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A pierogi Christmas tradition goes back generations for Kalamazoo-area family
M-Live ^ | December 24, 2012 | Nicholas Grenke

Posted on 12/25/2012 12:36:23 AM PST by nickcarraway

Each Christmas season, the Laskovy family gathers to carry on a tradition started a century ago in Eastern Europe.

Up to four generations of the Laskovys come together on or around Christmas Eve to make pierogies -- hundreds of them at a time.

"Everything is made from scratch," said Julie Mead, whose grandmother Yulianna Laskovy first started making the dish in the Ukraine before she moved to America in 1910. Yulianna later married her husband, Julius, and settled on a farm in Decatur.

"It's one of the things that makes Christmas special," Mead said. "In that way, it's like a lot of traditions."

For more than 50 years, four sisters -- Eleanor Laskovy Mead, 79; Anne Laskovy Petersen, 91; Stella Laskovy Pollack 92; and Dorothy Laskovy Smith, 97 -- have been getting together to pinch dough for the Christmas Eve treat.

"They're still right there, hilarious, feisty and fun," said Julie Mead, Eleanor's daughter, as the family gathered in Allegan on Sunday to prepare their holiday specialty.

Honoring their mother

By continuing the family tradition, the sisters honor their mother, who worked hard to raise eight children. Yulianna's husband died six months after her last child was born and she worked hard milking cows, taking factory jobs and working in the fields to provide for her family, Eleanor said.

"My mother was the greatest thing on Earth to me," she said. "She was always smiling, no matter how hard it was."

Yulianna rarely went to the grocery store, and then it was to buy staples like sugar, Eleanor said. Most of what they ate on the farm, they cultivated and canned themselves.

It was difficult being an Eastern European immigrant in the first half of the 20th century, Eleanor said. Her mother couldn't speak English well when she first moved to the United States, and while growing up in a mostly Dutch area, others looked down upon them because they were different.

However, that didn't deter her mother from embracing her new home.

"She loved this country," Eleanor said. "In many ways, Ellis Island, where she first came to America, was like heaven to her."

Not easy cooking

A pierogi is a dumpling of unleavened dough stuffed with various ingredients. It is not the easiest food to make, said Julie Mead, who learned the time-consuming art of forming and pinching the dough from her mother and aunts. They are the ones, she admits, who still make the dish better than anyone else.

"My sister Dorothy said that what is most important, is that the filling be quite flavorful," Eleanor Mead said.

Potatoes and sauerkraut are used in the filling in the traditional Laskovy family recipe. Flour, a touch of salt and lots of butter are also imperative to make great-tasting pierogies.

"It's probably not the best for cholesterol levels," Eleanor admits.

Despite technology such as blenders, the Laskovys use the tried-and-true methods that haven't changed much over nearly six decades.

After all of the prep work is done, the actual cooking with boiling of the pierogies doesn't take too long, and you know when it's finished because the dough rises, Eleanor said.

Family moving forward

Eleanor said she looks forward to continuing the tradition for years to come. Her son, Robert Mead, who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif., had already cooked a batch of pierogies for his family last week and emailed pictures of him cooking them to his mother in Michigan.

"They look good. He makes them larger than I do," she said.

Her daughter, Julie, said making pierogies has been an integral family ritual. "When growing up, everyone made it together," she said. "There was a lot of storytelling, and food was a big part of the culture."

Although not all members of the family help out making the dish, Eleanor said she thinks her family has done a good job preserving their heritage and that more of the grandchildren will be interested in taking part as they get older.

"I think at a certain age, learning about your roots comes to you," she said.

TOPICS: Food; Local News; Miscellaneous

1 posted on 12/25/2012 12:36:30 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

Years back had a Polish coworker (with the accent too) she cooked up a bunch of them for us at the Christmas holiday. Your post here helped me understand how its an intergral part of their holiday tradition. So thanks for the info.

2 posted on 12/25/2012 1:41:45 AM PST by tflabo (Truth or Tyranny)
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To: tflabo
This Christmas, I had a taste for good old-fashioned Polish food, like we use to partake of at Polish weddings and after funeral dinners in Chicago. Got some fresh polish sausage, sauerkraut, potato/cheese pierogis, sauerkraut and some good Polish rye bread....REAL bread with no preservatives, super tasty. Ordered the sausage from the famous Bobak’s Meat Suppliers, on Archer Avenue in Chicago....they are the best! Got the rest of the goodies from the local Polish Deli that carries the home-made pierogis and the Polish rye bread. Such good eating, and a flood of memories of when we were young and our families were intact, when life was simpler and, dear God, how I wish to time travel back again once more before I die. PS everyone, be sure to lightly brown the pierogis in butter and onions before serving.
3 posted on 12/25/2012 2:23:12 AM PST by itssme
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To: itssme
everyone, be sure to lightly brown the pierogis in butter and onions before serving.

