Random Acts of Living


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Bierocks or Pirogies - Are They the Same?

I started this post by searching the Internet for some good pictures of bierocks. The first link I went to had two pictures, one uncut and one cut. The website is a review of Lauck's Bakery and they have this supporting information;

"What is a bierock? A bierock is really a baked bun filled with beef, cabbage, onion and seasonings. According to "bierock history", it came from German-Russian immigrants and eventually made its way to the Midwest, especially in the states of Kansas and Nebraska. Interestingly enough, it is called a Bierock in Kansas but a Runza in Nebraska."
That being said, we need to add "Runza" to the list of names.

I'll take a look at Runzas first: This from the Runza Restaurant in Nebraska

"It's homemade dough, stuffed full of ground beef and spices, and then baked
fresh every day."

This one does not contain cabbage.

From The Gazette out of Colorado Springs, Colorado: Local deli offers European bread treats
Whatever you call it, a runza/bieroch is interchangeable. Both have
German-Russian roots going back to the 18th century. The term “bieroch” comes
from the Russian word “pirogi” and is the name for any food consisting of a
filling stuffed into dough. “My grandparents were Russian, and they called the
stuffed breads ‘runza.’ However, when Germans lived in Russia, they started
calling runza ‘bieroch.’ And when the Germans were sent back to Germany, the
‘bieroch’ name stuck.”
Now some very interesting history from the Chef2Chef Culinary Portal: Runzas History
Runzas are known by a variety of names and the original recipes were brought to the new world by Russian-Germans emigrants. They are called"Bierocks" by the Molotschna German Mennonites, were bread pockets amply filled with a mixture of ground beef, onion and cabbage. A little like a hamburger sandwich they made a handy meal, were served hot or cold and made ideal traveling companions for trips or picnics.
-
The word Bierock is related to the Turkish word "Berok or Boerek". Today,in the Crimean city of Simferopol (where Mennonites went to school or went shopping) they are called cherbureki and sold on the street. Simferopol is proud and passionate about this meat pie.
-
People all over the world serve meat filled bread. England has its Cornish Pasties (which are very good). Italians make calzones (pizza in a pocket). The Polish fill pirogi with ham and cabbage. Turks love a combination of lamb, tomato paste and pine nuts in their bread. The Volga Germans from Russia, neighbors of the Mennonites had their Krautbrot or Krautrunzen. Bierocks, Krautbrot, Krautranzen or Runza or what ever the name is still a favorite with the German-Russian families in Canada and the United States.
-
Clayton Schmitt Mail = schmittc@chiriqui.com Boquete, Chiriqui Republic of Panama
Posted to MC-Recipe Digest by valerie@nbnet.nb.ca (valerie) on May 2, 1998
The information above falls more inline with what I had first heard. Looking at information on the Internet I find that it depends on where you look as to what information you find. I personally tend to think that the term bierock was used more by the GR from the Molotschna colony. I'm really not clear on where the term runza came from. The Runza Restaurant was founded in 1949, so it's been in use in Nebraska at least that long. The pirogi actually appears to be more like a ravioli, being a boiled pastry rather than baked bread dough.
What do you think?

42 comments:

Anita said...

I think it all sounds so delicious! That's what I think!! But I would rather have the pierogies, it wouldn't be as good without the cabbage! :)

Thanks for this - I love informational posts like this...

The_Mrs said...

I believe pierogi's are made with a mashed potato filling?

At least all the pierogi's I've had are stuff with potatoes and nothing more.

Now I'm hungry though. lol Interesting information.

Moonshadow said...

Welcome Anita and Mrs!

It seems most everyone agrees on what bierocks and runzas should look/taste like, but I've found a wide range of descriptions for pirogi. The first I heard of were in a noodle type, crimped shell (a raviolli folded in half) with various fillings that were then boiled. But it was argued that the term "bierock" came from this. This did not seem logical to me and is why I'm leaning toward the last information I found that they came from the Turkish word "Berok or Boerek".

Anita - it's the NE Runza that didn't have cabbage. Our bierock in Kansas have cabbage.

Mrs - I believe I've heard of pierogi's stuffed with potatoes.

The evolution of food can be quite interesting.

Alice said...

From my Russian friend who knows modern cooking, Russian Pirogi are large and round. Thinly rolled pastry is spread with filling, covered with another sheet of pastry and decorated with pastry trimmings. This is made for special occasions. They are a lot like one of our two-crust pies only piled sky high.

Russian Pirozhki are small pirogi. The pastry is rolled and cut into 3-5" circles. These are often deep fried.

Vatrushki are open-faced, baked pirozhki, like a French free-form tart.

Then there are: pelmeni, vareniki and kolduny. These are all pockets of dough like ravioli or Chinese dumplings. They can be filled with sweet or savory ingredients. They are poached and served with melted butter.

You can be sure that when my friend's mother visits from Russia, I always try to wrangle a dinner invitation.

Virtually Sweet said...

