Bierocks…Food of the Plains and Germans

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UPDATE: click HERE for other bierock fillings

Bierocks…one more food I’d never heard of until I became a Displaced Texan.

I didn’t realize that the Volga Germans had such a huge influence in Kansas.  Who knew that so many foods had German influence?  Not me for sure.

It seems that the Volga Germans who settled in this area came from the region of the Volga River, which runs through Russia. Why were Germans there? Russia encouraged these ethnic Germans to cross the border and settle in Russia where the Russians hoped that the Germans would spread their agricultural knowledge throughout the Russian plains.

In return, the Germans were promised the freedoms to retain the German language and culture, practice their respective religions and be exempt from military conscription. Through years of different political changes, those freedoms eroded, especially the conscription exemption, to the point that thousands of Volga Germans immigrated to the United States, settling mainly on the Midwestern plains, including Big Boss’ home state of Kansas. It reminded them of the Russian plains.  Our hard winter wheat that is now planted across the state was a bonus from these Germans!

While “butterballs” or bread balls aka “Semmelknödel”, pierogies” (a dumpling filled with mashed potatoes and egg noodles rank high in German food favorites, the bierock is arguably the most famous.

So, years ago, when someone offered me a bierock, I hesitated for a milli-second, then considered who had created it and quickly took a bite.

Oh. My. Goodness.  This was not good.  It was fantastic!  By the way, the cook was my mother-in-law.

I quickly asked for a recipe…which she didn’t have.  In fact, the woman had very few recipes written down.  They were in her head and her hands.  But she rattled off what she used and what she did and as the Master Creator of All Things Yummy spoke, I paid attention.

Bierocks became a favorite in our house. For a while. When our last on toddled off to school, I toddled off to finish my degree and then went to work at the school and quit making bierocks.

This silage season, it was suggested that perhaps we could get a town lady to make some to serve to the silage crew.  I thought that was a great idea as it would save me some time and give the guys something different for their lunch menu. Besides cold sandwiches.

Her bierocks were a hit!  I decided it was time to get off my duff and get to ‘rockin’, so to speak.

So here is my recipe for bierocks…a combination of about 4 different recipes plus my MiL’s method.

I really prefer to make bierocks with my Potato Roll recipe for the bread part, but since time was of the essence, I pulled out a bag of Rhodes Texas frozen rolls.

Thaw the rolls out.

Make the filling:

2 lbs. hamburger
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons sugar

All of the above ingredients are yours to adjust to your particular taste! This bunch likes them meaty but with lots of cabbage, so I pretty much aim for a half and half balance.

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Brown the hamburger with the onion in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Drain all grease and add 1/4 cup water and shredded cabbage.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add Worcestershire sauce and sugar.  Cover and reduce heat to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Drain and cool.

I do this step (cooking the meat and veggies) the night before so it’s cool and easy to handle when filling the dough.

There are 24 rolls per package. Take 8 out to divide in half and add to the remaining 16 rolls. You now have 16 rolls made of 1 1/2 rolls. Or…if you’re using your favorite roll or bread recipe, pinch off dough a little smaller than the size of a tennis ball. Roll out the dough and add 3-4 tablespoons of cold meat mixture.

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Seal by bringing sides together, then quarters. Squish the edges together. Place in a greased pan sealed sides facing down. You can also put them on parchment paper.

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This is just the first squish in the middle. Now seal up those open seams.

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Let rise till double or about 45 minutes, depending on how warm your kitchen is. I set mine inside my oven that has a “bread proofing” function.  I love this oven!!!

Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350°. Cool on baking rack if you’re going to freeze them. Otherwise, dig in! Some folks like them with ketchup. *blech!* Some like them with mustard. *ick!* All I want is a bit of butter and time!

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These freeze great and make for a quick meal on the run. I package them 4 to a gallon freezer Zip Lock bag. They’re perfect for tailgating, picnicking or snacking!

To thaw them, nuke one for around 1 minute at half power. You don’t want it so hot that you can’t instantly pop it into your mouth, but cold doesn’t work. At all.

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13 Responses to Bierocks…Food of the Plains and Germans

  1. I’m always looking for quick to-go meals that aren’t sandwiches, these look so tasty and convenient! Thank you!

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  2. Donna says:

    With both sides of my family having German decent, we ate a lot of bierocks. Mom was also a great cook, but like you mil had the recipes in her head. A twist she did with bierocks was to add some cheddar cheese. Added a unique flavor and held the meat together.

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  3. I serve ours with homemade barbecue sauce. Our daughter likes a slice of American cheese on the meat/cabbage combo before sealing up the dough. This is definitely a meal that you can grab and eat on the go. We ate these about once a week while our kids were young. Now they come home a running when they know that I am making these.

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  4. Pingback: German Bread Balls aka Butterballs aka Semmelknödel | Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Country Life

  5. Pingback: Anyone Wanna Bierock? | Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Country Life

  6. pork says:

    that is WAY TOO MUCH meat to cabbage ratio. we make a variation here in IL with ground sausage (reg or spicy), shredded cabbage, and onion. The cabbage and onion steams in water with sugar in it (this is key), is drained, the cooked pork is added, and about a 1/3 cup of sour cream is added (depending on how much was made) and then shoved into pita pockets. deeee-lissshh. the key flavor is like a sweet/sour (if u consider sour cream “sour”)… it makes a great “drippy sauce” from the sour cream coating everything and the remnants of sweetened water with the pork flavor. you haven’t LIVED till you’ve even smelled it, let alone taste it.

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    • The Queen says:

      Since I’m feeding a crew of hungry men, the more hamburger,the better. I, however, like a bit more cabbage in mine! When I use pita bread, I, too, add a bit of sugar…and Worchestershire sauce…just a splash! Yummm!

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  7. Robert phillips says:

    We always made them when baking breads on Saturday and used the lite rye bread dough, ruggabrot.

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  8. Debbie says:

    I like putting a slice of swiss cheese inside it (real or processed). My husband likes pepperjack in his.

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    • The Queen says:

      Sounds good to me! Our Catholic friend in town just did a fundraiser selling beirocks, made from a traditional old, old family recipe ! Oh baby were they good!!!

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