Hungry New Year!

By on December 30, 2014

900 pounds of pork, 700 pounds of potatoes get 2015 off to a good start

If you think it’s tough to make pork and sauerkraut for your family’s New Year’s Day dinner, you should try making it for 1,700.

That’s right, 1,700 people.

That’s what Marty Heisey and her team of 160 volunteers have been doing for 16 years, at the annual Lititz Church of the Brethren’s New Year’s Day Pork and Sauerkraut Buffet.

The Lititz tradition got started in 1998, and back then it was a relatively small affair, with just 500 or so. It’s grown steadily with each year. Last year, approximately 1,700 men, women and children showed up to dine on the Pennsylvania German dinner of roast pork, sauerkraut, real mashed potatoes, homemade applesauce, rolls, dessert, coffee and beverages.

“Well, we don’t peel all those potatoes,” admits Heisey.

The potatoes come pre-peeled from the supplier in 30-pound bags. They order 24 bags for a total of 720 pounds of potatoes, which are then boiled in huge kettles, then mashed in commercial mixers with lots of milk and butter, and salt and pepper too.

The pork shoulder comes from Stauffers, some 900 pounds of boneless pork that will be roasted outside in a huge cooker outside the church kitchen. When it’s finished, it’s so tender you can cut it with a fork.

For children, and anyone who doesn’t like pork, there are also hot dogs available. Heisey orders two cases of 100 each, so that they can feed 200 children with the hot dogs.

As for the sauerkraut, “we used to make that from scratch, but it was a lot of work, cutting all that cabbage up,” says Heisey. Now they use canned sauerkraut, in five gallon buckets. The 22 buckets boil down to 110 pounds of sauerkraut to go with that roasted pork.

They do make the homemade applesauce from scratch, using locally grown Cortland and Gala apples. Applesauce making takes place at the height of apple season back in October. The Cornerstone Sunday School classes at Lititz Church of the Brethren peel and core the apples, then cook them down with a little water in the church’s commercial cooker.

“There’s no sugar added, these apples are naturally sweet and go best with the pork and sauerkraut,” says Carol Kurl who has been assistant chairperson with Heisey for 16 years.

They use 18 bushels of apples, which yields 13 5-gallon buckets of applesauce, which is preserved until it’s time for the Pork and Sauerkraut dinner.

The ladies of Lititz Church of the Brethren have desserts covered. You can’t have a lucky New Year without dessert — and plenty of it.

Verna Moseman, Marty Heisey and Carol Kurl get shoofly pies ready for the Lititz Church of the Brethren New Year’s Day pork and sauerkraut dinner. (Photo by Laurie Knowles Callanan)

Verna Moseman, Marty Heisey and Carol Kurl get shoofly pies
ready for the Lititz Church of the Brethren New Year’s Day pork
and sauerkraut dinner. (Photo by Laurie Knowles Callanan)

Verna Moseman bakes 25 shoofly pies for the big day. She starts a few weeks ahead and bakes her pie shells, freezing them until they are ready to be filled with the gooey molasses and crumb filling.

“You have to take your time, they can be very messy,” says Moseman, who had a minor molasses accident when one of the pies spilled all over her oven.

Moseman uses a time-honored recipe from Peggy Cassel and her pie crust recipe was handed down from Helen Claussen. It uses some egg and vinegar in the flour and Crisco-based dough, which makes for a tender, flaky crust for the 10-inch pies. The pies are then stored at the freezers at Church of the Brethren.

There are other pies too, like coconut custard, pecan, pumpkin, blueberry, peach, raisin and apricot, which come from Lucinda’s bakery.

Mary Ann Blough and Shirley Mummaw make lots of creamy rice pudding for the event, and Blough is also known for her lighter-than-air angel food cake.

There are also cakes, mostly supplied by Oregon Dairy at a discount, including chocolate, marble, yellow and white cake. The coffee is purchased from Dunkin’ Donuts at a special price.

“The beverages are all donated to the church by Turkey Hill,” says Heisey. “They have been doing this for years.”

Logistics are a big issue at a dinner that serves 1,700 people. The church hall only seats about 350 at a time.

Fortunately, about half of those who come to the dinner order carry-out. It’s even easier than a fast food restaurant. You just pull up to the carry-out station, pay your money or provide your tickets, tell them how many dinners you need, and you’re set.

Inside, the dinner is served buffet-style. Early in the day, as the dinner opens at 11 a.m., the lines can stack up, but they move quickly. People continue to line up until around 3 p.m. when all that pork, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and pie are gone, and everyone is satiated.

There are volunteers who do everything from roast the pork to bake pies to clean up the church hall. Younger people help with serving those who can’t get around well. There is cooking to do in advance and closer to the day. Tables must be set with silverware, then everything cleaned up when it’s done.

After 16 years, Heisey and her team have it all down to a system.

“This year is my second to last year doing this,” says Heisey, adding that she would like to see someone new fill her very capable shoes.

The New Years Pork and Sauerkraut dinner is more than just a way to “pig” out on New Year’s Day. It fulfills a church mission of Kindred Outreach, bringing the community together. For most of the people at the dinner, it is a chance to spend time with their neighbors in Lititz, Manheim, Ephrata and Lancaster.

For others, it is a chance to enjoy a good, heart-warming meal on a cold winter day. The church provides tickets to the Community Chest, Water Street Rescue Mission, Meals on Wheels, House of His Creation, Gate House and Brickerville Fire Company for those in need.

Since Meals of Wheels doesn’t operate on the New Year’s Day holiday, meals are delivered to Meals on Wheels recipients, coming from the same kitchen where meals are made by volunteers during the week.

Throughout the day, there is music provided in the church sanctuary, with Bob Kettering on organ and piano, Kara Miller on piano and trumpet, John and Lisa Huber on organ and piano, Linda Clark on piano, Abigal and Janet Myers on piano and saxophone, and Glenn Compton on piano.

Tickets for the dinner are $11 per adult, with children at $4 for ages 3-11. Children under 3, eat free. The New Year’s Day Pork and Sauerkraut Buffet is held on Thursday, January 1, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The community dinner helps to fund Lititz Church of the Brethren’s youth foundation, attending the National Youth Conference in Colorado. Any other money goes toward mission and community outreach projects.

“It’s not easy to feed 1,700 people, but it is very fulfilling and a joy,” says Heisey. “It’s a meaningful way to start the New Year.”

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