Every year, about a week before Christmas, my family gathers in Aunt Terry’s kitchen to make several hundred pierogi in preparation for Wigilia (pronounced vee-geel-ya), the Polish celebration on Christmas Eve.
My Dad rolls out the elastic dough, rounds are cut out with a drinking glass and then filled with potato and cheese, sauerkraut or prunes, before the pinched edges are pressed tight with the tines of a fork. Finally, the dumplings are boiled, then tossed in butter.
For most of my life, Christmas was the one time I got to eat pierogi. Faced with scarcity, we’d greedily spend “pierogi day” gobbling down each empty, burst dumpling that was tossed on a “seconds” plate. I’d fill my plate Christmas Eve, then return to visit my cousin Tony two or three days later for leftovers from my Aunt’s fridge.
There is guilty pleasure then, making pierogi in the fall. I fill them with the harvest’s overabundance of roast pumpkin. A sauce of brown butter and cider adds sweetness and nuttiness. The only thing missing is a kitchen filled with family.
Pumpkin Sage Pierogi
- 2 cups flour
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup water
- 2 tbs butter
- 2 tbs chopped sage
- 2 cups cooked pumpkin like Speckled Hound or Hubbard
- White pepper
- Sherry Vinegar
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- Place the flour in a medium bowl and form a well in the center. Add the egg and 1/3 cup water, mix together. Add additional water by the tablespoonful as needed until there is no more dry flour and it comes together into a smooth dough.
- Knead the ball of dough a few times and place it under a bowl to rest for 10-15 minutes.
- The secret to great dough is feel. It should be tacky but not sticky when it comes together. The less you work it, the more tender it will be. This is one of those skills that just takes practice. The good news it that the results of each test will still be delicious!
- Make the filling: Melt 2 tbs butter in a 10” skillet over medium-low heat. Cook until the milk solids turn light brown.
- Add sage and cook until wilted, 30 seconds.
- Add pumpkin and cook to dry out, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt, white pepper and a splash of Sherry vinegar.
- Take half of the dough and roll out to 1/8” thick. Cut into rounds with 4” biscuit cutter or drinking glass.
- Fill each round with 1 tbs filling. Close with your fingers, pressing the edges together. Finally, seal the edge of the dough with the tines of a fork, being careful not to pierce the dumpling.
- Repeat with the second half of the dough and filling.
- Cook pierogi in boiling water for 3-5 minutes until they float.
- Make the sauce: Melt butter in a 10″ skillet over medium-low heat. Cook until the milk solids turn a rich, nutty brown. Add cider and cook until it reduces and thickens slightly. Whisk and serve over cooked pierogi.