ASHLEY — Whether you call them piggies, pigs in the blanket or stuffed cabbage rolls, the Northeastern Pennsylvania staple was being made on a recent Wednesday and Thursday at a local church.
Volunteers at St. Leo’s/Holy Rosary, in Ashley, spent their days chopping, rolling and boiling different items to make the savory food. And it’s all for a good cause: the annual Summer Festival.
“The recipe is Joan Thomas’,” Bernadette Druby said.
Druby, who was looking over several sheets with the recipe on it, explained Thomas made all the piggies for the former Holy Rosary Summer Festival before her passing, and before the church combined with St. Leo’s.
“We try to follow her recipe because it’s come to be the best,” Druby said.
As a handful of volunteers cut onions in the church hall, Druby and Festival Chairperson Arlene Hooper used the kitchen to wash and boil the five cases of cabbage used as the piggies’ outer shell.
“We’re going to try for 1,000,” Druby said.
The piggie mixture, Druby said, will use bacon and “a secret ingredient,” which she kept tight-lipped on.
“It’s what makes them unique,” she said.
The summer festival, which runs June 22, 23 and 24, is the church’s biggest fundraiser, Hooper said. On average, the fundraiser will bring in an extra $40,000 for the church.
“We work weeks and weeks (to prepare),” she said.
For four weeks between May and June, Hooper said, volunteers come out to make over 4,000 pierogies, a traditional bazaar food.
“They work 1,000 at a time,” Hooper, of Hanover Township, said, explaining the piggies take less time overall, but the hard work is the same.
Druby, of Wilkes-Barre, was the woman in charge while the Times Leader visited. She said she’s been helping at the bazaar — first at Holy Rosary, then St. Leo’s/Holy Rosary — for “60, 70 years.”
“It’s a deep dedication,” she said.
And though making the different foods — the church will have low-fat turkey barbecue featuring Druby’s special sauce, clam chowder, wimpies and strawberry shortcake among other items — is work, Druby said it’s “fun” and there is a sense of camaraderie, especially between people who have attended more than once.
“You’re not just helping the parish; we’re family,” she said. “Everyone gets along.”
Rich McNulty, of Wilkes-Barre, was a novice to making piggies. He said he helped make pierogies in the past and enjoyed it so much he came back for the piggie making sessions.
“Contributing your time, it’s a wonderful thing,” McNulty said as he was cutting onions.
Dressed in a neon green shirt and matching shoes, Mimi McGowan kept the mood light as she “whoop whoop’d” after she finished her bag of allium cepa.
McGowan, of Hanover Township, said 2017 was the first time she was doing preparation work for the bazaar; usually, she’d be behind the food stand. But unfortunately, she won’t be around for the bazaar.
Before preparing the onions, McGowan said Druby let her core some cabbage.
“I feel qualified,” she said.
Druby said the piggies would be frozen after the initial cooking was done and then defrosted and finished during the festival.
DJ Bouncin’ Bernie, Kerry Dancers, Strawberry Jam and Oz are the entertainment for the weekend. For more information on the bazaar, call 570-825-6669 or visit the Church’s website at stleos-holyrosary.org.
Reach Melanie Mizenko at 570-991-6116 or on Twitter @TL_MMizenko