Hanging out in the kitchen with her mom gave young Irene Ammerman the gift of a lifetime. It was there where she would gain the knowledge and learn the skills needed to carry on her mother’s legacy through her business, Busia’s Pierogi Shack. “My mom, Cecylia Rychzko, was my teacher,” Ammerman recalled. “As a family, we did a lot of things together in the kitchen. My sister and I were always chopping, slicing and dicing.”
Along with her husband Bob, daughter Christy Knappins, and friend Beth Ellithorpe, Ammerman spends four days a week in the commercial kitchen at the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center on Broadway Street preparing pierogi, soups and sweets to be sold at the Toledo Farmers Market on Saturdays year-round. All their recipes have been passed down from Ammerman’s mom, “with a twist for the more adventurous,” she added.
Ammerman grew up with her parents, two brothers and sister in a Polish-only speaking household on Russell Street. It was not until she went to school at St. Hedwig that she began learning English. “It was our Polish community,” she reminisced.
In 1999, Ammerman opened a restaurant called Busia’s Narozny (meaning corner) at Webber and Lagrange. In 2004, she opened a second restaurant at the corner of Laskey and Tractor. “We operated two locations at the same time only for about one year,” recalled Ammerman. “We ended up closing the first location in 2005, and in 2016 we closed the second location due to neighborhood population and business decline.”
After the closings, Ammerman took some time to figure out where she needed to be and what she needed to be doing. She even took a few jobs but was unsatisfied with the work. Then in 2018, with the support of her husband, Ammerman created Busia’s Pierogi Shack and began selling her food at the Toledo Farmers Market. “I like connecting with people, and I missed that. Being at the market gives me the opportunity to reunite and see a lot of people,” she said.
Ten types of pierogi are available to choose from at the market regularly, each just needing a quick sauté in butter to be prepared. Ammerman likes to get creative with her pierogi fillings and cooks up several combinations including potato cheddar, potato and onion, dry curd cottage cheese, kielbasa scramble, pepperoni pizza, and buffalo chicken, plus she offers seasonal versions – pumpkin pie and sweet potato. “My mom would be surprised at how many things I’m sticking in a pierogi,” Ammerman laughed.
Busia’s Pierogi Shack offers soups at the market including sweet and sour cabbage, chicken noodle, dill pickle soup and an authentic Polish duck soup. “Christy is our baker,” explained Ammerman. Her baked goods including chrusciki (angel wings), Polish coffee cake, pumpkin rolls and kolacky are also available. All of Busia’s products are sold frozen, except for the chrusciki.
Pre-orders can be placed at busiaspierogishack.square.site and picked up at the market, or shoppers can simply choose from what is available while on site.
While Ammerman enjoys participating at the market, she would not be opposed to owning another restaurant. “I was the only Polish restaurant in town, and now there aren’t any. If I can ever expand my business in the future, I would love to open a little café.”
We’ll keep our fingers crossed for that little café. In the meantime, let’s enjoy two fabulous recipes from Busia’s Pierogi Shack – borscht, a traditional soup made from beets, and kolacky, a delicate, fruit preserves filled cookie.
Borscht (Beet Soup)
Six 15-ounce cans beets
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
32 ounces chicken stock
1 tablespoon pepper
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried dill
2 tablespoons garlic salt
¾ cup sugar
1 ¼ cup vinegar
32 ounces heavy cream
In a 6 quart pot, combine onion, celery, chicken stock, pepper, parsley, dill, garlic salt, and beet juice only. Cook until onion and celery are tender.
Add sugar, vinegar and beets. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and continue a slow boil for 1 hour.
Add heavy cream and bring to a full boil.
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
Mix cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add flour and powdered sugar.
Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Heat oven to 350 F.
Roll dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2 ½ inch squares.
Place ½ teaspoon preserves in the center of each square. Overlap opposite corners and pinch together.
Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and dust with powdered sugar.
One thought on “Sizzle Simmer Sauté–In the kitchen with: Irene Ammerman of Busia’s Pierogi Shack”
Irene you do a fabulous job and your crew the food is out of this world. Hope you do get a cafe.You would be so wonderful and on cloud nine.