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Help me quick freeze my pierogi
October 26, 2012 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Every year, the slow part of my pierogi making process is freezing them. Help me freeze them faster.

Pierogi are a little labor intensive to make, with a lot of different steps. I like to speed that up by inviting friends and family over to help and send everyone home with frozen pierogis. However, there's a bottleneck in our pierogi assembly, and that's freezing the pierogi.

We make the pierogis up to the point where if you were eating them immediately, you'd drop what we've made into your pot of boiling water. So they're fully formed but uncooked. We've found via trial and error that to have individual frozen pierogis vs one giant frozen pierogi conglomerate, we have to freeze the pierogis separated on baking sheets for few hours while before jamming them all into freezer bags. Since I don't have a chest freezer, this means once 3-4 trays are filled and stacked in my refridgerator's freezer, it's break time until they're solid enough to repack into freezer bags.

Last year to try to solve this problem, I bought some dry ice and put it in a cooler. While the tray's stacked directly on the ice froze quickly, the rest didn't seem to freeze any faster.

So what can I do that will help freeze the pierogi faster, so I can keep the assembly line running more smoothly and everyone can go home with hundred's of pierogis?
posted by garlic to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Quick dip into a cooler full of liquid nitrogen? (I'm mostly serious.)
posted by supercres at 6:39 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


For things that are meant to keep their shape in the freezer, I usually coat the inside of freezer bags lightly with PAM, and place them carefully inside. I have never had any problems freezing doughs, kebabs and delicate things (where a bit of oil wouldn't matter since you will cook them afterwards). You can use this method to separate them into servings, too. I freeze bags with 10-20 unit servings and they do not stick to the bag when it's time to get them out.
posted by Tarumba at 6:41 AM on October 26, 2012


(Note: they might be a bit fragile afterwards and need to warm up some before bagging.)
posted by supercres at 6:41 AM on October 26, 2012


Can you stack them separated by sheets of plastic wrap? Like, instead of laying them out on trays, you lay them out on plastic wrap and stack those? They'll take a while longer to freeze, but you'll be able to fit more in the freezer at one time and not risk them sticking together.

Or, could you lightly toss them in flour or cornstarch or something before sticking them in the bag? That might keep them from sticking (but it also may screw up the next step). I don't know, IANAPierogiScientist.
posted by phunniemee at 6:42 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Instead of sending everyone home with frozen pierogis, how about just sending everyone home with raw pierogis and instructions to stick the packages in their own freezers?

You freeze yours on your own time, they freeze theirs (or eat them) when they get home, everyone wins.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:44 AM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'd harden them in the freezer for about 15 minute, then stack with wax paper between layers.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:44 AM on October 26, 2012


I have only been making them for a few years but with either cookie sheets or in bags, keeping them separate until frozen has been the only way I have found to keep them from sticking.
posted by Captain_Science at 6:45 AM on October 26, 2012


Tarumba: For things that are meant to keep their shape in the freezer, I usually coat the inside of freezer bags lightly with PAM, and place them carefully inside. I have never had any problems freezing doughs, kebabs and delicate things (where a bit of oil wouldn't matter since you will cook them afterwards). You can use this method to separate them into servings, too. I freeze bags with 10-20 unit servings and they do not stick to the bag when it's time to get them out.
I don't do this, and have never had anything stick to freezer bags.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:56 AM on October 26, 2012


Have everybody bring a few cookie sheets of their own, and send them away with cookie sheets full of pierogies that they can freeze & bag once they get home.
posted by lulu68 at 6:59 AM on October 26, 2012


1. Layer the pierogies in a styrofoam cooler with wax or parchment paper.

2. Buy 5-10 lb of dry ice from a welding shop (or anywhere that advertises dry ice) - about half as much by weight as the pierogies, at least (WAG).

