St. Mary of Czestochowa Church volunteers cook up authentic ethnic fare

| Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 9:01 p.m.

There are plenty of places in Pittsburgh where you can find pierogies, but the upcoming Polish Platter Dinner at St. Mary of Czestochowa Church offers much more than just the filled dumplings.

“It's a true Polish platter,” says volunteer Lillian Pfeifer, who is often a greeter at the event.

“You can go many places and get all varieties of food, but you can't normally go many places and get a true Polish dinner.

The annual fundraiser, which takes place Oct. 14 at the New Kensington church, offers a hearty helping of ethnic favorites. The cost of a dinner is $10. Takeout hours are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eat-in runs from noon to 4 p.m.

Organizers plan on serving 1,500 dinners.

“The food is excellent, it's all handmade,” Pfeifer says.

In addition to the pierogi, the menu also includes golabki, known to many as stuffed cabbage. The dish is made up of a filling of seasoned rice and meat is wrapped in cabbage and cooked in a tomato sauce.

Haluski — or cabbage and noodles — is also on the menu, as is kielbasa and string bean polonaise. The latter — whose name basically translates to “Polish-style string beans” — features a buttery bread crumb topping.

All dinners include a dinner roll and a beverage.

The most popular of the pierogi fillings is the potato-and-cheese combination. Volunteers make about 5,000 of the filled dumplings in anticipation of the event, using the same time-tested recipe year after year.

The dinner is the parish's primary fundraiser, according to organizers. Money raised goes to operating expenses. The event attracts a wealth of volunteers, who start cooking well before dinner is served.

“We have a wide range; all members of the parish come in and help out,” Pfeifer says. “There's even been some volunteers from St. Joe's that come down. And it's men and women. They just put their hearts into everything for St. Mary's.”

Volunteers also range in age from teens who are just learning to prepare the Polish favorites to seniors who are passing down the traditions, all for the sake of supporting St. Mary of Czestochowa.

“It's a lot of fun, a lot of camaraderie, a lot of people getting together to make all this and we know it's a good cause, it's for our church,” Pfeifer says.

Fellow volunteer and parishioner Charlotte Polack agrees.

“We have a wonderful, wonderful group of people down there working,” she says. “They are just faithful, good Christian people who want to keep our church alive.”

The Polish Platter isn't all that the volunteers are cooking up. The dinner, which is eat-in or take-out, also features a country store with everything from crocheted scarves to canned items.

“We don't put anything in it that they buy somewhere or any crafty stuff that's not homemade,” Polack says.

Other homemade offerings include “tons” of desserts, she says.

“The baked goods consist of just about anything you can think of,” she says. “There isn't anything you want that day that you can't find. Anything from homemade pies to bread to rolls.”

And no matter what they find, two things are always for certain, according to Polak.

“Everybody leaves here saying they're so full,” she says. “And they can't wait to come back the next year.”

Julie Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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