Saturday, March 14, 2009


The first Christmas I spent with my husband's family, I kept hearing about these pirog things.  At the time, they sounded positively disgusting to me.  However, I finally tried one, and have loved them ever since.

My mother-in-law got this recipe in 1979 from a friend and neighbor of theirs who had come to the US from Latvia.  Her friend just knew how to make this - no measuring cups, no weighing - she just instinctively knew how to put it together.  My MIL spent a good bit of time with her making this recipe, carefully weighing and measuring ingredients so that she could also make these.  Since then, pirogs have been a Christmas Day tradition at their house.

I finally learned how to make these last year.  We like these so much, we don't just save them for Christmas.  That said, they are time-consuming to make, so I only do this every few months.  A big batch in the freezer will last us a while.  

I'd like to experiment with other fillings, but that might cause a revolt, so I haven't yet. :)


2 packages active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 stick butter or margarine, cut into pieces
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for workspace
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 medium-large onion, diced (or chopped in food processor)
1 lb bacon, diced (or chopped in food processor)
about 1 lb ham, cooked, diced
Pepper, to taste (the in-laws LOVE pepper... like, we're talking Tablespoons of it)
1 egg, beaten, to brush pierogs before baking

In a cup, combine 2 packets of yeast and 2 teaspoons of sugar.  Add just enough warm water to form a thick paste.  Stir, and set aside.

Scald the milk.  

Put butter, 1 T. salt, and 2 T. sugar into mixing bowl.  Add warm milk and stir to melt butter.  Add 3 cups flour, yeast mixture, and eggs to milk mixture in bowl, and stir to combine.  Add up to 2 more cups of flour, and knead with hand in bowl for 5 minutes, or in stand mixer for about 3 minutes.  The dough should be somewhat thin & sticky.  Cover bowl, and set aside to rise for about 1 - 1 1/2 hours.

While dough is rising, combine onion, bacon, and ham in a skillet, and cook on high for 5-10 minutes, until bacon is mostly cooked (it will cook more in the oven), stirring constantly.  Remove from heat, and let cool thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

When dough has risen (doubled in size), take out a handful at a time, and form into a 1 1/2 diameter "worm" on a floured surface.  Slice off 1/2 inch pieces.  Work each piece into a circle, and fill with the meat.  Fold over, pinch edge and place pinched side down on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Shape into a crescent.  Place pirogs about 1 inch apart. After sheet is full, let rest for 10 - 20 minutes.  Brush with beaten egg.   Makes about 60 pirogs.  (Sometimes we make them a little larger than this.)*

Bake at 400 degrees for 10-14 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve warm.  These are easily frozen and reheated in foil.

*I like more bread than meat with mine, so I tend to skimp a little on the meat filling.  I usually have enough filling left over to make at least another half batch of dough.  

Searching around the Web, it looks like these can be "pirogs," "pirags," or "piragis."  Not a clue which one is most appropriate.  Anyone else know?

I know.  I really need to get a decent camera.  It's just sad how bad these photos are.


Stefanie said...

I must say that I LOVE Slavic food after having lived in Russia for almost a year, so having a written recipe for a Slavic dish is nothing short of amazing because they're usually just stored in someone's head and passed down from generation to generation. They are beautiful, and I'll definitely try them!

As an aside, these are actually Pirozhki (plural form) because they are leavened and baked. Pirogi (plural form) are unleavened and boiled. (Pirog is singular) At least that's the way it was explained to me when I was over there.

Domestic Kate said...

Thanks! There are so many different ways of pronouncing/spelling all over the web, I have no clue!

LiaLindaFromPN said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LiaLindaFromPN said...

I've found that an egg bread recipe makes for a nicer pirag bread -- much more tender & moist (3 TBsp oil, 2 TBsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, 2 or 3 eggs, 1 C milk, 4 or 4-¼ C flour, 1 tsp yeast), but with all the bother involved (the kneading... shrinking circles... pinches that don't stay closed, etc) we tend to only make pirags for Christmas.

Now fried sauerkraut is another Latvian recipe I grew up on, and is something I haven't yet been able to master (I've never been able to get the sugar to dissolve without burning, and just learned that it's because I've been using a teflon coated fry pan -- apparently sugar only dissolves in oil when using a bare metal fry pan, like cast iron).

Watching Mom make it, she drains a jar of sauerkraut and boils it in some salted water with a bit of shredded cabbage. As soon as the cabbage is tender, she drains it and pats it dry as much as possible so it doesn't splatter as much when it's tossed into hot oil that has about 1 TBsp of sugar dissolved in it.

One would expect this golden-brown dish to be sweet & sour like something from a Chinese food restaurant, but it's not at all -- it's only mildly sweet, and has an absence of sourness as a result of pouring away the vinegar & boiling it with the plain cabbage.

Fried sauerkraut may be the last dish to be touched at a pot luck dinner (people say they don't like sauerkraut), but it's always the first dish to completely disappear once word gets around about how delicious it is! :)

Unknown said...

Pierog, my latvian gram used to make them. Now I do.
Another thing you should try is black bread (rye)use day or two old bread, quickly run under cold water and throw it in a hot pan loaded with butter, salt the heck out of it.fry til it's crispy. this may sound gross too, rest easy you'll love it.

Unknown said...

ps, we never cook the bacon. it's already cured and cooks in the roll. keeps it moist inside.