A handwritten letter is a rare gem, but occasionally one does trickle into my mailbox. As a result I’ll share a recipe for best perogy dough ever, so stick around if you will. Also, best seeding dates according to the moon. Here’s a tip o’ my hat to all readers joining me here on the Grainews Singing Gardener page.
… is the Latin botanical name for an Australian bean flower commonly known Down Under as Running Postman. I chuckled to myself after associating aforesaid quick-growing bean to my mail carrier, stepping along lively at a fast pace during a cold, blustery winter day. A two-page handwritten letter from Roselene Swidzinski of Grandview, Manitoba arrived that day. She writes:
Dear Ted, I have subscribed to Grainews for several years and always start at your page. I enjoy the helpful hints you give, gardening tips, health remedies, your songs, your recipes for bug control, tree pruning and everything else you offer. Sure do enjoy your information and all you have to offer us, including the weather and moon signs.
I had an uncle who used to search for water using a willow tree branch or a coat hanger and it really works. In your October 21, 2013 paper you asked if anyone out there still uses a root cellar for garden produce, storage and preserves. Well I am one of them as I grow a large garden and enjoy putting up everything into jars. I keep it all in cold storage under our house where I have a place made for storing potatoes, beets, carrots and turnips for winter use and shelves for all of my preserves.
I started at a very young age doing all my own garden harvesting and love canning and putting up a lot of jars of preserves. My mother used to tease me that I was like a squirrel storing everything for the winter. I still make my own sauerkraut in a crock and many jars of pickles, dills, tomatoes and tomato juice, raspberry and cranberry juices. Jams from my own strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, applesauce and fruit from wild saskatoons, chokecherries, pin cherry jelly, canned wild mushrooms and canned chicken and turkey meat. I have all this stored in my cellar that I call my cold storage dirt basement.
- More from the ‘Singing Gardener’: More information on dill
Even though my children have grown up and have families of their own now, I still keep preserving and pass it on to them. They enjoy coming home and ask me, “Can we go down to your store?” I just tell them go ahead, help yourselves. They live in Alberta and only come home occasionally. Keep up the good work of information and all your helpful hints. May you have a prosperous new year.
Sincerely, Roselene Swidzinski, Grandview, Man. R0L 0Y0
As a followup to her letter, Roselene and I, Ted, had the opportunity to have a telephone visit. We talked about many things including “trying to stay warm, making sauerkraut and pruning grapes.” Roselene lives on an acreage 10 miles west of Grandview. As busy as she is, Roselene finds time to make holopchi and perogies for folks in her area. “They are the No. 1 thing that’s gone at bake and craft sales around here.” I asked whether she has a secret perogy dough recipe and Roselene responded, “sort of” and in the next breath said, “I’ve shared my recipe many times.” She gets feedback such as, “I just can’t get over that it’s so nice to work with.” At that point Roselene revealed that her perogy dough is made with “sour cream, margarine, flour and water. That’s all I put into mine,” she told me.
For Grainews readers – Roselene’s perogy dough recipe
- 2 cups very hot water (not boiling)
- 1 square or block of margarine (1/2 cup) stirred into hot water until melted (She’s never used butter instead of margarine but doesn’t see why you can’t.)
- 1 cup sour cream is then stirred into the hot water and margarine (Roselene believes it’s the sour cream that gives elasticity and softness to her perogy dough recipe.) She says, “Keep stirring until cooled but still warm and then pour liquid into a bowl.”
6 cups of white flour are then mixed in (Roselene says she’s a no-salt cooker but those who wish can add 1/2 teaspoon salt.) Exact amount of flour needed is determined by the kind. That is, it may be a little more or a little bit less. Roselene uses No Name brand and her sister uses Robin Hood. Continue “stirring, until thick enough to handle. As it becomes less sticky, work the dough with your hands.” Roselene makes her dough in advance and lets it rest a couple hours or overnight in the fridge. She finds “the longer it rests; the softer the dough gets and then it doesn’t stick much to the hands.” (Ted says — now that’s a tip worthwhile knowing.)
Handling dough, making and cooking perogies
Remove dough from fridge and let it come to room temperature and then roll out a portion of dough that’s neither very thin nor too thick. (I, Ted equate that to a happy medium.) Roselene uses an empty tin can with lid removed such as a 14-oz. liquid (398-ml) size (about 2-3/4 inches diameter) as her circular dough cutter. Place a tablespoonful or so of filling over rounds of dough and bring both sides together to pinch and seal each perogy.
“I cook very few perogies at a time when I drop them into boiling water with a dash of salt and a touch of vegetable oil so it doesn’t boil over,” she says. She finds four minutes of cooking time in an uncovered pot is long enough once water returns to a really good boil. When cooked she rinses her perogies with cold water through a colander so they don’t stick. One of her specialties is strawberry jam perogies made from homegrown strawberries especially for her grandson. He says, “Baba, I want those perogies,” and she obviously knows what he means.
My sincere thanks to Roselene Swidzinski for sharing her perogy dough recipe and telling me she turns to the back page of Grainews as soon as it arrives and later tears out my column for placing in her files before passing along the rest of the paper for others to read.
Meet an expert gardener
Retired United Church minister, Ralph Clark of Lauder, Manitoba began phoning and writing to me a number of years back. We eventually met in person at a Tim Hortons and keep in touch. Ralph tells me he still does periodic ministry work. Although I’ve not heard one of his sermons, it sounds as though he knows when to keep a congregation in stitches at an appropriate time. Most recently, Ralph sent me a sample of Sparkler White Tip radish and Tithonia seeds.
During a recent conversation Ralph mentioned some changes he’s noticed with his garden soil and different wild deer he’s seen. He has a tomato house and last year grew 44 tomato varieties including some yellow ones, totalling well over 100 plants. I inquired how they did and he responded: “Wonderful, despite a late spring. I was really pleased and had one of the best gardens ever. My tomatoes were real nice. I usually have ripe ones by the first of July. As soon as I see any blight or anything, I remove that foliage. Keep in mind different tomatoes do different things in different places.”
Ralph pointed out cucumbers grow perfectly straight when blossom ends don’t touch anything. Vines that are secured and trellised growing up and down instead of lying flat on soil is the best way to achieve this. Like the rest of us he said, “I keep trying to learn something all the time. I like my rows wide apart and I’m going with nature instead of trying to make it do what I want.” He experiments and grows all sorts of other things and looks to see what’s old and what’s new each year during his travels.
A concluding note
My thanks to Lloyd Wright, 87, of Winnipeg who mailed a handwritten letter to express his thanks that I mentioned the late Wilf Carter in my November 12, 2013 Grainews column. Wilf was one of Canada’s greatest songwriters in addition to being a phenomenal singer and yodeller. Lloyd mentioned: “I have 90 or so of his songs in a kit and a story written by Wilf about his life down in Nova Scotia and later as a trail rider in Alberta. I believe he was the greatest. When we lived on the farm that was all we got to listen to.”
This article first appeared in the Feb. 4, 2014 edition of Grainews.