If you are only to have one pierogie in your life, it needs to be from Helena’s Specialty Foods. My first experience with Helena’s was several years back when my husband and I found this Kerhonkson treasure as we dropped off a rental van next door. I saw a small sign pointing around the building that simply said “Pierogies”.
Hmm? Who wouldn’t be curious? I found Anna, one of the owners, in a large kitchen making hand-made pierogies. I started asking her questions and she handed us, fresh, hot pierogies to sample. The rest is history!
If the only pierogies you are familiar with are the kind found in a box in the grocery store freezer--these ARE NOT them! On the other hand, if you were brought up in a Ukrainian or Polish family and remember the pierogies you grandma made, these ARE IT!
Anna told me that on more than one occasion she has had people moved to tears after experiencing her pierogies of the memories of family meals they bring back.
The store is run by Anna Samko and her daughter Alena. “My husband and I came to Ulster County in 1966. It was my husband, Stefan’s, dream to open a shop like this. His mother made these amazing pierogies that were always a hit where ever she brought them. We named the business after her.” Says Anna.
For many years Stefan and Anna worked side-by-side building the business. Recently, Alena has stepped in and become a big part of Helena’s, hoping to give her mom more free time and making sure that while the business grows, so does the quality.
What makes these pierogies so special is the love and care that is put in to each hand-rolled delight. This is quite a feat when you’re producing 150 dozen a day!
Every part is done by hand, making and rolling the dough, peeling the potatoes for the filling, to preparing different ingredients for the vast variety of pierogies they offer, even stuffing and closing them.
On the website Helena’s offers 16 different varieties ranging from traditional potato and onion, to blueberry and prune in season, to potato and spinach - my personal favorite.
There are many ways you can prepare the pierogies, including baking, deep frying or microwaving but my suggestion is to pan fry them in butter until the dough starts to turn golden brown. When you cook them like this, they come out soft and slightly chewy. People like to top them with sour cream, apple sauce or brown gravy but, I don’t want to spoil them with anything, I like them just as they are.
If you haven’t heard of Helena’s, it could be because they’re in Kerhonkson and they don’t advertise-- they don’t have too. Word of mouth and a large following of regulars (some coming since they opened in 1995) keeps them busy.
Today, they’ve expanded from a little pick-up window in the back of the building, to a store front with several tables if you want to sit and relax, but it’s not an “eat-in” restaurant per say. The pierogies are meant to be ordered and prepared at home, but I dare you not to sample one when the bag is handed to you! If you want to arrive home with the same amount you purchased, you might want to order double or lock them in the trunk of your car for the drive home.
A good idea is to check the website and pre-order what you would like. Since they make everything fresh you don’t want to get there and find they’ve sold out of your favorites. And with the holidays approaching, order early!
Helena's Specialty Foods
5754-A Route 209
Kerhonkson, NY 12446