I love pierogi. I love to eat them, love to make them, and nearly always have several dozen on hand–just for emergencies.
First, my “credentials.” I started life as a pierogi-eater. They were always a special treat, and we had them every year for Christmas eve. I recall one year when I was young and my brother and I had a pierogi-eating contest. I’m not sure who won, but I believe I ate 14 of them! Well, I was a growing teenager at the time.
Later, when I was on my own, I tried my hand at making them, using my mother’s hand-written recipe, passed down from her mother and her mother’s mother, who brought it from the “old country.” Over the years, I’ve refined the recipe and the technique. I’d say that I’ve made thousand of pierogi over the last 50 or so years since I left home.
Early on, I’d make them and then eat them. Later, I started to gather with friends, and we’d make and eat them together. And they we started making more and more–one year a group of us made well over 400 pierogi. And that brought up the question of storage. At first, we’d boil them all, fry and eat what we could, and then freeze the remainder. But over the years, I started making them myself, just because I like to make them. And then I’d freeze them. At first I always froze them individually, uncooked. Then when a need arose, I’d boil, then fry them.
Eventually I wondered about doing the opposite, making them, boiling them, then freezing them for use later. Each scenario has advantages and disadvantages. Now that you know my “pierogi credentials,” here’s my take on the two various methods and what my experience has taught me
Freeze now, then later boil, fry, and eat
In this scenario, which I tried first, I’d make the pierogi, then carefully line them up on sheet pans (on parchment paper), put them in the freezer, and freeze until solid (at least one day). Once frozen, I place in a single layer in a vacuum sealer bag, then seal, but not so air-tight that I crowd them. The advantage here is that once frozen, they are pretty solid. They freeze well in a single layer and can be stored that way in the freezer. When the need arises, there is no need to thaw, you simply plunk them in boiling, salted water, and cook until they float to the top–and then maybe one or two minutes longer. Drain, then fry in butter and you have these little heavenly pillows ready to serve and eat. The nice thing is, you don’t need to plan ahead, and you can simply take out and boil what you need. It works fine. One note: if you’re going to eat them sooner rather than later, you can skip vacuum sealing. But if you think you might keep them frozen more than a month, vacuum sealing is a must as it will prevent them from getting freezer burn.
Boil now, then cool and freeze for use later when you can thaw, fry, and eat
Lately, I’ve been using another method, and it has some advantages. I make the pieorgi, then boil them until cooked (when they float, give them another minute), then drain and chill in an ice bath. Once good and chilled, coat them with a bit of butter (or oil). Place on a parchment-lined sheet and freeze in a single layer until good and frozen (overnight at least). Once frozen, place in a single layer in a vacuum sealer bag and vacuum seal–but not too tightly, you don’t want to crack the delicate edges. (You could skip the vacuum seal if you plan to use within a month, and just place in a zip-lock bag, but to keep for longer, vacuum sealing is a must to avoid freezer burn).
This method requires a bit of advance planning. When planning to serve them, pull them out of the freezer and let them defrost at room temperature about 3 hours–they’ll still be plenty cold (for food safety) and may still be a bit frozen in the center. If they thaw too fast, just refrigerate. Then, just before serving, fry them gently in butter (I prefer to mix butter and olive oil, 50/50) and they are ready to serve. By the time they are browned, they’ll be heated through (remember, they’re already cooked) and ready to serve. Of course, you’ll need to cook all you’ve thawed, so freezing in smaller batches is advised. Though in my home, leftover pierogi magically disappear quite fast.
There is no “right” way to make pierogi in advance. You have to do what works best for you. In both methods, I recommend you freeze individually. Once frozen, you can place them in freezer bags or vacuum seal them. Which every way you choose, you can ensure you have an emergency stash of pierogi–I always have some on hand, just in cast. Smacznego!