Pittsburgh sets record for world’s largest pierogi

Guinness World Records adjudicator Michael Empric samples the giant pierogi he declared a world record, weighing in at 123 pounds. Photo by Bob Donaldson/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Chefs at Rivers Casino on Wednesday put Pittsburgh in the record book by preparing and serving what Guinness World Records has verified to be the world’s largest pierogi.

More than a year in the making, the giant dumpling weighed 123 pounds, far exceeding the 110 pounds, 3 ounces needed to establish the record. It was so big that the North Side casino’s facility team had to craft a 27-by-36-inch stainless-steel vessel in which to cook it.

“This is the largest thing I’ve ever made, period,” said executive chef Richard Marmion after Guinness adjudicator Michael Empric made it official at Wednesday’s 10 a.m. news conference in the casino’s second-floor lobby. “And I’ve made a lot of stuff.”

Added assistant executive chef Adam Tharpe: “Only in Pittsburgh would there be so much excitement over pierogies.”

The project was presented to them a little more than a year ago by Shenandoah, Pa.-based Mrs. T’s Pierogies, which six years ago founded National Pierogi Day through Chase’s Calendar of Events.

The chefs started rolling out the 42-pound ball of dough at about 5 a.m. Wednesday. Shaping it by hand to fit the specialty vessel, they then filled the giant disk with 82 pounds of cheddar cheese-flavored mashed potatoes. Then they flopped the dough over on itself to create a half-moon dumpling. After rolling and crimping the edges by hand, the pierogi was lowered into a kettle of hot water.

Pierogies typically are boiled until they float, “but we kept it to a simmer because we weren’t sure if it would blow apart at a hard boil,” said Mr. Marmion. Then it was into the oven for 90 minutes. By 8:35 a.m., it was ready to be weighed.

Perfecting a pierogi dough that was both strong and pliable but still nice to roll out took some doing, said Mr. Tharpe. The winning recipe includes more than 25 pounds of flour, 1 gallon of water, 16 eggs, 3 cups of oil and 2 1/2 pounds of sour cream.

Much as they would have loved to fry the boiled pierogi as per tradition, doing so would have proven too dangerous, said Mr. Marmion.

This is where things got complicated. Minutes after images of the giant, golden-brown dumpling hit social media, PGH Pierogi Truck took to Twitter with a formal protest. “We have fundamental problems with this ‘pierogi,’ ” read the tweet. “Because it isn’t one. It’s pagach,” a traditional Lenten dish that truck owner Lynn Szarnicki describes as a “pierogi calzone.”

n National Pierogi Day, chefs at the Rivers Casino carry their giant pierogi from the oven for weighing. It weighed in at 123 pounds, a Guinness record. Photo by Bob Donaldson/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Except . . . it isn’t. Pagach (pronounced puh-GHACH) — dough-wrapped bundles of mashed potatoes, sauerkraut or shredded sweet cabbage — always are made with a yeast dough, notes Helen Mannarino of Pierogies Plus in McKees Rocks. Pierogi dough has flour, eggs, water and salt.

“Personally, I wouldn’t do it” — bake them — said Ms. Mannarino, who emigrated from Poland in 1974 and has been making (and boiling) pierogies for 50 years. “But there are many different ways to prepare pierogies. Each country has its own recipe.”

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