Making pyrohy was always a thing in our family

Making pyrohy was always a thing in our family.

by Jan Hostyn

My mom would dictate the day and time (always bright and early, since it was inevitably a full-day process), and my three sisters and I would reluctantly but obediently report for duty. Fingers ready (and hands washed), we’d assume our positions around the table. We’d pinch. And we’d pinch. And we’d pinch some more.

I was completely oblivious to it at the time, but my mom wasn’t just taking advantage of cheap labour. She was also passing down a tradition, one that her mother had passed down to her.

This tradition was also something I didn’t appreciate for a very long time.

Given my mother’s penchant for marathon cooking and baking sessions, fun didn’t exactly enter into the equation. Making hundreds and hundreds of anything tends to zap the fun right out of it. Making pyrohy was no different.

Over the years, though, she did manage to mold us into effective and efficient little pyrohy-makers. Although the making was a chore, we were always more than happy to consume copious quantities.

Christmas Eve day was always our most memorable and prolific pyrohy-making session. And the feast that followed was equally memorable: platters piled high with pyrohy (always cottage cheese), juicy rings of baked kielbasa, the mandatory butter and onion and sour cream and homemade beet pickles. Vegetables were not a priority (or even a thought).

After leaving home I had no desire to make pyrohy. At family gatherings that my mom ruled over, I had no choice. But in my own home, in my own kitchen, no way.

Then I had kids.

To be honest, it wasn’t just having kids that did it, although that was a motivating factor. It just so happened that around that time my never-ending supply of homemade pyrohy suddenly (and sadly) dried up. My mother deemed herself officially done.

Meticulously uniform perogies that came in a bag from the local supermarket just didn’t cut it. I wanted homemade pyrohy and the only way I was going to get them was to make them myself.

I have to admit it was a bit of a process.

Although I had pinched what seemed like millions of pyrohy I hadn’t actually made the dough, or rolled it out. Or the filling.

It turns out my mom had passed down the tradition of pinching and eating but not the actually making of those pyrohy.

Fortunately, it wasn’t as difficult as I originally feared. Perhaps just being around the process had helped me absorb more than I’d thought. Maybe it was in my genes. But my guess is, making pyrohy wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had convinced myself it would be.

Modifications to my mom’s method were definitely in order. More than a few modifications.

The dough recipe, for one, was in desperate need of an update. My mom’s dough was insanely finicky and impossible — quite possibly the reason I had never actually attempted it. I stumbled upon the easiest, most user- friendly sour cream dough ever — a dough that even ten-year-old me could have made and rolled out.

The filling also needed some work. My mother only made a cottage cheese filling, which in truth was dry and bland (that’s why copious amounts of butter, onion and sour cream sauce were in order). Now cottage cheese never gets stuffed inside mine. Instead I use a mixture of potatoes, aged cheddar and sautéed onions (although ricotta, spinach and feta also make appearances).

Actual technology has also crept into my technique. I use a round cookie cutter to cut uniform, easy-to-work-with circles out of the dough. My mom? Never. She was happy to take a knife and slash an array of haphazard squares, rectangles and triangles in every size. Pinching them was a nightmare.

Frantic, all-day sessions were also not something I cared to relive. Sorry Mom. Mine get made ahead of time, on a relaxed schedule and in very manageable quantities. en I pop them into
the freezer. Come Christmas Eve (or whatever the occasion), I just pull them out, plop into a pot of boiling water and, voilà, dinner.

And veggies actually make an appearance at the dinner table now.

The biggest modification to the whole process? Making pyrohy is something I actually look forward to. My two daughters and I can spend hours filling and pinching and chatting.

Looking back, I’ve come to realize that even though pyrohy-making was never my activity of choice, it did have its moments. It managed to get us all together in the same room where we laughed, cried, gossiped, teased, hugged and pinched and created a lot of memories.

There will come a day when I will be officially done and I have no doubt that both my daughters will continue the tradition. Making their own modifications to everything I do wrong, of course.

Jan’s Pyrohy Dough

500 ml sour cream
2 eggs
1 t salt
3½-4 c flour (I usually use 4)

Beat eggs and cream together (with a fork is fine). Add flour and salt. Let sit for an hour at room temperature and then roll out to about ⅛-inch thickness. If sticky, add more flour.

Makes enough dough for 3 dozen pyrohy.

Jan Hostyn has pinched so many pyrohy she could have opened her own pyrohy factory by now.