Friday, April 22, 2011

P is for Poland: Pieorgi with butter and cheese, oh my!

So, thanks to the "man" who cut some funding for workstudy I was recently stripped from my cozy office job. Not only do I not get to hang out with my most favorite people (Angelett and Chinwe) I no longer get paid to do my homework. So, off I was, into the real world,as a broke college student, trying to find a part time job in a suffering economy...great. With no car, and not a very flexible schedule, Hubert, from Hubert's Polish Kitchen in the North Market decided to give me a shot.

If there is one thing I learned about Polish cuisine, it is not a place for the calorie-conscious vegetarians.  A Polish diet is very “meat-centric”, and I swear, every time I turn around cream, butter, or sour cream is being added to something. Situated next to powerhouses Russia and Germany, Poland’s food customs are influenced by the many political alliances if was forced to form throughout its history.

More than half of Poland’s land is used for farming. The southern region is rich with minerals that provide the fertile soil for cereal grains, such as wheat, rye, buckwheat and barley. Other important agricultural products include, potatoes, turnips, garlic, onions, parsley, beets, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms and cucumbers. Cucumbers are often seasoned with dill and pickled, to make delicious, world-renowned pickles, or mixed with sour cream as a salad. Cabbage is also fermented to make sauerkraut, which can be used in a variety of ways, including in stews. An assortment of vegetables were limited until the Renaissance when Polish ruler, King  Zygmunt, married Italian princess Bona Sforza. She brought Italian food customs to Poland, including the introduction of salad, wloszcycna (“Italian things”). Many Polish vegetables have Italian originated names, such as “pomidory” from the Italian “pomidoro” for tomatoes.

galumpki, stuffed cabbage rolls 
Pork is the most popular meat. It is usually made into sausages or breaded and fried to make pork cutlet. Poland’s national dish is bigos, a meat stew. Game and wild birds, such as pheasants and wild boar, are also very popular in traditional Polish cooking. Once while at work a customer asked if we could make czernina. I told him I wasn’t sure, and asked him what it was. To my shock czernina is fresh duck blood soup, a Polish delicacy. He proceeded to tell me (in detai)l how the only way to make this soup was to basically take a live duck and cut his head open and drain his blood  into a bowl (I think I will pass on the czernina).  He also then told me when he was young boy in Poland, the fairs would have ponds of live ducks, and for a few coins you could get rings and attempt to toss them around the ducks neck. If you succeeded you would take the duck home and eat him (I would probably make this duck my friend). Now in days kids just win a goldfish, but I think this is for the better.

Making Polish cuisine is generally very time consuming and demanding in preparation (I have to go into work at 7am on Sunday to prep food for customers the really don’t show up till about 11am).  Most things are made completely by scratch, even the stock. Vegetables are usually boiled and meat is either fried or stewed. Spices used to liven dishes include: marjoram, dill, caraway, parley, oregano, and pepper.

A popular drink in Poland is mead (fermented honey wine). Pete, my boss’s brother, told me that the mead in Polish is delicious and often flavored with fruit and spices.  Poland’s cold climate does not allow for the best cultivation of grapes, so fermented honey became the drink of choice. It was a favorite among the noble class and it was even said that Prince Leszek I the White explained to the Pope that Polish knights could not participate in a crusade as there was no mead in the Holy Land. Fruit drinks are also very popular in Poland, including a rather unique blackcurrant juice. I was also informed that buttermilk is often drunk, especially in the summers with potatoes. Apparently, it is also good for hangovers.

Wild berry juice from Poland
Polish mead
My time at Hubert’s Polish Kitchen has not only helped my pay my bills, but has also taught me about Polish food, customs and people. Pete let me in on a little Polish tradition just in time for Easter. Instead using chemical enhanced food dye to color Easter eggs, the Poles use the natural colors of beets, carrots, and onions to dye the eggs. With a needle you then carve designs into the egg, then you eat it. I have also learned that the Polish are extremely hard workers. My Polish bosses have lived through communist Poland and have experience the hardships that come from having your personal freedom invaded. Pete even once told me that he worked at a labor camp. Hubert has also has had his fair share of sadness in his life, yet he continues to push forward each day with a smile on his face, telling jokes, and working to serve the only Polish food available in Columbus. He puts the “heart” in his hearty Polish food (oh, I love puns). So, stopping counting the calories and eat a pieorgi. 

I had a pierogi party this week at Angie and Helen's house (my sister also came, but only peeled potatoes). It was delicious, but extremely time consuming. Unless you have about 4 hours to kill, I suggest you employ a small army to help create these delicious, buttery, Polish dumplings. What is also so great about pierogi, other than the flavor, they can easily be frozen and used for a future time. The recipe for the dough is the one from work. The filling is a bit different. I wanted to use of the Monterey jack cheese I had, so I used that instead of the traditional white cheddar, or the cream cheese used at work. My pieorgi, although not as rich as the ones from work, where delicious, but after I spent so many hours making them, I didn't even really want to eat them ( I ate  two anyways). But they make great drunk food, or I-need-a-quick-meal food, or I-am-writing-my blog-late-at-night snack. Basically, they are always good. YUM!

makes 40-50

  • 6 potatoes, peeled
  • 80z cheese (any kind will really use)
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4 cups of flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, soften and divided
  • salt and pepper
  1. In a large bowl, add a dash of salt to the pepper and sift.
  2. Add the eggs, 1 cup of sour cream and 1/2 cup of butter to the flour. Mix until it form a dough. If it is too dry add a little warm water.
  3. Knead the dough. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, and chill it for a minimum of 20 minutes.
  4. While the dough is chilling, peel and boil the potatoes.
  5. In a saucepan sauté butter and caramelize the onions. 
  6. Once the potatoes are soft, add cheese, half of the caramelized onions, the rest of the sour cream, and 1/2 cup of butter. Mash until smooth and mixed. Place in the refrigerator to chill for about 20 minutes. 
  7. Roll the dough out, using flour to cover the surfaces, and cut out large circles (about 4-5 inches in diameter, we used the tops of cups). Also, begin boiling water and set oven to 325 degrees. 
  8. Take a spoon full of the potato mixture and place in the center of the circle. 
  9. Fold the circle in half and pinch the edges together with warm water.
  10. Place finished pierogi in boiling water. 
  11. Once the being to float, shock in cold, ice water.
  12. Place the pierogi in a baking sheet with the rest of the butter and the remainder of the caramelized onions.
  13. Bake until crispy, about 15 minutes. Enjoy with a dollop of sour cream. 


  1. Oh Steph!!! We miss you so much in the office!!! Once again I have to commend you on the great history lesson! I love how veggies were introduced to the area via a romantic love affair. LOL!!!! What days do you work at North Market? I am going to stop by to visit you during my lunch!

  2. I work Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, come visit!

  3. Stephanie,yesterday I had the honor of visiting you at your famous job,Huberts Polish Kitchen in the North Market.I need to tell you that every day Im more and more proud of you.I can see that you are a really hard worker.I know nothing is to big for you.Keep up the acctitud and you will continuing to succeed in life.

  4. You also forgot that iii supplied most of the potatoes :) but these were so yummy!

  5. I am so impressed. Your posts are so informative and well written. I can't believe you made Perogies, that is quite an accomplishment. Another great post!