Friday, March 7, 2008

What Is a Beerock, And How Did It Get To Fresno? or How Did Fresno Cooks Corrupt the Bierock??

I was born and raised in Fresno, California, the raisin capital of the world. I loved Fresno. I especially loved the summers. While most adults would spend countless hours inside their homes cooled by the swamp coolers, I spent my childhood summers outside playing and exploring, clad only in shorts and t-shirts and always...always... barefoot.

Many of my most cherished childhood food experiences were in Fresno. When I was in second grade, I ate my first loquats from a tree that grew between the apartment buildings where we lived. Later we moved to a house in a more rural neighborhood directly across a one-lane asphalt road from a large fig orchard. In late summer, after the figs had ripened and before the rancher harvested the trees, my mother would send me across the street to pick bags of figs and bring them back to the house where she would make homemade fig jam. I knew it was stealing and I was terrified of being caught, but we'd eat that wonderful fig jam on toast for weeks. My dad had a large garden in the backyard of that house and my mom would make sweet tomato preserves dotted with candied lemon peel from the tomatoes he grew there. At family gatherings, my aunt Sally taught me how to quickly peel a hard boiled egg. My maternal grandmother taught me to make the best potato salad I've ever eaten. And, for Thanksgiving and Christmas I would fill countless stalks of celery with softened cream cheese.

Fresno was where my mother first made and I first tasted Beerocks, wonderful individual beef and cabbage pies, seasoned with lots of black pepper and wrapped in a thin yeast dough. They are spicy and delicious, but a common version of the more complicated meat-filled pocket pastry that arrived in the 1870's with German-Russian settlers. Their pastries were made from braised beef that was coarsely ground and mixed with cabbage and onions and wrapped in a handmade yeast dough. My mother's version was made with hamburger and boxed hot roll mix.

This recipe makes 12 stuffed pockets.



Betty's Beerocks
by Terri Powers adapted from my mom's recipe


2-1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 large head cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 - 3 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 box Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix

Prepare the hot roll mix according to the directions on the box. While dough is rising to twice it's size, prepare the filling.


Put the ground beef in a large frying pan or pot and cook thoroughly on medium high heat, breaking the meat up as it cooks into the consistency of the meat filling for tacos. Add the chopped onions and cook until the onions are almost transparent. Add the cabbage and cook until it is almost soft, but still retains a somewhat firm texture (you don't want it to be mushy), stirring frequently until the meat, onions and cabbage are well mixed. Add the salt, then begin adding the pepper. Taste the mixture after you have added 2 tablespoons. The mixture should have a distinctly peppery flavor. Add more pepper as needed. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.


Preheat oven to 375ºF. Punch down the dough and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll out each piece into a circle about 8 inches across.

For each pocket, pile several spoons full of the filling on one half of the dough circle.


Lift the remaining half of the dough over the filling and seal the dough all the way around the half circle.


Place the pockets on a large cookie sheet (you probably will need two cookie sheets) lightly dusted with corn meal. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes or until golden brown.

These freeze extremely well.

22 comments:

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Proud Italian Cook said...

Nice recipe and it sounds delicious, lots of black pepper too!!

Test Kitchen Recipes said...

I need to try this. It looks so good.

Anonymous said...

Use to have these sometimes in our high school (KUHS)lunches in the early 70's. Loved them!! Hope to try this receipe soon. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

My mothers family is Russian-German. I grew up eating beerock. Its ok with hamburger but if you want the real kind you have to use shredded meat. Using hamburger is a travesty

Anonymous said...

I recently moved to Omaha, Nebraska. We have a chain of fast food restaurants here called Runza. Your recipe reminds me of a "Runza". You should google it :)

Anonymous said...

When i was a kid in Fresno some 30 yrs ago. We would save our lunch money and ride our bikes to Karsh's Bakery and buy our Beerocks. Ohh soo good! As an adult living in the Bay Area there is no such thing as a beerock?!!

It was my belief that the beerocks came from our Armenian neighborhoods... That's a guess.

Anonymous said...

Beerocks is a long tradition in my German Mennonite Family who migrated through Russia. They are delicious if you can get a real recipe that uses some mashed potatoes in the yeast dough. They are awesome! I use shredded beef and ground beef depending on how much time I have. My children prefer the ground beef and it is a little simpler lots of onion and of course pepper. I do believe the mennonites brought beerocks from Russia! They freeze so well and are yummy in the microwave for a quick lunch. My husband begs me to make them but he eats them up so fast and they are a lot of work. Our family is also from the Fresno, Bakersfield area.

Chefs In Christ said...

