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

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 HERALD1 / 6
Marge Gourde places a finished cottage cheese stuffed pierogi on a tray Thursday as volunteers start preparing food for the annual Polish Food Festival Saturday in Minto. JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD2 / 6
Minto resident Paula Kilichowski stirs the dough as volunteers make pierogis Thursday for the annual Polish Food Festival there on Saturday.JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD3 / 6
Sheila Czapiewski rolls out the dough for pierogis as volunteers Thursday begain making food for the annual Minto Polish Food Festival there Saturday.JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD4 / 6
Mary Stark (left) and Gary Slominski check a pot of boiling pierogis at the Minto Community Center Thursday as volunteers begin preparing food for the Polish Food Festival there on Saturday.JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD5 / 6
A tray of pierogis wait to be boiled Thursday as volunteers made over a 1,000 pierogis for Saturday's Polish Food Festival at teh community Center.JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD6 / 6

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.

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