Cooking Wild Recipe: Venison Perogies

Here’s an Old World recipe that turns ground game into a trophy meal: Venison Perogies!

It’s impossible to pinpoint the origin of perogies as many European countries, especially those in Eastern and Central regions such as Poland, Ukraine, Romania and Slovakia, lay claim to the fame of inventing one form or another of these tasty creations that are, without doubt, the most multicultural dumplings in the world.

Even though there’s endless dispute over which country deserves credit for concocting the crafty idea of perogy making, most connoisseurs will agree on one thing — no matter which cultural influence the dumplings are reflecting, whether they’re flaunting potato filling common in Ukraine or fresh cheese curds or sauerkraut that give them Polish flair, they’re delicious!

What I like most about perogies (the common North American spelling but also spelled pierogi, pyrogy, pyrohy, pirohi and other variants that reflect the dumplings ethnic-rich background) is that they’re fun and easy to make, inexpensive and so versatile you can give all your big game trophies a shot at coming to the table dressed in perogy fashion.

Making savoury meat-filled perogies is a mouthwatering way to use up a stash of venison (any member of the deer family works great, as does ground bear) that’s lingering in the bottom of the freezer and about to expire its prime shelf life. If you have ground game on hand, you’re ready to roll but if not, it’s as easy as thawing out a roast or two and getting out the grinder.

Perogies can be made in double or triple batches and the surplus frozen for safekeeping. To freeze, place freshly-formed perogies on baking sheets lined with waxed paper and freeze until firm. Then transfer to zip-lock plastic bags.

Frozen perogies are super handy for busy days when you don’t have a lot of time to cook but still want to put a hot and hearty supper on the table. They also travel well in the camp cooler and really hit the spot after working up a big appetite on the trail.

This old recipe below was handed-down to me by a Ukrainian friend who used ground pork in his version. I discovered that ground venison works great, producing a meat-stuffed perogy as good as any! Try them and see for yourself.

There are two ways to cook perogies. One is to bring a large kettle of lightly salted water to a boil, drop in the perogies — being sure not to crowd the pan, and boil until they rise to the top at which time they’re done. Drain and transfer to a heated bowl. Bacon bits, fried onions or sauerkraut sautéed until it’s golden make mouthwatering toppers for boiled perogies.

The other way, which my gang loves, especially for eating out of hand, is to heat a frying depth of oil in a large skillet and fry the perogies until they are crispy and golden on both sides. Drain on absorbent paper and serve with sour cream for dipping.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 2 peeled chopped potatoes boiled in barely enough water to cover
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 6 to 7 cups flour (you can use all purpose white flour or whole wheat flour or half and half)
  • Pinch salt

Puree potatoes along with their cooking water and measure. You’ll need 2½ cups so add a little water if short, cool to lukewarm. Put into bowl and whisk in eggs and oil. Measure flour into a large bowl, make a well and pour in potato mixture. Stir until dough can be formed into workable dough, adding more water if too stiff or more flour if too soft. Knead on floured surface about three minutes or until smooth. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rest while preparing filling.

Filling

  • 1 pound ground venison
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 large minced onion
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • Pinch dried chilies
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in skillet. If your ground venison is lean (no suet added) use 3 tablespoons oil. If it has been ground with domestic fat, 1 tablespoon of oil will do. Sauté onion and garlic until soft. Add meat and cook until no pink is showing, stirring frequently. When meat is done, season and let cool.

Assembling

Roll dough on floured surface to about 1/8 of an inch in thickness. Cut into circles using large cookie cutter or tumbler. Place a spoonful of meat mixture in center of circle, fold dough over in half and pinch the seam to seal in filling. If needed, dip your fingers in water to wet the edge of the circle to help seal the seam. Continue, re-gathering the dough until it is all used.

Tip: if you run out of meat filling before you run out of dough, put a dollop of jam in the circle and seal. Cook separately and serve as dessert. Delicious!

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