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St. Stephen Byzantine Catholic Church group shares food, fellowship while making pirohy

Joe Napsha
| Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, 5:15 p.m.
Ron Balta gets the pirohy process started, adding the ingredients to the mixer. A group of about 20 parishioners of St. Stephen’s Byzantine Church of North Huntingdon continue a 20-year tradition by making pirohy for sale at the church. The men and women plan to make 400-to-500 dozen pirohy over a two-day period for sale on Friday Feb. 12. The pirohy sales are held at the church five times a year — twice during Lent and then in October, November and December.

Phil Wilson | For Trib Total Media
Ron Balta gets the pirohy process started, adding the ingredients to the mixer. A group of about 20 parishioners of St. Stephen’s Byzantine Church of North Huntingdon continue a 20-year tradition by making pirohy for sale at the church. The men and women plan to make 400-to-500 dozen pirohy over a two-day period for sale on Friday Feb. 12. The pirohy sales are held at the church five times a year — twice during Lent and then in October, November and December.

The dough has been through the mixer. The Rev. John Petro kneads and rolls the dough in the kitchen prior to sending it out to the hall for the next step.
Phil Wilson | For Trib Total Media
The dough has been through the mixer. The Rev. John Petro kneads and rolls the dough in the kitchen prior to sending it out to the hall for the next step.
The dough has been flattened and cut into squares. The dough press is to the left in the photo. Anne Novotnak gathers the squares to move them to the filling station.
Phil Wilson | For Trib Total Media
The dough has been flattened and cut into squares. The dough press is to the left in the photo. Anne Novotnak gathers the squares to move them to the filling station.
After the dough has been flattened and cut into squares the filling is placed in the center.
Phil Wilson | For Trib Total Media
After the dough has been flattened and cut into squares the filling is placed in the center.
Marilyn Stein gives the pirohy its first pinch — the step that sets the filling in place and gives it the distinctive half-moon shape.
Phil Wilson | For Trib Total Media
Marilyn Stein gives the pirohy its first pinch — the step that sets the filling in place and gives it the distinctive half-moon shape.
Pinched once, the pirohy are placed on a tray to be moved to the second pinching station.
Phil Wilson | For Trib Total Media
Pinched once, the pirohy are placed on a tray to be moved to the second pinching station.
Before they can go into the pot, the pirohy get a second pinch to ensure that the filling stays securely inside. From left, Steve Muchoney, Ruth Seech and Catherine Zeleznik team up to make that happen.
Phil Wilson | For Trib Total Media
Before they can go into the pot, the pirohy get a second pinch to ensure that the filling stays securely inside. From left, Steve Muchoney, Ruth Seech and Catherine Zeleznik team up to make that happen.
Flattened, filled and pinched twice, the pirohy are placed in the pot to cook by Mike Andrejcak (left) and Ray Seech Sr.
Phil Wilson | For Trib Total Media
Flattened, filled and pinched twice, the pirohy are placed in the pot to cook by Mike Andrejcak (left) and Ray Seech Sr.
Cooked to perfection and ready to cool and be packaged.
Phil Wilson | For Trib Total Media
Cooked to perfection and ready to cool and be packaged.

Roll, cut, fill, pinch ... repeat.

A group of dedicated volunteers worked in assembly-line fashion at a North Huntingdon church this week to make more than 5,000 pirohy for a fundraiser on Friday.

“It's a fine group of people working together. It's a major fundraiser and a lot of fun, too,” said the Rev. John Petro, priest at St. Stephen Byzantine Catholic Church, as he kneaded dough for the pirohy.

A group of about 25 parishioners works to make the sale a reality, said Patty Balta, who helps to organize the crew. That includes the priest, “who has not missed a day of doing the work,” Balta added.

Balta said most of the women learned to make the pirohy, a traditional Eastern European dish, from their mothers.

Men and woman split the chores in the church basement along Bethel Road.

“It's nice that the men help out,” Balta said.

The men begin by making the dough before women put the pirohy together in assembly-line fashion — rolling out the balls of dough, cutting it into squares, filling the pockets with potato-cheese, sweet cabbage or lekvar (prunes), then pinching the pockets and placing the folded pirohy on large racks, ready to be boiled.

The men cook the pirohy for 10 minutes and then bag each dozen with butter.

The pirohy are refrigerated for a few days before the sale, so they are fresh when bought.

All the work takes two days of preparation — making the potato filling and chopping and cooking the sweet cabbage — and another two days of assembly, Balta said.

One of the volunteers, Shirley Andreyko of North Huntingdon, said she has been making the pirohy for many years.

“I just came to help out at the church. It's just nice to get together,” said Andreyko, whose husband, Mike, helps in the kitchen, as does Balta's husband, Ron.

Andreyko said the pirohy are not hard to make.

“It's not rocket science,” she quipped.

The crew expected to assemble about 420 dozen priohy this week, Balta said.In order to make all those pirohy, Balta said they bought 40 five-pound bags of flour and 16 dozen eggs, plus potatoes, cheddar cheese and prunes. The cost of all the ingredients is about $450, Balta said. Each dozen sells for $9.

“We'll sell them all,” Balta said with confidence. They have a steady stream of customers and the volunteers buy them as well, she said.

The church holds a pirohy sale two times during Lent and twice in the fall, Balta said. To do it more often would be too taxing on the volunteers, Petro said.

“It's just a great group of people,” Ron Balta said.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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