Food can be such a big part of our family history, culture and memories. Family recipes are often passed down to children and grandchildren, sometimes after been kept a secret. There may be family stories and traditions attached to these recipes, adding richness to our family narrative.
I come from a pretty German-inspired food tradition in my family. My husband’s traditions are much more Slovakian-influenced. Three of his four grandparents were born in Slovakia! At Christmastime, they always had pierogis on Christmas Eve – those yummy filled dumplings associated with Central and Eastern Europe.
The pierogi filling varies by region and country. My husband’s maternal grandmother filled her pierogis with farmer’s cheese. In the 1980s, my father-in-law took over making them, but he made them with potatoes and cheddar – my husband’s favorite!
About 12 or 13 years ago (we can’t seem to remember which year), my husband took over the tradition of making pierogi for the family after both his father and grandmother had passed away. He makes his father’s recipe, with a cream cheese dough and a potato and cheddar filling. Every December, Hubby spends a day making around 8 dozen pierogi, and then freezes them until we are ready to cook them on Christmas Day.
The first years were tough … the dough was too thin and broke easily, or was too thick to stay closed. Sometimes the pierogis broke open when they were boiled. On Pierogi Making Day in those yearly years, I would take our young boys out for some Christmas shopping, as Hubby’s language got a little salty 😊.
But practice makes perfect, and they are delicious! He’s figured out the mechanics of making the dough, found the perfect sized cup to cut out the circles (we can never get rid of that NY Giants cup!), and the filling is just the right mixture of potato and cheesiness.
Whatever we make on Christmas Day (usually a pork roast) feels like the side to the main dish – pierogis! Hubby boils them, and we have melted butter with onions on the table to put over them (except for my German family who puts gravy on them, and everything else!). If it’s possible, I think the leftovers are even better – we fry them up with the butter and onions, and add a little garlic salt. Yum!
This recipe, and its connection to past generations, is such an important part of our Christmas traditions. The next time you make a family recipe, jot down some memories of the meal, the holiday or the traditions. Or call you mom or grandma and ask about the recipe, then add this to your family history.
What is your favorite traditional holiday recipe?
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