Back in the days before Starbucks, social gatherings often incorporated a chore that might otherwise be overwhelming for one person to tackle on their own. One of my favourite prairie traditions one I wish I had lived in the right time to have participated in is the peroghy bee. Women would gather, often in church basements, to assemble by hand hundreds of peroghies, rolling the dough, filling and crimping each closed, so that every participant could take a stash home to freeze for their own family dinners; other times the fruits of their labor wound up at fundraising dinners, birthday celebrations or wedding receptions. A few weeks ago, a dozen friends and I brought back the tradition and gathered at my house for coffee, scones, and a good old-fashioned peroghy bee. We laughed, we chatted, we caught up, and at the end, we had made over 350 peroghies.
Every culture seems to have their own version of a peroghy dumplings, filled pies, empanadas, samosas, spanikopita and all are fun to make en masse, with friends to help fill, fold, and seal. Of course they freeze well, so are perfect to make in large batches to have on hand for a fast, homemade meal weeks or months down the road.
Everyone brought a filling or two; there were the traditional mashed potatoes with caramelized onions and cheese, but also cottage cheese and chopped fresh dill, Saskatoon berry, potato and smoked Gouda (my fave!), and a friend brought a package of plums she had frozen last summer when they were in the Okanagan and the plums were at their peak. We sliced them into thick wedges, tossed them with sugar and a spoonful of flour, and filled peroghies with them. Each flavor was laid out on a rimmed baking sheet, then transferred to Hefty Slider Bags and labelled for each person to take home and freeze. The great thing about these heavy-duty bags is that you can slide it open, pour out as many as you want to cook (I boil mine straight from frozen), then slide it closed again to go back into the freezer.
I’m lucky enough to have a friend with a Ukranian baba; although I married into a Ukranian family, they don’t do peroghies. So I’ll have to make do with an adopted baba. Of course this formula, which looks rough and lumpy until it comes together into a smooth dough, has most likely made the rounds in many a Ukranian kitchen.
A peroghy can be filled with virtually anything; traditionally it’s mashed potatoes, spiked with caramelized onion and/or grated cheese. Cut a round of dough – rolled about 1/4″ thick – with a 2″-3″ cutter or glass rim; add a spoonful of filling and fold over, pinching to seal. That’s it. Fruit-filled varieties are perfect for dessert; either way, cook them from fresh or frozen, boiling in a large pot of water without crowding for about 5 minutes, or until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a hot pan, with a drizzle of oil and pat of butter. Cook for a minute or two, until golden and crisp on both sides. Serve hot, with sour cream. (And if they’re savory, crumbled bacon and more caramelized onions are always in order.)
Whether you’re Ukranian or not, a peroghy bee is a fantastic way to spend a weekend afternoon catching up with friends; an old way of multitasking, brought back to life!
Cheryl’s Baba’s Pyrohy Dough
from Cheryl’s Baba’s kitchen, and Backseat Gourmet
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 large egg
2 cups very hot water
In a large bowl mix together the flour and salt.
Whisk the oil and egg together in a measuring cup; add to the flour and stir until you have a coarse meal, like biscuit dough before you add the liquid.
Add the water all at once and immediately stir – it will look lumpy and ugly and as if there isn’t enough moisture to go around. Keep at it – I recommend getting in there with your hands – and the dough will come together. Let it sit for 15 minutes, or preferably 30. (We did not always do this, as we kept running out of dough!) Makes lots of peroghies.