Polish Christmas Eve Dumplings with a dried mushroom and sauerkraut filling can be shaped into uszka (little ears) or prepared and served like any other pierogi. You’ll see that there is just one final fold that turns a simple pieróg into an uszko. It’s like magic.
The filling for our Christmas magic is very similar to my recipe for Cabbage and Mushroom Pierogi in my cookbook, except we’re using dried mushrooms rather than fresh with our sauerkraut. This is the most traditional filling for Wigilia whether you serve them as pierogi or shape them as uszka and serve them in Polish Christmas Eve Borscht (Barscz Wigilijny).
Dried Mushrooms vs. Fresh Mushrooms
Foraging for mushrooms is a popular pastime in Poland. Every family has a favorite spot and an expert who knows what is safe to eat and what is to be avoided. It’s one of the two reasons that you’ll see cars parked alongside a forest road.
Literally, baskets or bushels of mushrooms will be brought home. Fresh mushrooms are so full of moisture that they have a very short shelf life, so Poles have become experts in drying mushrooms to keep a year’s supply on hand.
Since autumn is mushroom season, it makes sense that by Christmas, the mushroom inventory (before modern supermarkets) would consist of dried mushrooms.
I’ve heard some say that fresh mushrooms are preferable to dry because they’re less chewy. I doubt the speaker was Polish. The more concentrated flavor of reconstituted dry mushroom seems to be a national favorite.
Whether you go with fresh or dried mushrooms, you’re getting good nutrition, fiber, protein, enzymes, B vitamins (especially niacin), and vitamin D2. Mushrooms (and dried mushrooms) are excellent sources of antioxidants.
I’m using the pierogi dough recipe from a cooking class that I took in Warsaw. It has no egg, so these are suitable for vegans. Lest you think everyone in Poland uses an egg-free recipe for dumpling dough, here’s a pierogi dough recipe that a Polish friend shared with me. It includes an egg. You should feel free to use your favorite pierogi dough.
Cooking natural sauerkraut
I like to use natural sauerkraut rather than canned kraut – to me, canned kraut just tastes too vinegary. Because we’re simmering the kraut and taking the temp over 115° F or 46° C, the probiotic benefit of the natural kraut will be destroyed, but I’ve read that fermentation makes the nutrients easier for the body to absorb, so all is not lost.
Suzanne, a Polish Housewife blog reader who lives near me, stopped by and we had fun making these dumplings together. It was her first time making pierogi or uszka, and she did a fabulous job. You can check out the video of our dumpling making and please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you haven’t already. It helps me out and you’ll find out when I post new recipe videos. Recruit some helpers and enjoy making Polish Christmas Eve Dumplings.
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Polish Christmas Eve Dumplings with a dried mushroom and sauerkraut filling can be served as pierogi or shaped into uszka (little ears).
for the dough:
- 3 1/3 cups flour (400 g)
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (500 ml)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
for the filling:
- 2 1/2 cups dried mushrooms (50 g)
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 medium carrot, shredded
- 2 – 3 tablespoons oil
- 1 pound sauerkraut (500 g), well drained
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- l bay leaf
- salt and pepper, to taste
for the dough:
- Add the flour to a mixing bowl. Heat the water until it just begins to boil, and add the butter to the hot water. As soon as the butter has melted, add the water and butter mixture and the salt to the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is combined, cover, and let rest 20 – 30 minutes. While the dough is resting, cook the filling.
- Knead the dough for a few minutes, until smooth, using minimal flour. Divide the dough into 4 – 6 workable-sized sections. Roll out one piece of dough to 1/8 inch thickness, do not flour the work surface. Pick the dough up and turn it occasionally, but be careful to always put the same side down. Don’t turn the dough over. You may add a pinch of flour to the top to keep the rolling pin from sticking, but don’t add flour underneath the dough, no flour on the rolling surface. This is going to make it easier to seal your dumplings.
for the filling:
- If time allows, soak the dried mushrooms in water overnight. The longer time is supposed to release the most flavor. If you don’t have the time, cover them in boiling water for 30 minutes. You can put a small plate or bowl on top of the vessel you’re using to soak the mushrooms to keep them submerged. Remove the mushrooms, slice into strips. Set the liquid aside, you’ll use it later in the recipe. You may want to decant it, pour the liquid into another container leaving the sediment in the bottom behind. Mushroom gills often hold onto dirt and grit that is released in the soaking process.
- Add the onion and carrot to a pot large enough to hold all of the filling ingredients along with the oil. Saute until the onions are golden. Add the sauerkraut, mushrooms, parsley, bay leaf, and 3/4 cup of the mushroom liquid (if the volume is less just add water to make up the difference). Season with salt and pepper. Simmer covered for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Drain the filling in a colander pressing out the liquid. Remove the bay leaf. Run the filling through a meat grinder a time or two or finely process in a food processor. Again drain off any liquid and spread the mixture on paper towels.
- Cut the dough into circles using a round cookie cutter or a glass. Add a teaspoon or so of the filling to the center of each circle, putting the filling on what was the bottom side of the dough. The underside of the dough was not floured during the rolling process, so it will make the edges easier to seal together. Fold the dough around the filling into a crescent or half circle, crimp the edges with your fingers or a fork. To make uszka, bring the two pointed ends together and seal them as if you were wrapping the pierogi around a pencil or your little finger.
- Drop the dumplings into a large pot of simmering salted water. Cook until they float to the top. Remove and drain. You might add little oil to keep them from sticking to each other or just be careful about placement.
- You can serve your pierogi as is or saute in butter or oil. Uszka can be added to a soup bowl and served with Christmas Eve Borscht.
Variations: omit the carrot if you like. Add a minced garlic clove and add to the mixture just before the onions are golden.
If using dried parsley, reduce the amount to 1 tablespoon.
Keywords: Polish Christmas Eve Dumplings, uszka, dried mushroom and sauerkraut pierogi
An accountant by trade and a food blogger since 2009, Lois Britton fell in love with Polish cuisine during the years she lived in Poznań, Poland. As the creator of PolishHousewife.com, she loves connecting readers with traditional Polish recipes. Lois has a graduate certificate in Food Writing and Photography from the University of South Florida. She is the author of The Polish Housewife Cookbook, available on Amazon and on her website.