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At the prep table volunteers at the Minto, N.D. Community Center roll out and stuff the dough to make pierogis for Saturday's Polish Feood Festiva at center therel. JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD

Polish festival preparation packs Minto, N.D., community center kitchen

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Polish festival preparation packs Minto, N.D., community center kitchen
Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

MINTO, N.D. — Flour, dough and laughs were flying through the air Thursday morning in the kitchen of the community center here.

The pierogi crew was working toward its goal of assembling more than 1,000 of the filled dumplings for this Saturday’s Polish Food Festival.

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Crew leader Linda Babinski, whose flour-dusted apron proclaimed her “Pierogi Queen,” doesn’t expect any leftovers.

“We ran out last year,” she said as her rolling pin made passes over the dumpling dough.

Hundreds of people from all over the region, including travelers from Canada, have attended the event in years past, according to organizer Roger Schuster.

The festival is in its ninth year and serves as the local Polish National Alliance chapter’s main fundraiser. It will run from 3 to 7 p.m. in the community center with Polish dance performances starting at 4 p.m.There is no cost, though a free will offering will be taken.

The cuisine featured isn’t common at restaurants in the area, and people may have to travel quite a ways to find these Polish delicacies, Schuster said.

“That is, unless you can find a nice little lady to make it for you,” he added.

Pierogi preparation

Several of those nice little ladies were on pierogi duty Thursday starting at 9 a.m.

Some rolled out dough while others spooned a mixture of mostly cottage cheese onto circular pieces of flattened dough.

Babinski says the dish is a modern Polish mainstay.

“It’s kind of like their pizza,” she joked.

The trick to successfully making one of these dumplings is to fold it in half and seal it properly by pressing the edges with a fork.

Pierogi must be boiled then fried in butter with onion before being enjoyed, and improperly sealed piergori have a tendency to leak in the boiling water or fryer.

While most of the pierogi dough cut-outs tossed at the fillers were round in shape, every once in a while one that is less than uniform in shape lands in front of them.

Marge Gourde, a former Minto resident who now drives almost 100 miles from Harwood, N.D., each year to help, says these are the challenge pierogi.

“Everybody’s got to do at least one,” she said.

To meet their goal of more than 1,000 dumplings, organizers purchased about 40 pounds of cottage cheese for filling the first set of pierogi. The second set will feature a mashed potato filling.

Pierogi also can be filled with meat and cheese, fruits if making a dessert dumpling or kapusta, more commonly known as sauerkraut.

Community effort

Having all the ingredients on hand to create the Polish dishes prior to the festival can prove to be tricky.

 Minto doesn’t have a grocery store so volunteers often are sent to 11 miles away to Grafton or even 32 miles away to Grand Forks for more supplies.

Most of the event’s offerings are made from scratch and, according to Schuster, everyone making festival food has a specialty.

“Tomorrow, we’ll have a different set of people in here making golabki,” he said Thursday, referring to Polish cabbage rolls. About 1,000 of the rolls will be made for festival-goers.

Another 150 pounds of polish sausage, or kielbasa, was made last week and another 200 pounds of pork roast must be cooked before the festival.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” Schuster said.

On Saturday, it will take about 90 volunteers — including some who assisted with the event’s preparation during the week — to serve the food.

Putting on the festival is a community effort, according to Schuster.

“That’s what it takes,” he said. “In our community — or any community — it’s all those great people helping out and stepping up to put on something like this.”

If you go

What: Polish National Alliance’s Ninth Annual Polish Food Festival

When: 3 to 7 p.m., dance performance at 4 p.m.

Where: Community center, Minto, N.D.

Other: Traditional Polish food will be served, free will offering. Event also includes Polish dance performances, live auction and Polish store.

Read more about reporter Brandi Jewett's experience making pierogi on her blog

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Brandi Jewett

Brandi Jewett is an reporter for the Grand Forks Herald with beats focusing on northwest Minnesota, unmanned aircraft systems and East Grand Forks city government. Other positions she has held at the Herald include Grand Forks city government reporter, general assigment reporter and news intern. A native of Valley City, N.D., 24 years worth of winters haven't scared her out of the state yet. Follow her work at www.grandforksherald.com and on Twitter and Instagram: @brandijewett. Send tips and story ideas to bjewett@gfherald.com. 

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