water with a slotted spoon or strain them through a colander. Transfer them to a serving bowl and then drizzle with a little olive oil or a pat of butter and toss. Top with fried onions and serve with a generous helping of sour cream.
How to Freeze Homemade Perogies
I love that our family usually gets together to make a big batch of perogies in January because by January the freezer is starting to empty out as we continue to use up all of the fruits and veggies we preserved in the summertime. Plus, January is usually the month when I finally get around to processing all of the tomatoes I froze back in the summer and fall, which clears up a bunch more space. And trust me, if you made perogies like my family makes perogies, you’d need to clear some freezer space too. Because we don’t just make a few dozen perogies at a time, we make a few hundred.
This year we made about 300. My aunt and cousins came to visit us on Vancouver Island for Ukrainian Christmas (they still live on the mainland), and they set to work helping me fill my freezer with hundreds of freshly-made perogies while they were here. It truly was the best gift of all!
To freeze them, we lined baking trays with parchment paper. Then we laid a single layer of perogies on the parchment paper and then another layer of parchment on top and repeated the process until we had about 3 or four layers of perogies per baking tray/casserole dish. Then I flash froze them until they were frozen solid and transferred them into freezer bags where they will stay until I’m ready to cook them!
We danced, we sang, we stuffed perogies and my family filled my freezer with little Ukrainian potato dumplings while I took pictures of them. Thanks ladies! You’re the best:)
Then we had a big family lunch together that consisted of a few dozen of our freshly-made perogies, some traditional Ukrainian Kielbasa (garlic sausage), some of my homemade sauerkraut and a side of homemade pickled beets, of course.
Simple, Delicious Food Made From Humble Ingredients
If you’ve never had a Ukrainian meal, my friend, then you’ve never really lived.
Some other staples of Ukrainian cuisine include cabbage rolls and Borscht, a simple, frugal beet soup recipe that is as healthy as it is cheap to make!
Because at the end of the day, traditional Ukrainian food is really just peasant food, and in my opinion and experience, peasant food is the best food in every culture…
It’s food that costs pennies to make and can feed a village. It’s food that utilizes simple, humble ingredients -things like homegrown cabbage, potatoes and beets- and turns them into something glorious and delicious. It’s comfort food that sticks to your ribs and keeps you going through a long winter. But most of all it’s food that brings people together, both in the making and eating of it. And after all, isn’t that what all good food should aspire to do?
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