Brought to the region by eastern European immigrants, pierogies have become a staple dish in Pittsburgh and throughout Western Pennsylvania.
Pierogies, which are dumplings folded into a semicircle and usually stuffed with potato or cheese, are often associated with Polish culinary tradition but have also been consumed for hundreds of years in other European nations such as Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine.
Since the delectable dumplings have historic roots in several countries, "pierogi" can be spelled and pronounced differently depending on location. While the word "pierogi" is technically the plural variant of the food and "pierog" is singular, the Americanized term "pierogies" is generally accepted by all who consume and cook the food.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Pittsburgh experienced a population boom during the "Great Migration" of immigrants arriving through Ellis Island in New York City. The eastern European immigrants who settled in Pittsburgh neighborhoods such as Polish Hill, East Allegheny, Bloomfield and Lawrenceville brought their culture and culinary traditions with them. Before long, these immigrants passed along their pierogi recipes to neighbors and non-Polish friends throughout Western Pennsylvania, and a regional tradition was born.
The inexpensive and practical packaging of the pierogi made it a common option in the lunch boxes of Pittsburgh mill workers during the industrial age.
Today, pierogies are served seemingly everywhere in the region, from the kitchens of eastern European descendants to upscale restaurants in the Golden Triangle.
Local eateries such as Braddock's American Brasserie, the James Street Gastropub and the S&D Polish Deli keep the pierogi tradition alive with their own recipes.
Modern pierogi menu options can vary from the traditional (potatoes, sauerkraut or meat) to the modern (jalapeno, bacon or braised short ribs). Sweet dessert pierogi come stuffed with fruit fillings including cherry, strawberry and apple.
Pierogies are such a Pittsburgh icon that the Pirates even entertain fans with the popular "Pierogi Mascot Race" between the fifth and sixth innings at PNC Park.
Saturday, visitors to Hometown -- Homegrown, a fun and flavorful food expo presented by GoodTaste! Pittsburgh and the Heinz History Center, can sample food from nearly 30 local vendors and vote for "Pittsburgh's Perfect Pierogi." The event will also include cooking demonstrations with WQED's Rick Sebak and Chris Fennimore, live entertainment and more. Information: www.heinzhistorycenter.org.