Continuing the tradition: Lansford church members gather monthly to make pierogies
Alex Shereba, left, and Charlie Keer roll out dough as Paul Rokita watches. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app to see a video. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS
They’ve been making pierogies by hand for more than 50 years at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in Lansford.
Celia Keer organizes pierogies made by volunteers from St. John’s.
The church volunteers make as many as 500 dozen pierogies.
After 50 years, they are keeping it fresh at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church — fresh pierogies, that is.
For decades, parishioners have been gathering at the church on a monthly basis to make fresh pierogies by hand as a fundraiser for the church.
Pierogie making is a tradition that is handed down through generations. The tradition was brought to the United States by the grandparents of the volunteers who make them today.
“It’s part of our ethnicity,” Louise Dunstan said. “Today there’s not enough of our kind.”
The church basement becomes a pierogie assembly line with volunteers rolling and cutting the dough, forming balls of filling, and finally crimping the whole thing together. In a day’s work, they’ll make 180 dozen. At Christmastime, when one customer buys 40 dozen himself, they make a total of 500 dozen.
“We’re a very good group, we all work well together,” Mary Ann Foulk said.
To make all those pierogies, you have to start early in the morning. A smaller group of volunteers show up at 5:30 a.m. to begin peeling potatoes. The bulk of the volunteers show up later to assemble potato filling balls and dough into pierogies.
They’ll start with about 100 pounds of potatoes, said Dave Padora, who basically manages the small operation.
“After potato balls are done, we use the leftover dough to make halushki,” he said.
Not much has changed about the process over the years, but they now have an electric potato peeler and dough roller that really reduce the time. The kitchen also has a dough mixer and large freezers to make the process more efficient. When Mary Hosak started volunteering in the ’60s, that wasn’t the case.
“We made everything by hand, rolled the dough by hand with a big rolling pin,” she said.
St. John’s recipe is kept secret. Celia Keer, a longtime volunteer, admits she doesn’t even know it. The bag lists potatoes, cheese, and ‘spices.’ Only the longest-serving volunteers, some of which have been involved for decades, know the secret.
“An older priest gave me the recipe and he told me I should not share the recipe, I should keep it in this church, and that’s what I’ve tried to do,” Mary Hosak said.
While the specifics of the recipe remain a secret, they are also passing the tradition down to future generations.
Dunstan said that she uses the opportunity of her grandchildren’s hunger to teach them the tradition. When they want pierogies, she has them go through the process of making them.
“My granddaughter likes to fork. She thinks that’s funny,” Dunstan said.
St. John’s pierogies and halushki are sold once a month, except for July and August. They hang fliers around town, but customers can also call Celia at 570-645-7372, Jeanie at 570-645-7960, or email email@example.com. Pierogies are $6/dozen and halushki is $5/pound.