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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Bill Pekarski: Day 114, Living life on my terms.

Day 114, Living life on my terms.

Bill Pekarski
I have to make a quick apology. While my long term memory appears to be limitless, my short term memory needs a bit of work. When I spoke with Wayne Wenner the other day I was actually not out of bed yet; the result was somehow I screwed up the last name of the woman he wanted me to honor. Her name is actually Jean Hawkins, not Lambert. I am extremely sorry for the confusion and I would be remiss if I didn’t try to correct my error. Merry Christmas Mrs. Hawkins on your 99th year! I wish you peace, happiness, and good health for the coming year.

So I finally got around to starting my potato and cheese mixture to make my own pierogis last night. I don’t follow a specific recipe to make them as my mother never wrote one down. I remember her always saying, if you like the way it tastes and it has enough cheese, they will be fine.

She had made them so many times that she never wrote down any basic instructions. The only way I learned was by helping her to make them. I had seen it done enough that by the time her hands could no longer roll out the dough, much less pinch-seal the pouches, I was ready to take over.

Now the filling is actually pretty easy, it is the dough where I used to always have questions. While my mother was alive, I could always call her for some last minute instructions; a process about which my wife delighted in laughing at me. “You had to call your mommy again, didn’t you?” she would quip. I always replied that as long as she was around, I would always confer with her. She was the Master, and I would have been stupid not to do so.

After probably the 15th time or so when I called my mother for the basic dough recipe, Beth handed me a notebook and instructed me to write it down. Why, because for some reason I could never remember the proportions for the five ingredients needed.

What Beth didn’t realize is that they were not exact instructions. Literally, my mother would say you need 3 or 4 cups of flour and you can leave them heaped, don’t worry about leveling them off. Next you need to add some salt, somewhere between a half and a full teaspoon should do. As far as liquid goes, you need to add around a cup and a half total of milk and water. If you use more milk, cut back on the water so you have just the one and a half cups. Lastly, don’t forget to add one egg before you mix it all together.

That should help you understand why I always needed to call, nothing was ever exact. The next question was how do you know when the dough is ready. She told me it should be well mixed, but not overworked. It should also be soft and pliable with a slightly sticky consistency. If you do it right, you should be able to re-roll the scraps twice to try and minimize the waste.

Anyways, I wrote down the basic ingredients in my notebook, which by the way I still refer to every time I make the dough. What else can I say, thank God my wife thinks of this stuff.

I do have one other sentimental connection with the past that I recall every time I make pierogis. The rolling pin I use was my mother’s and it was made for her by her father, Major Grandin. He tooled it many years ago on a lathe from one big solid piece of wood. She had to give it to either me or my brother Joe as the thing is huge and heavy when compared to the manufactured ones you might buy in a store.

I would love to know how many batches of dough have been flattened and spread out by that rolling pin over the years. It is by far the most seasoned piece of cooking equipment that I own and I cherish having it.

Now if you are looking for a good laugh this afternoon, stop on by 37 Williams Way and get a look at me in my kitchen rolling out these tasty little morsels. Walk carefully as the flour on the floor can be a little slippery. The windows in the kitchen and hallway will be completely fogged over from the hours of boiling water on the stove top. My dark black, or possibly blue, shorts will have several sets of white handprints where I knocked off some excess flour a time or two (or ten). For some reason, I always seem to wear dark shorts when I make stuff like this, another thing that my wife finds exceptionally humorous.

You can be certain that I will have a pot of hot coffee ready to go and if you come at the right time, I might even fry up a couple of samples we can share.

If anyone is feeling daring and wants to try and make some for their self, here is how I essentially make my filling. Boil potatoes until they are fork tender (make sure to season the water with some salt). When they are done, completely blend the potatoes with one pound of sharp or extra sharp cheese (shredded) and two sticks of real butter for every five pounds of potatoes used. If you boil 10 pounds of potatoes, you will need a full pound of butter and 2 full pounds of shredded cheese. You will need to let the mixture completely cool before trying to roll the pierogis. I usually let it sit in the refrigerator overnight which also gives the cheese a chance to work.

Today I am dedicating my progress to my mother and Pekarski family tradition. Believe me when I say, nothing in the world tastes better on Christmas morning than a few fresh, homemade pierogis. It is hard to believe that they were considered peasant food many years ago; to me they are a delicacy.


Anonymous said...

I truly have enjoyed everything you have written Bill...but today's writing was so special...Thank you for sharing "The Pekarski Pierogis Story."

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!
Marti Bova'

Anonymous said...

Okay so I think us Polish people either need to get together for a pierogis making party or a pierogis eating party.

Anonymous said...

That's what we need a "Pierogies Party"