PYROHY PRODUCTION AT UCI
The Ukrainian Cultural Institute produces approximately 11,200 varenky/pyrohy (also called buttons by some) every week. The buttons are packaged in two-pound plastic bags, 12 bags to a case.
Since UCI is dedicated to preserving the heritage of North Dakota's Ukrainian pioneers, we use North Dakota products:
Cass Clay Creamery cottage cheese
Red River Valley potatoes
Durakota Semolina flour
You can help promote North Dakota produced varenyky/pyrohy. Ask your grocery store to carry North Dakota produced pyrohy/buttons.
Caseloads are sold to wholesale companies. Grocery stores obtain their inventory of buttons from the wholesale companies. These are distributed by wholesale distributors:
Food Services of America
US Food Service
A History of Pyrohy Production at UCI
In 1993, the Ukrainian Cultural Institute ventured into the business of producing varenyky/pyrohy. The varenyky/pyrohy were the main course in the buffet served at the North Dakota Ukrainian Festival held each year in July.
Making sure there would be a sufficient amount of the varenyky/pyrohy for about 500 diners at the festival was a daunting task. It required a dozen people working two or three days, making and freezing them. The many hours of mixing, rolling and pinching was tiring. Often they would say, "If only, if only there was a machine that made varenyky/pyrohy."
In 1992, an ad in the Ukrainian Weekly caught their attention. A pyrohy-making machine was advertised. The workers cautiously discussed an investigation of the machine and decided that Agnes Palanuk, one of our founding members, should travel to Toronto, Canada, to see it.
Eleven inches of new snow greeted Palanuk on Dec. 1, 1992, as she arrived in Toronto. Tadeuz Szczesny, head of Connaisseur Panda Distribution, met her at the airport and they traveled to Missisaugua for a demonstration.
The demonstration went well. The taste of the pyrohy was good. The cost of the machine was $8,000 plus 7% tax and the freight of the delivery. No samples were allowed across the border. The photos of the production and the positive opinion of the product led to further discussion. What do they have to sacrifice if they produce the pyrohy by machine? Weighing the pros and cons, it was decided to proceed with the purchase.
The first task was to raise the money. UCI, in 1992, was 12 years old and did not have a network of support. In April 1993, a semi backed up to the complex of rooms UCI rented on Radar Base Road and unloaded the machine.
A week later, Szczesny arrived to teach the assembly of the machine and production techniques. On hand were Ted Kritsky, Ben Makaruk, board members, Marion Weidner and other on-lookers.
After mastering the assembly and obtaining supplies, a production staff was assembled. Those first months were learning by trial and error and lots of prayers: potatoes would not fill, the sauerkraut overfilled and burst open in boiling, good cottage cheese had to be located, space was insufficient, freezer space was short. But in the end, success in production prevailed.
The next hurdle was marketing. Where do we sell them? Who will buy them? We were selling to walk-in customers so we had a weekly sales record. With that record, we met with Dan's Supermarket frozen foods manager Kurt Sadowsky. He liked what he saw and our varenyky/pyrohy stocked the freezer shelves at Dan's Supermarket in Dickinson.
But marketing doesn't end by stocking the shelves. The public has to learn of the availability of the product on the grocery shelf. This we did by offering free tastes of the product at the store.
Having some experience in marketing, we traveled to Minot and gave a demonstration to Food Services of America. They bought them. Then came GFG and their acceptance. Dan's Supermarkets in Bismarck and Mandan also stocked them. Since pyrohy is ethnic to East Europeans, including the Germans from Ukraine, the market was in place.
In 1995, UCI bought the former restaurant located on West Villard Street in Dickinson. One had to have a vision to buy that building. After an intensive renovation led by Nick Symionow, UCI moved in. The pyrohy production occupies the kitchen, the walk-in freezer and storage rooms. Two larger rooms are used to exhibit the Ukrainian culture. A gift shop and office also are in the building.
Today people from all parts of the world come through the UCI doors to become acquainted with the culture of the Ukrainians in North Dakota and to buy the varenyky/pyrohy.
WHERE CAN YOU BUY PYROHY?
Frozen pyrohy is available at the Ukrainian Cultural Institute any time during normal hours of operation.
Available fillings include potato, sauerkraut, cottage cheese, and sometimes prune before Christmas.
You can also find frozen pyrohy in 2-pound bags at:
Family Fare in downtown Dickinson
Family Fare West, Dickinson
Dan's Gateway, Bismarck
Want to see pryrohy at your favorite grocery store?Let the manager know you'd like to see pyrohy from the Ukrainian Cultural Institute in their stock.