A thousand Slavic delights

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Epiphany of Our Lord Byzantine Church's 40th annual Slavic-American Festival is still about six weeks away, but it's never too early to prepare some of the popular food that visitors will devour at the Annandale parish's annual event.

About 60 parishioners showed up at the parish hall July 27 to join in a marathon nut-,

poppy seed- and apricot-roll baking effort.

It takes planning, hard work and a system to make 1,000 pastry rolls in 12 hours. Preparation for the day began around 5 a.m. for Theresa Matlaga, chairwoman of the annual baking event. Of course, she can't do it alone.

"We get about 50 or 60 people to work, and it's wonderful," she said.

Matlaga said that the most popular roll is nut with about 500 prepared, followed by poppy seed and apricot at nearly 250 each. They also make several prune lekvar rolls that round out the count to about 1,000.

The pastry shells are rolled on a template to make them a standard size, then packed with the appropriate filling and rolled into the familiar shape. They're gently carried - with two hands like one would a baby - to a station where volunteers brush the rolls with an egg wash and then send them to the oven to bake. The rolls emerge from the oven with a golden-brown color.

After the rolls come out of the oven, they're brushed with butter, for flavor, and then moved to tables where fans cool them. Eventually the rolls are packed in a plastic bag and put into large plastic crates to be frozen and later thawed in time for the festival.

The other Slavic delicacies like "holupki," cabbage rolls; "haluski," boiled potatoes and cabbage; "kolbasi," sausage; and "pirohi," potato-filled dumplings, are prepared closer to the festival.

John Onufrak, who turns 90 next month, comes to help every year and was placing finished rolls into bags for freezing. Onufrak is the oldest male member of the parish and came to the Washington area after World War II.

"I help out wherever I can," he said.

Work continued until about 6 p.m., finishing up when the last plastic crate of rolls was placed into the walk-in freezer and the kitchen was cleaned.

The rolls will hibernate for six weeks until the hungry festivalgoers show up.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2013