Polish Christmas: Pierogi!

I am sure all of you have heard this name before - pierogi!
They came to Poland probably in the 12th century from Far East and now are considered a Polish national dish. Pierogi, known under many different names, are also extremely popular in other Eastern European and Baltic countries. You can try them also in Italy or Germany, but they will most probably have a different shape. Polish pierogi always are semicircular. This probably dates back to the Sun deity cult, when pierogi served as an important ceremonial food.

The name itself is of unknown origin. Most probably it comes from Old Church Slavonic “piru” meaning “festival”. In modern Polish the word “pierogi” is plural - singular would be “pieróg” and it indicates name of different dish! “Pierogi” always contain many little “pieróg” :)

Now are Polish!
As you probably know, pierogi are made of unleavened dough with various fillings - but don’t be fooled, they are not dumplings! Dumplings are something very different in Polish cuisine and we will talk about it later this year. Pierogi are always boiled, and can be served as that or also fried or baked.

They are second, after carp and other fish dishes, most popular dish of Polish Christmas. They are great fest food, and what is more important they are delicious! Let’s talk about the most popular fillings.

The ultimate Christmas pierogi: pierogi z kapustą i grzybami - Pierogi with sauerkraut and mushrooms. They rule the table all the way! Kapusta - sauerkraut and grzyby - mushrooms can go with almost any dish that night. And pierogi are no different. Either boiled or baked, we often add fried onion to them. Yummy!

Also uszka - the ravioli style pierogi added to Christmas barszcz are usually filled with with mushrooms or sauerkraut. They are however much smaller, and look like little ears - hence the name.

The runner up are pierogi ruskie - pierogi with white cheese, potatoes and friend onion. Oh, I love them (I am a pierogi junkie, I know, I know)… I forgot to mention that pierogi were originally food of peasants and they made the filling of whatever they had to left at home. That’s why almost every Polish national dish contain potatoes or sauerkraut - they were easy to store during long Polish winter, and also are very healthy (especially sauerkraut). Pierogi ruskie are the best example of that kind of dish. Originally they were probably filled only with white cheese, but to make more and richer filling people started mixing potatoes and onions with it. Apparently it worked perfectly! In some regions they are served with sour creme. Just take a look…

We have a tie on the 4th place. Both options are rather unusual and not so common, yet for some Poles they are an important part of the Christmas Eve dinner -  pierogi rybne - pierogi with fish and pierogi z suszem - pierogi with dried fruits. Actually pierogi with fruits are popular during summer season in Poland, and are made with fresh Polish fruits - blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and cherries.

In some families pierogi are served as dessert on Christmas Eve’s dinner. In that case they are either with dried fruits, sweet white cheese with raisins or with poppy. However, I will write more about Christmas desserts in couple of days!

Koniec! (The end ;-)) Now it's time for another fantastic song with a Christmas spirit. Here comes “Pada śnieg” (Snow is falling) by Edyta Górniak with Krzysztof Antkowiak. It describes the Christmas Eve’s evening, and I think it’s great material for learning Polish language and culture at the same time. It even mentions Christmas carp swimming in bathtub ;-) Enjoy!