Dumplings: specialties from the Małopolska Region

A plate of dumplings and a string of red beads next to it.
They are rolled up with tenderness. Pieces of thin, elastic dough are folded in half and stuck together, with ruffled edges. What could be more intimate in the kitchen than dumplings made individually by hand, lovingly and knowing they will bring satisfaction and enjoyment to others? Feeding and giving are, after all, motives that brought pierogi into existence in the first place. All one need do, really, is recall the story of the pierogi from Kościelec near Kraków, where the Dominican Saint Jacek arrived one day. It was no ordinary day, for a terrible thunderstorm had unleased a ferocious rain of huge hailstones that completely destroyed the grain in the fields. Panic spread like wildfire among the inhabitants, paralysing the people with the spectre of forever dreaded famine. Saint Jacek asked the people to pray, and so they did. And miraculously the stalks of wheat, rye and oats rose and were alive, and the harvest was saved. According to legend, the locals made flour from this grain and then dumplings from it, which they then served to Saint Jacek at a banquet in his honour.


Now we can behold these dumplings, the flour from the surrounding fields, and the cheese made from milk given to use by local cows. Ground ivy, a plant that grows in the gardens and has a sharp, tangy flavour, is added to the latter. Thus, the dry version, included on the list of traditional products, is produced alongside the sweeter one, called marbled dumplings, which include cheese and plum jam. As one resident of the village of Kościelec near Proszowice said: ‘The combination of cheese and plum jam is fascinating in terms of taste; on the one hand, the sour taste of the cheese is combined with the sweet taste of the jam. And then you pour hot butter, maybe cream, over it. There's a power in that.’ But these aren't the only dumplings to have made it onto this unique, recognised and acclaimed Małopolska product. You will also find pierogi with Piękny Jaś beans among them. Janina Molek from the Nowy Sącz Region makes them. They can come in two variants: salty (the beans are then seasoned with garlic and fried onion) and sweet (in the basic version, the beans are combined with butter and sugar, but cocoa, dried plums, nuts, and vanilla can also be added).

Dumplings made in Małopolska

Do you want to go further and learn about Małopolska's dumplings? Well… you can eat dumplings that are traditional and slightly crazy, those that are the familiar old-fashioned standards, or those that are a super-interesting mix of unusual tastes and textures. Dumplings can be whatever you fancy, and add whatever is playing in your soul. If you need sweetness, you can pack them with a filling of blueberries, strawberries, cherries or raspberries and top it off with sweet cream, some vanilla and cane sugar, and you can feel heaven in your mouth. Whereas if you like white cheese, don't hesitate to use it to make the sweetest of sweet fillings, to which you can add honey, and thick cream, and topping it with butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Finger-licking good!

If you prefer it dry but imaginative, you have plenty of options. In the Małopolska Region, for example, dumplings are served with sharp yellow cheese, so mixing chopped parsley into it is a good idea. But that's not all either, as a great culinary tradition in Małopolska is to serve dumplings with buckwheat groats. They are combined with cottage cheese, butter, eggs and, of course, onions. This is a very interesting Małopolska flavour. And if you aren’t afraid to experiment, you can also make dumplings with oscypek or bundz stuffing. Some people like dumplings with bryndza, spinach, groats, mushrooms or lentils. There are as many possibilities as you can think of. In the Sądecki Beskid, mainly in the vicinity of Rytro and Piwniczna, for example, Łomnica dumplings, made from grated potatoes with a cheese filling, are king. Once cooked, they are coated with pork fat, and gourmands devour them like mad.

The prestigious list of traditional products from Małopolska includes:

  •  Łomnica pierogi

Their appearance is reminiscent of a plump hen's egg measuring 5–6 cm in size, are oval in shape, round in cross-section, light grey on the outside with a soft grey ring and white inside, and the smell of the dumplings combines the fragrance of boiled potatoes and cottage cheese.
These are Łomnica dumplings, the recipe for which has been handed down from generation to generation for at least a century. This potato and cheese products have accompanied the people of Łomnica from birth to death. They delight in its taste at christenings, wedding feasts, festive and commemorative feasts (e.g., when entering a new house) and funeral feasts. Festivals during the potato harvest are not without it. They are cooked for Christmas and Easter. A Christmas without this delicacy is no Christmas at all. The oldest inhabitants of Łomnica wrote and still write poems and tell legends about pierogi. The making of Łomnica dumplings was taught by schoolteachers in technical classes for decades, and women at their village meetings would discuss and challenge each other about which of them knew how to make them better. Although the recipe for 'Łomnica dumplings' may seem trivial, every housewife makes them the way she knows, using experience passed down from kitchen to kitchen, from generation to generation.

  •  Zolipie dumplings

Zalipie is a village located in the Dąbrowa District. Colloquially, the Dąbrowa District and the surrounding area are called Powiśle Dąbrowskie. Zalipie has a long history and is known worldwide primarily for its painted cottages. The custom dates back to the end of the 19th century when the villagers began decorating the interiors of their cottages with flowers made from tissue paper, cut-outs, spiders made from straw hanging from the ceiling, and flowers painted on the inside and outside walls. Paintings were also on the external walls of buildings, wells and fences.

Zalipie is also known for its dumplings made with an unusual stuffing of sweet cabbage and sausage. ‘The recipe for cabbage dumplings was that raw cabbage was cut into four pieces and boiled briefly. Then, when it had cooled down, you pressed it out and cut it very finely with a knife; some people had meat mincers for making sausages, but we didn't have any. [...] Onions were fried in pork fat in a large pan, and cabbage was added, sometimes carrots were grated for the stuffing, and even mushrooms. It was seasoned with pepper and salt. We would fry the cabbage until it was brown but not so dark. We would help our mother and grandmother stir it so it wouldn't burn; you couldn't walk away from the cabbage. Before the cabbage cooled down, we made a dough of flour, water and egg. After rolling out the dough, it was cut into large squares. I don't make such large dumplings anymore because there is no need to. When the dumplings were made they were dropped into boiling salted water. They were smeared with onions and pork cracklings.’ (From the ethnographic interviews with residents of the Olesno municipality).

Zalipie dumplings are distinguished from other, similar dumplings by the way they are served. They are always served on plates hand-painted with flowers by painters from Zalipie. This tradition has been cultivated for 49 years, for example during the ‘Painted Cottage’ (Malowana Chata) competitions that are held annually in Zalipie. Taste and the fashion for Old Polish cuisine have made Zalipie pierogi a dish that has become incredibly popular.
Which dumplings do you fancy today?

Where did they come from?

This Old Polish food, known as ‘pierogi’ (dumplings), is one of the most recognisable dishes in the world. Although they originated in China, they are associated with Poland and have a place of honour in our kitchens as well as in our hearts. They came to us in the 13th century via Russia, from the vicinity of Kiev, and have become so well-established that there is probably no Pole who has not tried to make them at least once in their life. According to legend, Saint Jacek used to feed people experiencing poverty with pierogi, so it is no wonder they are associated with hospitality and generosity, gift-giving, and holidays. Their name probably comes from the Old Slavic word ‘pir’, meaning feast, or party. Historically, they were referred to as ‘pirogi’, a ritual cake used in ancient sun worship. In Ukraine, fresh white cheese was believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits and attract good spirits and was a symbol of rebirth, which is why they reigned supreme on tables at christenings and weddings.




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