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How did beerocks get to Fresno? Are they ready to spread?

A tasty meat pie with an unlikely name makes Fresno, California, its home. How the pie got there is fairly clear; how it got the name beerock is muddled.

Distinctly seasoned with lots of black pepper and wrapped in a thin yeast dough, these individually portioned beef and cabage pies are sturdy, wholesome, and good-tasting. Their local history dates back to the 1870s, when a version arrived with German-Russian settlers.

Speculation has it that beerock is a corruption of a Russian or German word. However, it is hard to overlook the fact that the Armenian or Turkish word for a filled turnover is borak, borek, buerreck, beurek, to name a few variations; and that these folk also share in the heritage of Fresno. But the debate has only to do with beerocks' name, not their popularity.

The Harvey Hartman family shared this flavorful version with us. It starts with a piece of beef chuck, which you braise until tender, then grind coarsely.

In the meat drippings, you slowly cook sliced cabbage and onion until the vegetables are limp, golden, and have developed a mellow, sweet flavor.

Serve beerocks hot from the oven; they make a sturdy lunch or light supper to eat out-of-hand. One or two are about equal to a hamburger. For the family or an informal gathering, accompany with salad and pickles.

Beerocks can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen, so it's easy to keep a supply on hand for meals or snacks. This recipe makes 24. Fresno Beerocks Beerock dough (recipe follows) Beef and cabbage filling (recipe follows)

Divide dough into 6 equal pieces. On a floured board, roll out 1 portion of dough at a time (cover remaining pieces with plastic wrap) to form a circle 12 inches in diameter; cut into 4 equal wedges.

Divide meat filling into 24 equal portions, about 1/3 cup each. Shape each portion into a ball and set one portion in the center of each wedge.

Working with 1 wedge at a time, pull the three points of dough up over filling and pinch edges together firmly to enclose filling. Set beerocks, seam sides down, about 1 inch apart on ungreased 12- by 15-inch rimmed baking pans. Repeat to shape each beerock.

As each baking pan is filled, loosely cover beerocks with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until dough is puffy, about 15 minutes.

Bake, uncovered, in a 375[deg.] oven until tops are golden brown, about 20 minutes. With a spatula, transfer the beerocks to a basket and serve hot, or transfer to racks and cool to room temperature.

If made ahead, cool, cover, and refrigerate up to 3 days. Freeze to store longer; thaw wrapped. To reheat, set beerocks, slightly apart, on ungreased rimmed baking pans and bake, uncovered, in a 350[deg.] oven until hot, about 15 minutes. Makes 24 beerocks, 1 or 2 for a serving. --Beverly Hartman, Fresno, Calif.

Beerock dough. In a large bowl, sprinkle 1 package active dry yeast over 1/4 cup warm water (110[deg.]); let stand for 5 minutes.

To bowl, add 2 cups warm milk (110[deg.]), 2 tablespoons each sugar and salad oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in 4 cups all-purpose flour just until evenly moistened. With a heavy-duty mixer or sturdy spoon, beat until dough pulls cleanly from sides of bowl, about 10 minutes.

Stir in 2 more cups all-purpose flour. Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until dough is smooth, about 5 minutes; if dough sticks, add more flour to board, a little at a time.

Place dough in a greased bowl; turn over to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down and knead on a lightly floured board to expel air bubbles. At this point, dough is ready to use to shape beerocks.

Beef and cabbage filling. In a 6- to 8-quart pan, combine a 4- to 5-pound bone-in beef chuck roast and 1/4 cup water; cover and cook over medium-high heat 30 minutes. Uncover and boil until juices evaporate and only the rendered fat remains.

Cook roast in its own fat over medium heat until the meat is richly browned on all sides, about 30 minutes more; turn as needed to brown evenly. Add 2 more cups water and 1 teaspoon pepper. Cover and simmer until meat pulls apart easily, about 2 hours; add water, if necessary, to keep about 1/2 inch in pan.

Lift out meat. Boil drippings until most of the juices evaporate and the fat remains; set aside.

Pull out and discard bones and gristle from meat. Coarsely grind meat, a handful at a time, in a food processor; or force through the coarse blade of a food chopper. Set meat aside.

Cut 2 pounds green cabbage (about 1 large head) lengthwise in half; remove and discard core. Thinly slice cabbage. Thinly slice 4 large onions.

Discard all but 1/4 cup of the fat, then add as much cabbage and onions as will fit in the pan. Cook, stirring, until vegetables begin to wilt; add remaining vegetables as there is room to do so. Cook cabbage mixture, stirring often, until vegetables just begin to brown and develop a sweet, mellow flavor, about 1 hour.

Stir in ground meat. Add salt and more pepper to taste (pepper should be very evident). Let cool and use to fill beerocks; if made ahead, cover and refrigerate up to 3 days.
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Date:Apr 1, 1985
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