Time to Make the Pierogis.


The Pierogi-making morning started with a fight. Not so much fight as an agitation. It was like I woke up in a military barracks with the General– Mom’s voice, a trumpet on the other end of the phone. After the pleasantries of my arrival (my flight was delayed until 2am and I stayed at my brother’s house) mom got right to the point.

“We wait for you. You wanted to make Pierogi.”

“Yeah, Mom I do. FRIDAY! I told Ciocia FRIDAY. Today is THURSDAY.”

“Well, Ciocia ready NOW.”


“Yesss. Now.”

Call of duty.

That’s how it is around the house. I should have known my Friday appointment wouldn’t hold. In the past, my mother and aunt have laughed themselves into fits when I’ve mentioned the word, ‘appointment.’ “Felicia” my mother gasped for air, mid-belly laugh, “She wanna make an appointment.” Mom bobbled her head back and forth and pursed her lips. Her hand flopped like a Hollywood starlet.

It was the same thing this time around. I’ve learned that appointments feel contrived to Mom and Ciocia. I think they appreciate organic evolvements to the day. Unexpected events have room to play out. Appointments are road blocks to their flow.  A down-right pain in the butt, like the Doctor appointments they hate going to.

I grumbled, but headed over to my parents’ house immediately.

I walked through the door and Ciocia was pounding the marble rolling pin against the dough.


We bickered over Thursday vs. Friday. My sleeping in.

“My flight got in at 2 am.”

“So what.” Ciocia offered, not looking up. The rolling pin slimmed out the thick circle of dough.

This was my welcome home moment: Scrub up. Get to work.








Kapusta (sauerkraut) stuffing







The first…in seconds.



And then there were more….







Can you tell which one was my first?


If Ciocia says it’s time to make the Pierogis, it’s time to make the Pierogis.

So much for setting up a video camera, getting out my notebook and writing out the recipe in careful script. I grabbed a thin notepad from the dry sink and a crappy pencil that looked sharpened by a handsaw. I put on the kettle. Breakfast had to wait. We got into the flow. I fussed with sealing the Pierogis. Ciocia and Mom made three to my one.  The table filled up.

The dough, cheese and potato and sauerkraut fillings were made before I got there.

“Ciocia, how many cups of flour and water for the dough?”

In Polish she answered, I don’t measure for cups. I pour.

I wrote down her words in badly mangled Polish, as if I were jotting down a measurement.  I phonetically spelled some words, and easily wrote others.  I have to work at spelling in Polish despite understanding her perfectly. It’s strange to know different aspects of a language but not have absolute mastery. The non-measurements tripped me up. Mom suggested I use a Pierogi recipe from a cookbook.

“I don’t want the book recipe. I want your recipe. Big difference.”

“First use recipe from book. You get used to it. Then you can make you own recipe.”

Hm. That didn’t sound like such a bad idea.

Mom, how much water in the pot when you drop the Pierogi in?

Tyle żeby tanczyli.” Enough so they dance.

dancing pierogi

dancing pierogi

That was the stuff I waited for, the most important secrets to a recipe. Like knowing the Campbell’s Soup can makes for a better dough cutter then the $3 jaggedy teeth pastry cutter or that you have to keep flour on your fingers at all times or else the dough seams won’t seal up or that it’s good to let the Farmer’s cheese dry out a bit on the counter so it makes for a stickier filling. Despite things not quite happening like I imagined- orderly, on my time schedule, with things layed out in a chronological sequence, so that I could record everything, it happened just as it should. What would family memories be without a little chaos and bickering? Especially when it ends with some good laughs.


simple is better.

We were just about finished when Ciocia said “Ciekawa jestem co na General Hospital.” I wonder what’s on General Hospital.

Hell or high water, they watch their General Hospital.

Mom concerned

Mom concerned

She went on to tell me that the character Robin has been locked up and wondered if someone would find her. Mom shuffled into the living room and went back to the stove.  “Tylko Sonny i Karli.” It’s only Sonny and Karli, she reported.

Ciocia was unmoved. “Maybe Friday, they show.” She’s on to the daytime drama cliffhangers. Nothing juicy, until the end of the week. We scrapped the last of the filling out of the bowl. A near perfect ratio of dough to filling.

I felt accomplished.

I lay down near the Christmas tree, and draped my arm over my eyes, a hardwood floor never felt so good.

“My back’s killin’ me.” I moaned.

I partially lifted my arm off my eyes and felt the laughter seize my ribs. I waited for someone to throw a pillow at me or swat me with a broom.