3. Lay a towel on top of the pierogies to protect them from contact with the dry ice, and place the dry ice atop this.

4. If the lid won't fit back on, cover it all in aluminum foil. Don't worry about the frost that forms on top.

5. When the dry ice is gone, move the pierogies to the freezer.

It's hard to imagine any freezing method faster than this.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:00 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Air is the primary thermal transfer medium. It has limited capacity to move heat due to its low mass via convection, only. You can probably improve things in the freezer with a small fan to circulate air, or if you wanted to make a cooler with dry ice (-100F) and forced air flow, it would seem simple enough.

Another possibility is to get a large container of brine, chill it to below freezing, place each P in a waterproof bag temporarily, immerse it for maybe 1-2 minutes, then remove/pack and place it in the fridge in your desired configuration.

What you have to do is conduct heat out of the food ASAP. This can only happen with a larger temperature differential, or a more efficient transfer medium. (or larger surface area to volume ratio on the product.
posted by FauxScot at 7:01 AM on October 26, 2012


The problem isn't that they are sticking to the bags, it is that the uncooked dough shells are sticking together. This is why you can't just shove them into bags and send people home with them.

Have you experimented with either of two things: lightly coating the uncooked pierogi with some kind of oil (maybe one of those cooking sprays mentioned above); or dunking them in boiling water just long enough to slightly cook the outside, but leaving them 90% uncooked? If something like that worked you would then be able to skip the cookie sheet step.

Otherwise, I'd go with lulu68's suggestion and send people home with them on cookie sheets or rolled up in wax paper for them to freeze at home.
posted by Forktine at 7:02 AM on October 26, 2012


Hello fellow large scale pierogie (or vareneky as we call em in my neck of the woods) maker!

Cover them in vegetable oil before putting them in a bag.

This is how my church preps them for festivals (several thousand pierogi handmade a head of time), and it works perfectly. Everyone can either eat immediately, store in the fridge for a weekish, or freeze when they get home. (and if you freeze them, they don't freeze into one giant pierogi mess)
posted by larthegreat at 7:03 AM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


How big do you make them? Can you flash freeze them in something like silicon cupcake trays so that you can stack them up easily? You could freeze the trays in advance.

Also - rather than putting the dry ice all at the bottom you could then put trays of it between your cupcake trays as you went along.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:04 AM on October 26, 2012


Also, there are a bunch of google results for "home flash freezing" and variations thereof. Most of it is probably useless, but there's always the chance that with the right search terms and some digging you'll be able to find a great how-to put together by a university extension service or a crazy hobbyist.
posted by Forktine at 7:04 AM on October 26, 2012


Also it's lets you have a slider table, for people who are incompetant at making pierogies.

One person sits at a baking sheet containing about a half cup of oil and counts out/sorts pierogies into bags while covering them in oil. A second (non oil covered helper) seals and labels the ziplocs.

This person should wear an old shirt as vegetable oil is a bitch to get out of stuff.
posted by larthegreat at 7:06 AM on October 26, 2012


I make dozens of pierogi, and what I do is go ahead and boil them, then put them out on clean kitchen towels to dry, then refrigerate them. As long as you let them dry, they won't stick together, and you/your guests could always freeze them later.

I think boiling them helps, as the dough is pretty delicate when dry but once boiled is sturdier. Since (hopefully) you're frying them up in lots of butter before eating, sending them out uncooked isn't really necessary.
posted by misskaz at 7:09 AM on October 26, 2012


Forktine: The problem isn't that they are sticking to the bags, it is that the uncooked dough shells are sticking together. This is why you can't just shove them into bags and send people home with them.
Ah, thanks! Good point. Sometimes I'm slow...
posted by IAmBroom at 7:17 AM on October 26, 2012


Carbon dioxide is quite a bit heavier than air anyway, and at its sublimation point all that much more, so I would try your original dry ice technique, only with the dry ice at the very top so that the cold vapor would pour down over the pierogis as it came off the dry ice.

