‘Pinching our way to heaven’: Turners Falls church celebrated National Pierogi Day with a fundraising feast 

Our Lady of Czestochowa Church Parish Council President Walt Hoszkiewicz said that the church sold over 3000 pierogi at their National Pierogi Day event.

Our Lady of Czestochowa Church Parish Council President Walt Hoszkiewicz said that the church sold over 3000 pierogi at their National Pierogi Day event.

Our Lady of Czestochowa Church Saint Hyacinth Pierogi Makers chose to include both classic and new pierogi flavors for their National Pierogi Day event. One of the novelty flavors that proved very successful: Crab Rangoon Pierogi.

Our Lady of Czestochowa Church Saint Hyacinth Pierogi Makers chose to include both classic and new pierogi flavors for their National Pierogi Day event. One of the novelty flavors that proved very successful: Crab Rangoon Pierogi. PHOTOS COURTESY WALT HOSZKIEWICZ

Etta Wallitis cuts out rounds of dough for the National Pierogi Day event at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church in Turners Falls.

Etta Wallitis cuts out rounds of dough for the National Pierogi Day event at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church in Turners Falls.

By TINKY WEISBLAT

For the Recorder

Published: 10-17-2023 1:06 PM

Our Lady of Czestochowa Church in Turners Falls recently celebrated National Pierogi Day.

The church’s Saint Hyacinth Pierogi Makers put a lot of thought into the celebration, parish council president Walt Hoszkiewicz told me in a recent interview.

The church’s booth at the annual Great Falls Festival in town had been a major money maker (and community builder) over the years. When the festival was canceled, church leaders decided that a pierogi celebration might just fit the bill, Hoszkiewicz explained.

The church was started by Polish immigrants, and many of its parishioners are of Polish descent. Pierogi are a traditional Polish food, dumplings stuffed with tasty savory (and occasionally sweet) fillings.

Church members had long sold their traditional sauerkraut pierogi and potato-and-cheese pierogi not just at the Great Falls festival but at their Christmas fair the first Saturday in December and their Easter fair the Saturday before Palm Sunday.

They wanted to include those flavors on Pierogi Day, said Hoszkiewicz, but they also wanted to stir the menu up a bit.

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“I was thinking that we needed to have something creative and different that people would not normally get,” Hoszkiewicz recalled. “I was thinking of what might attract them.”

He and his fellow pierogi enthusiasts came up with three novel flavors. They wanted a seafood inclusion so they decided on a crab Rangoon dumpling to be served with duck sauce.

For several years during fundraisers, they had sold a mango-habañero cheese spread. The habanero heat was offset by sweetness; the base of the spread was a mango-habañero jam. They adapted the spread into pierogi.

Finally, they decided to adapt golabki, another traditional Polish treat, into pierogi with a filling that included ground meat, onions, cabbage, barley, dill and garlic. These were served with a creamy garlic and dill tomato sauce.

The pierogi makers gathered on Saturday mornings for weeks to prepare and freeze the various pierogi so that only reheating would be needed on the day of the event. At first, making their batches took four hours, but as they honed their assembly-line technique they cut that time in half.

Hoszkiewicz confessed that he wasn’t entirely sure that the event would be a success. To make matters worse, it rained on the day of the sale. Nevertheless, he and his group divided up the day’s tasks and hoped.

“We had three grills going on the outside (for reheating),” he noted. “And we had some cooking on the stove inside as well.”

In the end, his fears were groundless. “It was incredible. It was extremely successful,” he enthused. “We had scheduled it from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. We ran out at 1:30 p.m. We sold over 3,000 pierogi!”

Hoszkiewicz himself boasts that he is 100% Polish. “My father was an immigrant from Poland, and my mother was second generation Polish,” he said.

He grew up eating pierogi and enjoys making the treats with his wife. He also enjoys using them in the church to celebrate Polish heritage. He is even thinking of offering a pierogi-cooking class in the future.

“Our grandmothers made them all the time. Our mothers made them. But as life goes on people are trying to make food faster and faster,” he reflected. “I like bringing back those traditions that we grew up with. It’s important to share them.”

Meanwhile, the pierogi makers at Our Lady of Czestochowa are getting to work to make and freeze more pierogi for the Christmas fair.

“Somebody said, ‘We’re going to be pinching our way to heaven,’” laughed Walt Hoszkiewicz.

Crab Rangoon Pierogi

Ingredients:

for the dough:

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons butter

for the filling:

1 pound Louis Kemp crab delights

1 pound cream cheese, softened

2 eggs, whisked

3 green onions, chopped into small pieces

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons sugar

Instructions:

Begin by making the dough. In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt.

Warm the water and the butter in a saucepan until they are hot but not boiling. Pour this mixture into the flour mixture, and blend until everything is roughly combined.

Using your hands or a stand mixer with a dough hook, knead the dough for 5 minutes.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it rest for 30 minutes.

To make the filling, chop the crab delights into small pieces. Combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl, and mix them thoroughly. Set aside.

When the dough has finished resting, divide it into 4 parts. On a lightly floured surface, roll each part out until it is 1/16 inch thick. Use a cup, a glass, or a pastry cutter to cut out rounds that are about 3-inches in diameter.

Shape the filling into 1-inch balls. Wrap the rounds around the balls of filling in a half-moon shape. Double pinch the open edges to make sure the pierogi are thoroughly sealed.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a gentle boil. Boil the pierogi in small batches (6 to 8 at a time). Stir gently to make sure they do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Once they float to the top of the water, cook them for 2 more minutes.

Carefully remove the pierogi with a slotted spoon. Drain them well, and transfer them to plates. Brush the pierogi with butter, and serve them with duck sauce.

Makes about 30 pierogi.

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning cookbook author and singer known as the Diva of Deliciousness. Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.