Wesołych Świąt




21 comments on “Time to Make the Pierogis.

  1. April says:

    I miss Babcia’s cheese & potato pierogis. Tell everyone hi and we miss them.

  2. Sarah says:

    Love this! It was worth the long wait. My favorite is the dancing pieogis.

    • Jannett Matusiak says:

      Yes, I’ve been slacking for too long on posting. I’m glad it was worth the wait. Merry Christmas! I’m so glad I got to see you.

  3. Mark says:

    That is a great story! I admit I have not kept up with them as I would have liked to. This reminds me of what I’ve been missing! MK

    • Jannett Matusiak says:

      Thanks Mark! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I have a feeling if you were here, my mom would put you to work.Probably yell at you a little too. :-) Hope you are enjoying good holidays with the fam.

  4. Denise says:

    This was so much fun to read, Jannett! I kept laughing… It also made me hungry. Those little pierogis look delicious.

    • Jannett Matusiak says:

      Thanks Denise. I’ll attempt some when I come back to Denver. Maybe you can help me with some elbow grease. Merry Christmas to you!

  5. Adam Matusiak says:

    All of mom’s and Felicia’s recipie is a little of this and a little of that. I can never find those ingredients in the market :-)

  6. ilona says:

    The photos are precious! I love how your mother and aunt hate appointments and have a more organic relationship with time and the “flow”. May we all learn to be in that flow!

    • Jannett Matusiak says:

      Yeah, something feels good about flow. I know I make myself crazy with schedules, even if I try to put them on one with me. Interesting things can happen when you let the day just roll. I’ll let that be my mantra today.

  7. Ken Lutes says:

    It was a delight to read this and get a taste of what your family Christmas might be like. Gluten- and lactose-free pierogis anyone? (I’m not sure that’s possible.)

    • Jannett Matusiak says:

      Haha! Funny you mention that. I want my aunt to help me make some like that! My parents seems to understand my lactose intolerance up to a point. When it comes to Pierogis my mom is bewildered…But ‘It’s a Pierogi her eyes seem to say.’

  8. Tom Laferriere says:

    Jannett, I spent ten years trying to follow my grandmother recipe for Nalesniki and could never remember, I used the Polish recipe book, it seems my Grandmother combined a couple of them. Also the only thing she measured was flour, the rest was by taste, touch and smell…so I had a good laugh about that I know the frustration. Also made potato pancakes (Blinis), tried using a spatula one time, didn’t go well, seems two forks well,grandmother method, along the lines of a soup can or a pastry cutter…sometimes it’s the simple things that makes the difference. Merry Christmas.

    • Jannett Matusiak says:

      That’s so awesome Tom that you kept at it. I’m sure it’s the two-fork method that just kind of pulls the whole thing together. That’s why it’s Campbell’s Soup can all the way for me. Who needs the fancy stuff?! Merry Christmas.

  9. kurylo says:

    Tanczące pierogi! Coś podobnego miałam w swojoj kuchni! Z makiem, grzybami, jabłkami. Takie tylko raz do roku! Tak pięknie ulepione i tak smacznie pachnące(nawet na odległości) dzięki rąk cioci Haliny, Feli i twoich, Jannett bardzo mnie to wzruszyło. Jakby byłam razem. Wesołych Świąt!

  10. Anne says:


    -“My flight got in at 2 am.”
    -“So what.”

    BAM, no excuses accepted :) Ahhh, the differences in our generations…I love it and I miss my elders. Thanks for sharing again.


  11. Marek says:

    My mom’s secret ingredient is after adding the farmer’s cheese and onions, to add two slices of American cheese to the hot potatoes before you mash them. She swears by it. They are pretty good. I don’t know what she would think of the arugula and goat cheese pierogi I saw at Veselka in NY. That’s off the chart. No word in Polish for arugula.

    And then there are different degrees of pierogi: the kind you make for Christmas Eve dinner (*****) the kind the nuns make and sell at church (****) the kind you can buy at the butcher shop (***) and then Mrs. T’s (no stars for you, Mrs. T. I know you are not using your full name out of shame). Those are what my mom calls a “morda klejka”- glue in your mouth (literally, muzzle, like a dog’s). They are a sad misrepresentation of this jewel in the crown of Polish cooking.

    • Jannett Matusiak says:

      Thanks Marek. ‘Morda klejka’ cracked me up! Nothing is ever as good as handmade pierogi. Especially Mama’s. I love how your mom has snuck in a little American cheese twist into her recipe. Sometimes cultures do melt together.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.