Paska bread making is tradition at N. Catty church
For those who know the subtle difference between kielbasa/kolbasi and pirohy/pierogi, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, North Catasauqua, has a treat for you.
“There are quite a few orthodox churches in the area, but this is the ‘mother’ church. It was the first one in the Lehigh Valley,” Kip Fedetz said. “The men from the coal region came down here.”
That was 119 years ago.
The 1023 Fifth St. church makes paska, a traditional Easter bread.
“Everything is organic. We use whole milk, unsalted butter, organic eggs, sugar and yeast,” Fedetz said. “We have our own secret ingredient, but that stays with us.”
The church puts out 320 loaves for Easter at only $9 a pop.
“We have customers who have been with us for a while. We ship to one customer in Florida. By tradition, when you make paska, you need to have happy thoughts,” he said.
Everybody in the parish contributes to the process at some point. Although that may seem like an exuberant statement, the church has 27 members.
“It’s more like a community. Many of the members are converts, but they agree with our beliefs,” Fedetz said.
Tim Strain, one of the converts, thinks it’s the best thing he did.
“It took me a little to get the traditions and beliefs, but I am happy here,” he said.
Fedetz’s wife helps out with the baking and his son Andrew, along with his wife, show up on the production line.
“We did a little advertising and marketing to grow to the level we are now,” Fedetz said.
The basics of paska: The dough is rolled into long strings and then braided. The braid is put into a sauce pan, allowed to rise and then baked in a convection oven.
“Traditionally, there are supposed to be three braids, one for each member of the Holy Trinity, but we had to go with two to get the loaves out,” Fedetz said.
Another important point. Paska needs to be baked in steel-enameled pots.
“They are getting harder and harder to find. Most of the time, we need to order them online,” Fedetz said.
The bread then comes out of the oven, onto the cooling rack and packaged for customers — no robots, conveyor belts or frozen pre-mixed dough.
“We do everything in the traditional way,” Fedetz said.
The church also often has kolachi and kielbasa imported from the coal region. The secret supplier is somewhere near Duryea, Luzerne County.