How funny I should see this post! My husband is originally from Nebraska where they have a fast-food chain called Runza. Because my mom knows he likes Runzas, she makes them for us everytime we go back to KS to visit!

Most people I know don't even know what they are.

Moonshadow said...

VS - they do seem to be region specific. I find it interesting that they're served for lunch in all the local public schools. I'm not sure how long they've been doing this, they didn't serve them when I was in school. They sure are good though.

Anonymous said...

Runzas in NE do and have always had cabbage in them.

Moonshadow said...

Greetings anon! I only stated what I found online. I have never even seen a NE runza. The runza's at the Runza Restaurant (see link at top of post) does not have cabbage in it.

b said...

runzas from the Runza chain most definitely have cabbage in them.

Anonymous said...

As the granddaughter of one of the founders of the Runza Restaurants which is now operated by my cousins (and having worked in several of the Runza Drive Ins), the NE Runzas DO have cabbage. Also, my grandmother created the spelling of the name from the pronunciation used by her mother. She did not have an actual spelling, but spelled "Runza" the way her mother pronounced the word.

Good job with the article!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Lincoln, NE, where the Runza restaurant chain comes from.

The cafeteria was serving runzas when I started elementary school in the late 1970's, so it goes back at least that far with Lincoln Public Schools.

Moonshadow said...

b & Anon. - Thanks for the info.

To the granddaughter of the founder - I wish you had left a way for me to contact you. About 20% of the searches that lead people to my blog have to do with bierocks or runzas.

Patrick said...

My wife's Grandmother lives in La Crosse, Kansas and makes wonderful Bierocks.

Her parents, Volga Germans, immigrated to kansas in 1908, and this is just one of the wonderful recipes that were passed down to her.

They are very similar to Runzas. Cabbage and all. :-)

Kelly Gubser said...

Like others have said, Runzas from the NE restaurants do have cabbage, but it is just a scant amount. Especially when compared to the picture at the top of this post.

yo said...

Bierocks and Runzas are NOT the same thing! Runzas are a poor fast food imitation that do not contain cabbage. They are sold in Runza restaurants and are not as good as the real thing. Runza restaurants are ok for their burgers and crinkle fries but if you want a bierock try a real homemade one. Real bierocks are made with cabbage and taste a thousand times better. Classic bierocks are not made with cheese but when I make mine I like to experiment by adding different types of cheeses. Cheddar, parm, pepperjack, are all really good in bierocks

bierocks are better said...

Runzas are a greasy fast food rip off of real bierocks. It seems like only nebraskans like them or have even heard of runzas. The name sounds like they will give you the "runzas" and by experience they often do.

Ashley said...

I know bierocks from my childhood in the Oklahoma Panhandle, and have been researching them since none of my German friends seem to know what they are, as is the case with much of the food that was passed down from my Dutch-German family.

What I do know, though, is that the bierocks you get in Oklahoma are quite distinct from the pierogies I've eaten in Poland or had cooked for me by friends with Polish ancestry. Pierogies do look like ravioli, but they can be filled with just about anything you want. At a traditional pierogi restaurant in Warsaw, you can find them filled with potatoes, potatoes and meat, vegetables and meat, cheese and vegetables, cheese alone--just about any combination you can imagine! In Warsaw, pierogies are served with bacon and its drippings.

KansasGirl said...

I made Bierocks this weekend. I grew up eating them in Wichita at the home of a friend of german ancestory from the Wakeeny area. And at the Bierocks fast food joints. $2 for a Bierock, chips and a pickle, couldn't be beat.

I finally found the closest recipe for the bread, and am happy with my result. Far better than using a frozen dough. It's the sweet bread that makes the difference. Check this link for the most authenic recipe. www.kansasheritage.org/cooking/bierochs.html

Moonshadow said...

KansasGirl - I wish you would have left a link where I could contact you. Did you check out my other bierock posts? Just click on the word 'bierock' in the tags after this post.

As for authentic recipes, I'm sure it will all depend on what branch of whose family you talk to as to what's in the recipe. The recipe our Golden Wheat chapter uses is authentic. It's fun hearing from others with memories of bierocks growing up. Our schools serve them locally. What about yours?

Britt said...

I grew up looking forward to the rare occasions when my mom would make Runzas. They are my ultimate comfort food.

Kate said...

Thank you so much! I have always wondered exactly what the origin of our families Beroks. My family originated in the Volga River Region in Russia. I had guessed that is where it is from. It is still a favorite of ours.

Moonshadow said...

Kate - Welcome! I don't know if you'll get my comment, you did not leave a way to connect. Do you know of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia? I see I did not include a link in the aricle. You can connect with many that were from the Volga River Region at AHSGR.org

Scroll back up to the article and at the end under 'LABELS:' click on "American Historical Society of Germans from Russia" and it will bring up many more articles on our meetings (the Golden Wheat Chapter). Hope to be hearing more from you!

Sara(no h) said...

