Am I the only one constantly finding myself with a surplus of sauerkraut? Yeah, that’s how I know I am a crazy person. I love sauerkraut and make it at home all the time. Ever since I started reading on benefits of lacto-fermented (naturally pickled) foods and found out that sauerkraut stands a cut above the whole gamut of pickled vegetables in nutrition and vitamin content, my love for this tart crunchy treat grew exponentially, not that I thought that this was even possible…
You see, back in my country (there she goes again with back in my country statement…), sauerkraut was almost the only source of vitamins in winter months. We purchased it from farmers on weekly basis and served alongside some hot potato pile, atop of a sandwich, mixed it with carrots, apples and raisins, added it to potato salads in place of pickles, braised it with lots of onions and juicy pork pieces, and so on and so forth…
We used it in million ways, and it never occurred to us to make it at home, since it was readily available in so many variations at a farmer’s market, and was dirt cheap at that. Having moved here, we found the store-bought American counterpart … err… far less exciting in both look and feel. Even the company that claims to answer to higher authority managed to produce very mediocre rendition of what real sauerkraut could be. Not sure what higher authority thinks about it, but we gave up on it after a few attempts to enhance it at home. So imagine my excitement finding out that it only takes 3-7 days on average to make a very decent batch of kraut at home, depending on weather.
My first experiment with kraut was a flop — I overpickled it and ended up with soft mushy smelly junk. I did some more reading and found that 3 days in summer is perfectly enough, at which point newly pickled kraut should be transferred into the cold storage (fridge) to ripen and develop more flavors slowly. Ta-da! Since then, I’ve tried several different ways of making the kraut, all of them with their advantages and disadvantages, but my love for it never subsided. I even braved it and purchased a German-made pickling crock, which cuts off the oxygen completely, thus preventing pickles from molding and developing that off-putting smell which sometimes cabbage emits during pickling.
The only problem with my undying love for sauerkraut is, apparently I am the only one in my family who loves it so much. Thus, I always end up with vast quantities of kraut sitting in my fridge between rows of jars filled with other pickled vegetables no one loves anymore. Yep. As one of my friends says, it’s a first-world problem — too much of a good thing.
Luckily, I come from the former second-world, now third-world country, where people know what to do with leftovers. Enter pirozhki [pea-rosh-Key] – a rather typical treat in slavic cookery — handheld yeast rolls with (mostly) savory filling. What a great way to deal with unwanted leftovers — from overcooked chopped meats to mashed potatoes, to mushrooms, to fish, to mashed split peas, to lentils, to cabbage, to farmer cheese, and sometimes even fruit preserves.
One of the traditional pirozhki fillings is sauerkraut cooked with onions, with added chopped hard-boiled eggs. I only made pirozhki a few times in my life, for they were always available for purchase in stores, from street vendors, in small convenience-food kiosks around town, so making them at home would be kind of silly. Pirozhki would be available in two forms — baked or fried. Both versions were based on yeasted dough, the latter ones looking very close to Chinese egg rolls, but chewy, not crunchy. My personal favorites were split pea fried pirozhki. The baked favorites were filled with mashed potatoes mixed with fried minced onions and dill, yum!
The recipe below is good enough for about thirty of these individual mini-pies. What you put inside is really up to you, but if you happen to have sauerkraut, it’s rather a very nice treat.
Pirozhki With Sauerkraut & Egg Filling
For the dough (makes 30 pieces):
- 2 cups lukewarm milk, whole milk is best
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp dry yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp melted butter or olive oil
- 5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus a bit more for rolling
For the filling:
- about 2 lbs of sauerkraut, drained
- 1 large onion, halved and sliced thin
- 2-3 tbsp butter
- 6 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and chopped
- pepper to taste
- fresh chopped herbs (optional)
- 1 egg for glazing the pies
- Mix sugar with 1/2 cup of milk, sprinkle the yeast over the milk surface and let sit for about 20 minutes, or until yeast is bubbly and foamy
- Combine the rest of the milk, butter/oil, salt, lightly whisked eggs in a mixing bowl and whisk together
- Add about 4 cups of flour at once and start kneading. Add remaining flour in smallish batches, until dough forms.
- Continue kneading about 10 minutes by hand or 7-8 minutes with a dough hook in a mixer, until the dough becomes elastic and clears the walls of the bowl.
- Transfer the dough into a greased bowl, cover with plastic and let ferment for 1-1/2 hrs or more, until the dough at least doubles in size.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Cook the eggs, cool, peel and chop. Set aside.
- In a large skillet or a Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are fragrant and translucent.
- Add sauerkraut, mix well with onions, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring once in a while, for at least 20 minutes, or until all the juices from sauerkraut are gone and the kraut itself is lightly browned and soft. It should smell very enticing, just take care not to burn it. Let the kraut cool until manageable by hand.
- Add chopped eggs and (optional) chopped herbs to the kraut and mix until all combined and evenly distributed. Set aside until needed
- Punch the dough down and divide into 30 pieces, roughly 1.5 oz (40 gr) each. Each piece will be about the side of small plum tomato.
- Let the dough pieces sit covered with plastic for about 15 minutes to relax.
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Line the baking sheet with parchment.
- Roll each piece of dough to about the size of small saucer (5″).
- Place about 2 tbsp of filling in the middle of the circle, pinch the edges and turn the pie seam down. Shape it into an oval or egg-roll shape and transfer to the baking sheet.
- Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, leaving about 1-1/2″ of space between the rolls on the baking sheet.
- Let rolls rise for about 20 minutes or so.
- Whisk the egg lightly with a small pinch of salt. Using a brush, spread the egg wash carefully all over the visible surface of the pies.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until the pies are golden brown all over.
- Enjoy warm or cold.