This recipe comes to me from childhood. My family lived in St. Petersburg which used to be called “Leningrad” at the time and every summer I used to visit my grandma’s in the village far out of town. She had a log house with a nice garden and lots of fruit trees. One among them was a cherry tree bearing a lot of small sour cherries. What’s interesting about my grandma’s house is that the kitchen was completely separate in the small log cabin in the middle of the fruit garden. I vividly remember my grandma making berry and apricot jams, pressing apple juice and molding her cherry “vareniky” (pronounced as “va-re-ne-key”, i.e. dumplings). She has never been taking cherrystones out so dumplings were usually large and plump. I remember myself sitting on the kitchen windowsill and watching my grandma’s fast hands working the dough. I loved to spit those cherrystones out and never had a chance for it when my mom used to make vareniky with cottage cheese because cherries were not always easy to get in the city.
Many years have passed, my kids have grown up and an idea of cooking vareniky for them came into my mind. Luckily, cherry is not a problem, we have plenty of cherry trees on the nearby farm and it’s been the second year in a row when I go there for “pick your own”. Last year I have made a nice cherry jam, but this time I really wanted to share a piece of my childhood memories with my family. Vareniky came out really delicious, maybe of a bit different shape than my grandma’s but definitely of the same taste. To check details of the recipe I have called my mom who lives in St. Petersburg.
Vareniky is a Slavic dish, most popular in Ukrainian cuisine. They are essentially dumplings of various shapes made of wheat dough which could be lean, yeast or sour milk based. Stuffing varies widely – from minced meats, veggies, and mushrooms to fruits, berries or cottage cheese. The dough is thinly layered and then cut into round, triangular or square pieces. Stuffing is placed on each of these pieces and wrapped into them while edges of the dough slice are pinched together and the whole dumpling is molded into shape. Typical examples of popular vareniky staffing are braised cabbage, mashed potatoes, cottage cheese or fresh berries such as cherries, blueberries or strawberries. Vareniky are usually cooked till they float up in boiling water or, alternatively, they can be also steam cooked. Meat vareniky could also be lightly fried in oil after boiling.
Vareniky are served hot with sour cream and/or butter. Sometimes if served with sour cream some sugar or jam may be used to top it, however, berry vareniky are never served with jam since fresh berries are already inside.
Sour Cherry Vareniky
Makes: about 30 vareniky
- 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more flour for rolling and sealing
- 3/4 cup cold water
- 1 egg
- pinch of salt
- about 3 cups sour cherry, pitted
- sugar, you need 1/2 tsp for one varenik
- sour cream and melted butter for serving
Sift the flour into a large bowl and make a depression in the middle. Crack the egg into the center of the flour, and pour the water. Sprinkle with salt and knead until the dough is very smooth about three minutes. Add more flour if necessary. The dough should not feel sticky. Place the dough into the bowl and cover with a damp cloth or with a plastic wrap. Leave the dough to rest at room temperature for about 40 minutes.
Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Knead and roll the dough into a long sausage about 1 inch in diameter. Cut the sausage into 30 small pieces and flatten each piece with the palm of your hand. Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece into a thin pancake about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
Place about 6-7 sour cherries in the center of each pancake, top the cherries with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and fold into a half-moon pouch. Pinch the edges firmly so that the vareniki are tightly sealed. Then fold the two corners together. Place them on a floured cutting board until ready to cook.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season water with one teaspoon of salt. Place vareniky in boiling water. After they float to the top, cook about 3 minutes more, then remove them with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Pour the melted butter on the vareniki to keep them from sticking together. Serve vareniky right away with sour cream or plain.