I was baffled to see bierocks being compared to pierogi, as they are quite different (from my experience). My Polish family knows pierogie to be made from pasta (much like Italian ravioli) with potato and onion filling, though fillings can vary. Pierogie are filled pasta, whereas bierocks are filled bread. Totally different!

Moonshadow said...

Greetings Sara(no h)! - The comparison came up in an email group I was active in. One of the other members was insistent that the name bierock was just a slur of pierogi and I was out to show her she was wrong. That they were two different foods. Thank you for your input. :)

Misfit Mommy (aka the Antichrist) said...

Being Kansas born myself, in addition to German grandparents, Bierocks are a wonderful comfort food from my childhood.

Anonymous said...

the way i learned to make pierogi's is a thin rolled noodle like dough stuffed with home made dry cottage cheese then boiled or fryed! :)

Michael Mullins said...

I thought Lauck's sounded familiar. They're right here with me in Fresno. Funny coincidence. The rest of the page was a good read as well. Bierocks are awesome. Thanks, Moonshadow.

Sophia Gunter said...

Im a native born and raised Garden City Kansan now living in Texas. I have been down here in the Fort Worth area since 1999 and have never met anyone in Texas who knows what a bierock is.
"bayer what"? is the usual response. S Gunter

Moonshadow said...

Misfit, Anon, & Michael, Thank you for commenting, sorry I have been negligent in responding. Our Golden Wheat Chapter makes beirocks once a year to sell as our fund raiser. We can never make enough to satisfy everyone, that is how well they are loved. Anon, that's what I hear from most people, definitely different than beirocks.

Moonshadow said...

Sophia, Thank You for your comment. I do hope you're sharing our wonderful beirocks with them. Many of our schools even have beirocks on their lunch menus.

Sophia Gunter said...

Yes maam!! I have prepared bierocks for many potluck dinners. Im proud to say that I have yet to see leftovers. I still make them for my 4 grown boys as they are usually on the list of favorites when they visit.

Moonshadow said...

Blog comments need LIKE buttons and ability to edit (I see I misspelled bierock not once but twice, for shame). :)

Bill said...

The name Krautrunzen became Krautrunza, became Runza. My German speaking great grandmother immigrated from Russia to Lincoln, NE around 1890 and passed down her Krautrunza recipe. Like Bierocks, they had hamburger, cabbage, and onion. They were folded into rectangles and baked seam side up. The pictures of Bierocks I've seen are baked seam side down and are round. My Grandmother's Runzas I grew up eating were definitely not a "fast food rip off" of Bierocks as "yo said". The Runza food chain began in 1949 and registered the name in 1966.

Moonshadow said...

THANK YOU! Bill for the added information concerning Runzas. At least that gives a definitive explanation for the name. I still haven't come up with a good one for bierock.

Anonymous said...

Bierocks and Runza are about the same, only bierocks have cabbage. Pirogi and Veranika are the same thing stuffed potato dumplings. But Pirogi and Bierocks are not even close to being the same, something must have gotten lost in translation or someone forget the name Veranika.

Moonshadow said...

Anon - Thank you for commenting. If you check the next post there is a Part 2 that I cover ALL that you mention.

giantslor said...

On Runza's website it says the runzas contain cabbage.

Moonshadow said...

Hi giantslor! Yes, I've seen them listed both with and without cabbage. I prefer WITH cabbage.

Anonymous said...

Just found this blog on the differences of bierocks and perogi's and found it very interesting. I thought I would share my experience eating both! I was born and raised in southwest Kansas and our family had perogi's (we called them mule ears because that was the shape my grandmother made them!). Some of my grandfather's side of the family called them "Verinika". They are pasta filled with homemade cottage cheese, boiled (then fried). Some pour gravy over them, we used hot sorghum molasses over ours. YUM! We used our noodle dough recipe, but I have had them with different outer coverings. (I prefer the noodle dough). I moved north in Kansas to a high percentage of Volga German area where bierocks are a favorite. They are made with bread dough filled with hamburger, cabbage, onion as stated above. These are really good too! I have had the Runza's from Nebraska and they are basically the same thing, different name. (By the way, the Perogi's here in the Volga German area call them "cheese pockets") Sorry for the long post!

Moonshadow said...

Thank you, Anon! I'm glad you enjoyed reading my posts. And thank you for sharing your experience with bierocks.

Anonymous said...

As a child, my family would visit the original Runza Inn near Pioneers Park in Lincoln, NE. As I remember, those runzas had more cabbage in them than the Runzas served at Runza Inn today. They were squared-shaped at that time too. We stood next to a door in this small building and the runzas were taken out of the oven in the kitchen, wrapped up and handed to us (similar to going to someone's small house). Runzas have been served in LPS since 1970 (or before). At one time (probably late '70's or '80's), we could buy frozen runzas in a grocery store in Lincoln.

Moonshadow said...

Another Anonymous comment, Thank You for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Yesterday we had bierocks for dinner at our AHSGR meeting. These were made by and Amish store near Newton, KS.