Pirog (Russian: пиро́г; IPA: [pɪˈrok], pl. pirogi пироги [pirɐˈɡi]; Belarusian: піро́г; Northern Sami: pirog; Latvian: pīrāgs pl. pīrāgi; Ukrainian: пиріг pyrih, pl. pyrohy пироги) is a baked case of dough with a sweet or savoury filling. Pirogi are common in Eastern European cuisines. Pirogi are characterised as “the most popular and important dish” and “truly national goods” of Russian cuisine, “ubiquitous in Russian life”.
The name is derived from the ancient Proto-Slavic word pir, meaning “banquet” or “festivity”. The Russian plural pirogi with the stress on the last syllable should not be confused with pierogi (stress on “o” in Polish and English) in Polish cuisine, which are similar to the Russian pelmeni or Ukrainian varenyky.
Pirogi come in different shapes and forms: they are often oblong with tapering ends, but can also be circular or rectangular. They can be closed or open-faced with no crust on top.
Pirogi are usually made from yeast-raised dough which distinguishes them from pies and pasties common in other cuisines. In former times, the dough for Russian pirogi was made predominantly of rye flour. Later it was mixed with wheat flour. Nowadays, mainly wheat flour is used.
Тhere are also variants made from shortcrust, flaky or puff pastry. In East-Slavic languages pirog is a generic term which denotes virtually any kind of pie, pasty, or cake. Тhus, Karelian pasty (known as Karelian pirog in Russian), knish or charlotte are considered types of pirog in Eastern Europe.
The filling for pirogi may be sweet and contain quark or cottage cheese, fruits like apples, plums or various berries, as well as honey, nuts or poppy seeds. Savoury versions may consist of meat, fish, mushrooms, cabbage, rice, buckwheat groats or potato. In Ukrainian and Russian cuisines, pyrohy (as well as their smaller versions called pirozhki) with a savoury filling are traditionally served as an accompaniment with clear borscht, broth or consommé.
Certain types of pirog are known by different names :
- Coulibiac, a middle-size Russian pirog of oblong shape with a complex filling;
- Kurnik (“chicken pirog”), also known as wedding pirog or tsar pirog, a dome-shaped savoury Russian pirog, usually filled with chicken, eggs, onions, kasha or rice, and other optional components;
- Poppy seed roll and nut roll, popular throughout Central and Eastern Europe, are considered types of pirog in Eastern Europe;
- Pirozhki (Russian diminutive, literally “small pirogi”) or pyrizhky (Ukrainian), individual-sized buns that can be eaten with one hand;
- Rasstegai (“unbuttoned pirog”), a type of Russian pirog with a hole in the top;
- Shanga, a small or medium-size open-faced circular savoury pirog, widespread in Ural and Siberia;
- Vatrushka, a small sweet pirog, popular in all Eastern Slavic cuisines, formed as a ring of dough with quark in the middle;
Similar West Slavic pastries, such as Czech and Slovak Kolach, and Polish Kołacz, usually have sweet fillings.
A coulibiac (from Russian: кулебя́ка, kulebyáka) is a type of Russian pirog usually filled with salmon or sturgeon, rice or buckwheat, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, and dill. The pie is baked in a pastry shell, usually of brioche or puff pastry.
The dish was so popular in Russia in the early part of the 20th century that Auguste Escoffier, the famed French chef, brought it to France and included recipes for it in his masterwork, The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery.
A classic grand coulibiac features several fillings, often a mixture of some white fish and rice for the top and bottom layers with fillets of sturgeon or salmon between.The most unusual ingredient commonly included in the grand version of the dish is vesiga, the spinal marrow of the sturgeon.
Coulibiac is also made with simpler, vegetarian fillings like cabbage or potatoes.
Kurnik (Russian: курник; “chicken pirog”), also known as wedding pirog or tsar pirog, a dome-shaped savoury Russian pirog, usually filled with chicken or turkey, eggs, onions, kasha or rice, and other optional components. Sometimes, pirog was filled with boiled rooster combs. This pirog originated in Southern Russia, especially in Cossacks communities, and was used as “wedding pirog” in the rest of the country. It is dome-shaped, unlike any other non-sweet pirog. In special cases, it was served to tsar himself. Even today, this pirog is served on special occasions in most of Russia.
In case of a wedding, kurniks were made for both of spouses. Husband’s pirog was decorated with figures of people – this represented the strength of the young family. Wife on the other side, had her kurnik decorated with flowers – this represented beaty and kindness.
Vatrushka (Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian: ватрушка) is an Eastern European pastry (pirog) formed as a ring of dough with quark in the middle, sometimes with the addition of raisins or bits of fruit. The most common size is about five inches in diameter, but larger versions also exist. Vatrushkas are typically baked using a sweet yeast bread dough. Savoury varieties are made using unsweetened dough, with onion added to the filling.
The etymology of the word is uncertain. A widespread hypothesis derives the name from the word vatra meaning “fire” in some Slavic languages. Alternative hypotheses trace it back either to the verb teret (тереть, “to rub” or “to grate”) or to the term tvorog (творог, “quark”).