If you haven’t the foggiest about pierogi, the 5-day Pierogi Festival is your event. It involves ‘eating’ yummy stuff in Kraków. There is a theme of the yin and yang as the newfangled and the sacrosanct compete for a prize. But at best, it is about a little pillow of unleavened dough around a savory or sweet filling.
The shape is important; half-moon with an iconic crimped edge. The crimping style will vary from chef to chef. There are also mechanical crimpers but who needs them as long as there is water, flour, and finger-tips.
There are a few variations for preparing the dough. Each variable and proportion will produce a different consistency; some light, some heavy, some chewy, some more like a ravioli dough. An excellent final product depends on the fusion of a feathery springy dough and a well prepared delicious filling. Suffice to say that you can’t just wrap up some mashed potatoes in a ravioli dough and expect to have an awarding-winning pierogi. It takes an insightful hand to perfect the combination of the two elements and make an excellent pierogi that would make babcia proud.
At the Pierogi Fest, a grand prize is awarded to the best pierogi so both ingenuity and skill are required.
Traditional fillings include potato, sauerkraut, ground meat, cottage cheese, mushrooms, and berries. However, in recent years a spinach filling has made its way to the traditional list. Pierogis may be served with a topping of melted butter, sour cream or fried onion.
Some of the ‘avant-garde’ combos include mashed broad bean and bacon, kasha (buckwheat groats) and pork cracklins, ground duck, geese or lamb, mexican fillings, asian fillings, pumpkin, and lentils. The sweet dessert pierogi fillings that might knock your socks off are coconut, apricot, chocolate, banana, and apple. I always cringe a little when I see brown pierogi and have to readjust my brain to remember that it is chocolate and so it must be good? This year I tried the coconut which is way out of the Polish traditional sphere. They were very good.
Personally, the traditional fillings rule. A potato, onion and cheese filling is called ‘Ruskie’. One competitor labeled the potato pierogi in his stand as “Smak Putina” (A taste of Putin).
Especially popular in the traditional category is the sauerkraut and mushrooms combo. And my personal favorites are the blueberry filled pierogi which take me back to my mother’s kitchen in summer. Mom topped her blueberry pierogi with a whipped combo of sour cream, sugar and a squeeze of lemon. Yummy.
Basic rule for attending the Festival: wander from booth to booth, buy what interests you and eat. And don’t forget to vote for the best. Sample one, or two – no, no, no – definitely more than two. You can buy them by the unit for as little as one złoty a piece. You can have four pierogis for just a little over a dollar. And there are outdoor picnic tables, music, beer and soft drinks.
If you are coming to Kraków in summer, in August, come over and learn a little about Polish gastronomy by investigating the pierogi. But check the calendar for 2019 as this fest only lasts 5 days. I better get back as the festival closes in a few hours and I still have not tasted those chocolate pierogi.
“Why Poland?” is a blog written and produced by Grace Nagiecka with photos by Gregory Spring. Kraków, Poland 2018.
We invite you to visit our other blog pages, “Wanderlusting Dreams” at https://www.wanderlustingdreams.com
and “Greg Spring Photography” at https://gregoryspring.com
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