Originally written on October 8, 2021. Updated 2022
Anyone who has ever visited Poland, had a Polish friend or even known someone whose relatives were Polish has heard of pierogi.
Pierogi are one of the most popular Polish dishes, and virtually everyone worldwide treats the word as a synonym of Polish cuisine.
And that’s true.
If they were traditionally considered a peasant food, they eventually gained popularity and spread throughout all social classes—including nobles in Europe.
And we can easily see why, as traditional pierogi are delicious. They’re made of unleavened dough, boiled, and then baked and fried with tons butter. Then, they’re stuffed with a variety of fillings, from simple potato and cheese-stuffed pierogi, to pierogi stuffed with wild mushrooms or salmon, to sweet and tangy plum pierogi. And if that isn’t decadent enough, they are often served with melted butter, sour cream, fried bacon crumbles, sautéed mushrooms and onions and/or green onion.
Historically, Pierogi have been around since the days of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a dualistic European state that existed from the 16th to the 18th centuries.
In those times, an enormous amount of work needed to be done physically in fields, forests, and not only, and there were no machines to do it like there are today. For this reason, high-calorie foods such as carbohydrate-rich pierogi were very popular.
Relatively cheap and easy to make, they quickly became one of the most popular dishes of the area.
One legend states that in 1238, Hyacinth of Poland visited Kościelec, when a storm destroyed all crops. Hyacinth told everyone to pray and by the next day, crops rose back up. As a sign of gratitude, people made pierogi from those crops for the Saint.
Another legend states that Saint Hyacinth fed the people with pierogi during a famine caused by an invasion by the Tatars in 1241, while another story theorizes that in the 13th century, pierogi were brought by the same Hyacinth from the Far East (Asia) via what was then the Kievan Rus’.
Others believe pierogi came from China via Marco Polo’s expeditions through the Silk Road but, in any case, Polish pierogi started appearing in cookbooks in the 17th century.
They describe how during that era, the pierogi were considered a staple of the Polish diet, and each holiday had its own special kind of pierogi created. Important events like weddings had their own special type of pierogi kurniki, or baked pie filled with chicken. Also, they were made especially for mournings or wakes, and some even for caroling season in January. They were stuffed with potatoes, cheese, cabbage, mushrooms, buckwheat or millet.
Pierogi are an important part of Polish culture and cuisine today, and they are considered to be the national dish, but recently Eastern Europeans popularized pierogi also in Canada and United States.
But did you know that at the 2007 Pierogi Festival in Kraków, Poland, 30,000 pierogi were consumed daily?
Moreover, Pierogi have also their national day, on October 8!
And, the best possible way to celebrate this day is to try some real Polish pierogi, of course!
Images from web – Google Research