Skip to comments.A pierogi Christmas tradition goes back generations for Kalamazoo-area family
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.
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.
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. :^)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My Polish mom made them, my favorite are the sweet cottage cheese ones. Wew also like the potato/cheese.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.
May God Bless our Babas up in Heaven.
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.
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