I made this pelmeni recipe with bear meat, but you could use any meat, really. You will need a lot of onion to go with it, as this is a defining feature of these dumplings. Traditionally pelmeni are made with sourdough, started with whey. You can substitute it for the buttermilk in the recipe. If you want to make a sourdough, you make a sponge with egg yolks and some of the flour and the why/buttermilk/milk and let it sit on the counter for a few days. Make sure your eggs are of the highest quality before you do this. Alternatively, you can just make the flour the day you serve the dumplings. Most people just boil their pelmeni and eat with something like sour cream and dill.
If you are making the sourdough version, start 3 days in advance. Mix the spelt flour and salt with egg yolks and the buttermilk or whey into a batter, cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter. Every day add 1/2 to 1 cup of regular flour, mixing well. Keep the dough covered.
To make the filling, slice the bear and bacon into 1-inch chunks, making sure to remove all silverskin from the meat. Toss with the black pepper and garlic. If you are using uncured pork, like pork fat or pork shoulder, add 2 tablespoons kosher salt. If you are using bacon, salt pork or pancetta, add a teaspoon. Put the mixture in the freezer.
Heat the oil or butter over medium-high heat and saute the onion until it just begins to brown, about 5-6 minutes. Move the onion to a sheet pan or large plate to cool.
While the onion is cooling, you can make the quick dough or finish the sourdough. Mix the remaining flour with the rest of the dough ingredients and knead well. If you are doing a sourdough, you will need to punch the dough down before kneading. Add enough regular flour while kneading to make sure the dough is no longer sticky. Knead at least 5 minutes.
Coat the dough with a little oil and cover with plastic wrap. leave it for at least an hour.
Take the meat and fat mixture from the freezer and mix it with the cooled onions. Grind everything through a meat grinder fitted with the fine die. Alternatively, pulse everything fine in a food processor. Do not make a paste. Mix the meat well with your (very clean) hands and set in the fridge. Clean up before proceeding.
There are two ways to roll out the dough. Traditionally, you roll the dough into a long snake the diameter of a walnut. Cut off pieces and roll them flat with a rolling pin; you want them to be 1/16 of an inch thick. Or, is you have a pasta maker, roll the dough out to a medium setting. My Atlas’ thinnest setting is No. 9, so I went to No. 5. Cut out 2-inch circles with a cutter or wineglass.
Fill each dumpling with a scant tablespoon of filling. Fold over the circle into a half-moon and, if you want, pinch the ends of the half-moon together to make a circular dumpling that has a rim.
Boil the dumplings for 6-8 minutes to make sure the bear or pork has fully cooked. Serve with sour cream mixed with dill and black pepper.
This recipe makes a lot of dumplings, but they freeze really well. Don’t worry: You’ll eat them up fast!