Aloha Terri,Thank you so much for bringing forward such a Great menu Item ....your interpretation of the recipe Beerock is a good one :) I am also from Fresno and come from a strong culinary family. I came across your blog looking up a bierock recipe. My grand father is from north Central USA his family is from Papenburg Germany in 1910 he was a baker in Fresno for the greater part of his life. Also my Grand mother his Wife is from Oklahoma and was a cook for her people the Cherokee, through many trails of tears. On my dads side of the family My great grand fathers family was commissioned , and sent from Spain to the Philippines to grow and ship sugarcane. His daughter married a U.S.Army solder who was from The Dakota's, She my grand mother, with my dad, and his sister moved to California after the war was over in 1946, my grand father, served,and died in PI in 1933.After thy got to the States My grand mother worked in the Fresno unified school district as a cafeteria cook and was a part of the first team of cooks to start the satellite food program for the F.U.S.D.where the recipe for bierock was adapted for the school district, at home she used the potato recipe. and for the school it was more practical to make 1000 bierock's to feed all the students, the sweet dough was the last dough I remember that thy used the children found these the best ( they would eat them !) Recipes are awesome they have a tendency of evolving to the needs and the pallet not to mention the pock of the user pun intended that's another part of this the need to pocket ones lunch hence the square cornered shape to a pocket friendly shape that evolved; as we left the house for lunch and found a need to take our lunches with .. so the first recipes have grown with us to fit the needs and practicalities of life as do most things.. it all makes sense.so look back and find the one that suits you best and know they are all good whether you call it a bierock or a bieroch, beerock, berrock, bierox, beerrock and kraut bierock in the U.S, and Pirok or Kraut Pirok in Argentina. At the heart of our house the. kitchen" We had the potato bread with ground meat Caramelized onions cabbage and carrots; they were good for the eyes. They were great and I am so thankful to find this blog the rich history of friends and Family in the U.S.A. bring such a beautiful mosaic of feast from many nations that love one and other and find the way to evolve to suit the needs of the greater good. Thank you fellow bloggers for enriching my life allowing me to share freely the value of my past and to bless the future generations looking to bless even seven generations into our future. Mahalo Nui Loa ,Curtis A. Lea;Chef's in Christ Ministries, Kailua-K,Hawaii ....once again thank you for blessing my day ...

Anonymous said...

My mother was German. The migration to Russia by Germans was to avoid forced entry into the wars. The Germans still living in Russia continue with their heritage. This recipe is very German. Some German Historical Societies have cookbooks. I have one of them, and there is a huge section of this recipe. The dough is quite traditional in that it is a sweet dough. None of the original recipes had shredded meat, strictly ground beef. The invention of these "sandwiches" were given to the men while they worked. I continue the tradition, making it exactly as done by generations in the past.

Terri said...

Thank you all for the wonderful comments and insightful historical references. Being of primarily Norwegian descent, I'm thrilled that you have shared such wonderful family anecdotes.

Anonymous said...

I'm full German & live in fresno also! I don't believe BEEROCKS ARE A " MENNONITE" thing bc that it a religion simular to AMISH! Im catholic so this whole beerock topic is getting of track! Ive always heard beerocks were originated in germany! Im not againist any religion or ignorant nor do i run others down. Just letting you know how i learned about beerocks & how i was brought up making them!

Anonymous said...

so very true!!!!

Anonymous said...

My family is German-Russian from the Volga area of Russia. I am from Fresno also. Beerocks do not exist in Germany! My boyfriend was born and raised in Bonn, I've been there many times, simply do not exist and are unknown. Beerocks are believed to be adapted from Russian pierogi (spelling). Thanks for this post!

JONLYLEWILLIAMS said...

Wow Terri, as a kid I ate beer rocks a few times, the last time when I was six in 1968. My mom never made them again and said she lost the recipe. But I remembered them exactly and for years searched for a recipe. I figured that maybe my mom pronounced the name wrong. One time I thought I came close, but it wasn't it.Then tonight I entered Beir roqs just hoping, and up popped BEER ROCKS from Fresno recipes. I found yours, your story brought tears to my eyes. You see mom always thought she lost the recipe from a book, but, I remember grandma making them also, I remember that they were German. My Grandparents moved to Fresno Ca. in 1936 from Texas my mom was 10, she grew up in Fresno and we visited my grandma who had a Loquate tree I LOVED! And her and my mom both made all kinds of preserves green and red tomato. Apricot etc. I remember the fruit stands with blood oranges giant peaches and watermelons. I have lived in Oregon since 1976, most fruit sucks. But all your memories hit home.

Terri said...

Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful memories. I, too, miss the wonderful fruits and vegetables from California. I hope you try to make the beerocks. If you do, please let me know how they turned out for you and if they are close to those made by your mom and grandma. My best to you!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sylviann rosenthal said...

Youre taking me back. Thanks for the memorie
S.

Terri said...

You're welcome Sylviann!

Anonymous said...

Ahhh Karsh's bakery beerocks...Takes me back 30-40 years! Thanks! (Former Fresbergian...Go Dogs!)

Anonymous said...

Thank you Terri, I was raised in Fresno, I remember the swamp coolers and run inning the neighborhood. I had loquacious from a neighbors tree and beerochs at the Fresno fair. One of my all time favorite foods. I have been looking for a recipe for a long time. I now live in Texas with loquacious trees in the back yard. I cooked beerocks for the first time last month and my grandchildren are asking when we will have them again.

Terri said...

Anonymous #1: I remember Karsh's bakery very well!

Anonymous #2: Thanks for sharing your memories. I love visiting Fresno. We try to get there at least once a year.

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