Very lightly. I don't like them sauteed hard, which is easy to do.

Told my Polish wife on many occasions the crowning touch for pierogies would be a meat marinara sauce. :^)

4 posted on 12/25/2012 2:51:44 AM PST by Vinnie (A)
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To: nickcarraway

My young, totally non-Polish son acquired a taste for pierogies when we visited a Polish festival and says that they are one of his favorite foods.

5 posted on 12/25/2012 4:05:37 AM PST by wideminded
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To: nickcarraway

I was raised in a Slovak family and pierogies were a staple of the diet. My mom would spend hours and hours making them and my brothers and sister would absolutely demolish all of them in one sitting.

I remember four types: Lecvar, sauerkraut, cheese/potato and cottage cheese, dripping in butter with chopped sauteed onions. Um um good.

6 posted on 12/25/2012 4:17:36 AM PST by GeorgiaDawg32
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To: itssme

Stood in line at our Polish butcher (Schrodek) for 45 minutes here in Detroit area, both fresh and smoked.

Did not get the pierogi though, which we usually do.

Going to have to make golummki this week.

7 posted on 12/25/2012 5:02:01 AM PST by School of Rational Thought (Fun for women ages 21 through 35)
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To: melancholy

This thread brought a tear to my eye. In my mind I can still see my grandmothers making these . I’ve made them a few times throughout the years and have reduced myself to buying them from Schwann’s! Not bad but just not the same. God bless you, Baba and Merry Christmas.

8 posted on 12/25/2012 5:14:12 AM PST by azishot (When your life is on the line, lead is worth more than gold.)
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To: azishot

My grandmother used to make hundreds of these for Christmas Eve. Everyone in the family liked a different filling...even prune. She worked in a kitchen with a coal stove to boot. To this day, pierogi is probably my favorite food on the planet but no one in the family makes them, too much work.

9 posted on 12/25/2012 6:44:54 AM PST by surrey
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To: nickcarraway

My Polish mom made them, my favorite are the sweet cottage cheese ones. Wew also like the potato/cheese.

10 posted on 12/25/2012 7:09:44 AM PST by MomwithHope (Buy and read Ameritopia by Mark Levin!)
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To: azishot

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

May God Bless our Babas up in Heaven.

11 posted on 12/25/2012 9:38:00 AM PST by melancholy (Professor Alinsky, Enslavement Specialist, Ph.D. in L0w and H0lder)
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To: GeorgiaDawg32

My Mother, who was Slovak, would also make us a dish here or there that was Slovak, but I never learned the Slovak names. One Slovak dish was a ground beef and onions concoction and I wish I could remember the name...we also had a strong Polish influence in the foods my Mother served, and the two food influences were simply delicious and so memorable.

12 posted on 12/25/2012 11:25:28 PM PST by itssme
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To: Vinnie
I agree with you that the pierogis should be lightly sauteed with a little butter and slightly caramelized onions...fully coated with both and I even break the pierogi in half and make sure there is a little taste of butter and onion flavoring on the potato/cheese filling of the pierogi. Yummy!
13 posted on 12/25/2012 11:31:00 PM PST by itssme
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To: MomwithHope
Love the sweet cheese pierogis, too, especially the potato/cheese and the sauerkraut also.
14 posted on 12/25/2012 11:33:11 PM PST by itssme
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To: surrey
My Slovak grandmother emigrated to the USA/PA/and finally Chicago in the late 1890s, and I can still hear my Mother's stories of how my grandmother and three of her daughters would make wonderful Slovak and Polish foods on a old wood burning stove in the grandmother's first husband was Polish and so we had a taste of both foods. my Mother didn't make perogis, but her sister left me a detailed recipe for making them many years ago. A lot of work for one person, but maybe one day I will make them from my Aunt's recipe, in her memory and that of my Grandmother.
15 posted on 12/25/2012 11:42:40 PM PST by itssme
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