335 gallons of potato cake batter ready for Transfiguration festival
SHAMOKIN - If a brand new Ford Focus ran on potato cake batter, it could make four cross-country trips with what the volunteers at Transfiguration Ukrainian Catholic Church whipped up for their parish festival.
About 335 gallons of the revered potato-and-onion mash will be fried up and served today and Sunday. That's enough to fill 11 standard bathtubs, 3,573 beer mugs - or fill up that Ford Focus 27 times.
This weekend marks the latest in the annual string of church picnics, which also includes Holy Angels picnic in Kulpmont, which got under way Friday and continues from 4 p.m. to midnight today.
In Shamokin, Transfiguration's parish festival will be held from 4 to 10 p.m. today and from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.
At both, festival-goers find enough block party staples to satisfy an army of coal crackers: hundreds of hamburgers and pierogies, gallons of haluski, barrels of beer and unreasonably long lines for potato cakes - greasy, salty, delicious potato cakes.
'The easy part'
In the basement of Transfiguration church Friday, Virginia Korbich held up a dry-erase board with a count for half of the weekend's menu: pierogies, 840 dozen; sausage, 504 links, hamburgers, 707 patties; pigeons, 1,310; haluski dough, 800 pounds.
Clearly that's not enough food, and so there will be hot dogs and sauerkraut, french fries, bean soup and funnel cake.
"It's hard to believe, but this is the easy part," Korbich said. "Tomorrow, we have to make sure we have enough coming out to keep up."
That means matching the long hours spent prepping the menu items by cooking for the festival crowd. Yes, the church kitchen will be busy throughout the weekend because the volunteers' work is hardly done. After all, they pride themselves on frying up cabbage throughout the festival for what they say is the freshest haluski around.
They know their roles
Most of the nearly 20 volunteers working at Transfiguration Friday were in the kitchen. Ed Bendas and Joe Strick arrived at 4 a.m. to get the potatoes prepped, Korbich said. Others came about 7 a.m. this week and last.
By Friday, much of the prep work was over, save for the potato cake batter. The pierogies had already been stuffed, folded and stored. By 9 a.m., after countless heads of cabbage - the church bought 1,100 pounds - were quartered for pigeons, some volunteers called it quits for the day.
Alberta Bakowicz, a 24-year volunteer, ticks off the menu items by memory, feigning exhaustion by the time she's finished. She and Gerry Bushick, an eight-year volunteer, say their work was over.
"We're done. No use standing around," Bushick said as she readied to leave the church. "I'm going home to do yard work."
Korbich said the volunteers, many of them senior citizens, all know their roles. They show up, work hard and stay out of each other's way.
"We come in the morning and say, 'Forgive me if I make you mad today,'" Korbich said, laughing.
Potatoes and onions were still being pushed through a grinder at 10 a.m. Eggs, flour and spices were still being added to the mash before being mixed up and poured into 5-gallon buckets. Thirty buckets had been filled, adding to the 18 filled Thursday. Friday's goal was 45.
The stockpile of potatoes peeled, soaked and ready for mashing dwindled.
"We're going to need more potatoes," said volunteer Bill Howell.
More potatoes, indeed.