One of Grandpa's favourite meals was varenitje, the Mennonite version of perogies. He has been a widower for over 20 years, and one of the meals he would commonly make for us when we came to visit was pre-made varenitje and Mennonite farmer sausage. My parents took him out for dinner a day or two before the he was admitted to hospital. He was feeling weak and not very hungry. But wouldn't you know, he still finished off his whole plate of varenitje and farmer sausage.
Another story about my Grandpa tells about when he visited my Grandma's family for dinner when they were courting. I guess my Great Grandmother didn't fill her varenitje quite as full of cottage cheese as he was used to at home. After his first few bites Grandpa asked in Low German “Hia es de wrennetje, oba wua es de Glomms?” which translates to “Here are the perogies, but where is the cottage cheese?”
I agree with Grandpa about needing a generous filling in varenitje. The technique I use involves working the cottage cheese with my hands so it sticks together somewhat (the technical term for working is "smooshing.") Then I use a cookie scoop to place the cottage cheese into the center of the dough before pressing the edges together. I also make fairly big varenitje. Using my 5-inch cookie cutter to cut the dough I can fit about two scoops of cottage cheese inside.
Another tip I have learned when making varenitje is to place the finished ones on wax paper on a cooling rack, then freezing them. This makes storage so much simpler. I learned the hard way that if you pile your varenitje into a container raw, they will stick together and you will end up with a large unworkable mass of dough and cottage cheese. Unless you are cooking them immediately, I would reccommend freezing the varenitje so you don't have any problems with sticky dough.
I prefer to add finely chopped onions into my cottage cheese mixture, but my mother is a purist and says this is just wrong. I happen to love the onion flavour, and I still add fried onions on top after I've cooked them.
Feel free to double or triple the recipe. It's always fun to have a varenitje-making party one day, and you will appreciate having extra bags in your freezer for easy meals another day.
Cottage Cheese Varenitje
Slightly adapted from More With Less Cookbook
1 lb dry curd cottage cheese
1 1/2 Tbsp onions, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
3 egg yolks
Mix well with hands until cottage cheese is in fine curds, set aside.
3 egg whites
1 cup milk
2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups flour
Mix together flour and salt. Make a well in the centre of the dough for the egg whites and milk. Stir together with a spoon, then knead by hand until the dough is smooth. This can also be done in a stand mixer. Divide the dough into two equal balls. Let the dough sit for 5-10 minutes. This lets the gluten relax so it will be less elastic and easier to roll out.
On a floured surface, roll the first ball of dough 1/8 inch thick. There are several methods of cutting out the varenitje. My preferred method is to cut out circles 5-inches in diameter. With a cookie scoop, place 2 scoops (approximately 2 Tbsp) of cottage cheese in the centre of each circle. Be careful not to get cottage cheese on the edges of your circle. Wet your finger in a cup of water and moisten the edges of your dough. Then fold one half over the other and press to seal. Continue by rolling out the other ball of dough, and also rolling out the scrap dough.
Place veranitje on a piece of wax paper on a cooling rack. When the cooling rack is full, place in the freezer. If you want to save them for another day you can transfer the frozen veranitje to a ziplock bag.
To cook veranitje, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place veranitje inside and cook for about 5 minutes. You'll know they are done when all veranitje are floating. Some people choose to fry the cooked veranitje at this point to brown them. Serve with Mennonite farmer sausage, fried onions (optional) and cream gravy (recipe below).
4 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
Melt butter in saucepan. Add flour and cook until bubbly. Add milk, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat to whisk in sour cream. Reheat before serving, but do not boil.