The dry ice will go faster that way than it would at the bottom of the cooler, but that's actually good here because it will increase the rate of cooling of the pierogis as more cold vapor washes down over them.
posted by jamjam at 9:39 AM on October 26, 2012


It would also help if you could put the pierogis on wire racks rather than trays (for greater circulation).
posted by jamjam at 9:46 AM on October 26, 2012


I very lightly flour the peiorgies and lay them on their sides in a large ziplock so that they are not touching, but a little touching is still ok. you can fit about 10 in a bag, or more if they are very well organized. I zip the bag until about one inch remains, then I push as much air out of the bag as I can and zip the bag closed. I then lay the ziplock back sideways in the freezer. I continue stacking the bags on each other. The pierogies don't touch each other in this process. After 24 hours or so, the bags can be tossed around without worry. Rather than a ziplock back, if you have a vacuum seal system, that would work even better.
posted by waving at 9:48 AM on October 26, 2012


Last year to try to solve this problem, I bought some dry ice and put it in a cooler. While the tray's stacked directly on the ice froze quickly, the rest didn't seem to freeze any faster.

Slight variation: Empty the contents of your freezer into the cooler. Put your trays of pierogi in the freezer. (For added horizontal space, put a canned good or two on each tray so that they're stackable.)

The stuff in the cooler will remain frozen for the amount of time it takes the pierogi to freeze.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:36 PM on October 26, 2012


Definitely half-ccok them first and coat them with some oil (I'd use melted butter rather than vegetable oil, though). For years innumerable I've watched and helped my grandma prepare our family's pierogi for Christmas and beyond, and she always cooks them a little, lets them cool, then coats the sides of a plastic container with melted butter, and uses a clean paintbrush to coat each pierĂ³g before putting it in the container. You close the lid, and voila - ready for transport and freezing!
posted by Ender's Friend at 7:45 PM on October 26, 2012


I see you are in Chicago.

Find a place outdoors or in a car to put the trays.
posted by yohko at 8:45 PM on October 26, 2012


supercres: Serious like you've done something like it before, or like you're pretty sure someone on the internet can do it?

larthegreat: Like, soaking completely in oil, or lightly brushed in oil?

So it looks like I'll do a science this week trying out these options:

1. Stack more efficiently
2. Significantly more dry ice / pierogi ratios
3. brine quick freeze
4. blanching prior to stacking in freezer, and stack on top of each other.
5. cover raw pierogis in a fat (oil / butter) and jam in a bag, then freeze.
6. combine 4 and 5.

After I do that, I'll come back and let you know the results and mark some best answers.
posted by garlic at 9:52 AM on October 27, 2012


Science update:

I made 5 batches of pierogies tonight to test some of these options out.

1. control -- freeze raw pierogis on a cookie sheet in the freezer
2. brine quick freeze
3. blanched pierogis
4. oil covered raw pierogis
5. oil covered blanched pierogis

The final test will be tommorow, to see how well the pierogis stood up to being frozen.

But, notes so far:
1. My new freezer was blowing it's fan the entire time the control was sitting in there. 20 minutes, and they were frozen enough to be bagged. So +1 to extra air circulation via fan. I'll have to see if I can get a small lab fan or PC fan or the like that I can put into a cooler or the freezer.
2. brine freezing isn't going to work out I think. I put a single pierogi into a ziplock bag, and submerged it for 10 minutes into a bath of water, ice and salt. after 10 minutes, the pierogi was still soft. This isn't fast enough for all the extra work of bagging pierogis to try to freeze them this way.
3. This is the first time I've blanched pierogis, and It looks like it has some good chances of being effective. However, drying them before bagging them is a pain.
4. I can't make pierogis fast enough myself that I need to worry about efficient stacking in the freezer, but I think that's totally an option too.
posted by garlic at 7:10 PM on October 30, 2012


Cooked pierogi batches today. Batch 4 gets added to the failure set. the oil just made them slimey to deal with when taking out of the bag, but was actually frozen as well as the pierogis in one huge lump. Both sets of blanched pierogis did well, but the oiled version was again, slimey and a pain to deal with. The control set lost 2 or 3 pierogis to sticking to the bottom of the boiling water pot, a problem the blanched pierogis didn't have today. It's possible they may have that issue on the day of freezing though, so I'll watch for it.

So overall, looks like blanching the pierogis after sealing, then drying is an excellent alternative to freezing them immediately.
posted by garlic at 5:36 PM on October 31, 2012


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