Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Manchester will hold its annual lamb barbecue on Saturday, June 19, from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Lamb is only one of the many Greek foods served at the event, which serves as the church’s main fundraiser for the year.
This year’s offerings include barbecue lamb, Greek meatballs, stuffed grape leaves, and spanakopita. Pastitsio, a lasagna-like dish of layered macaroni and seasoned ground beef, will be available. In addition to the lamb made on the charcoal grill, there will be loukaniko, Greek sausage, and souvlaki, smaller pieces of lamb on a skewer, which are prepared on a gas grill.
Many Greek desserts will be available at the pastry tent, including baklava, kourambiethes, finikia, kataifi and koulourakia. The pastry tent will also serve spanakopita and a lesser-known version of pita called tiropita. Bob Leuchs, the president of the Parish Council, explained, “[tiropita]is basically the same thing as spanakopita, but it’s made without spinach.” Rice pudding, whoopie pies, and loukoumathes, which are a Greek version of doughnut holes covered in syrup, are also on the dessert menu for the event.
Three raffles are a major part of the fundraiser. The raffles include a penny raffle, silent raffle, and the big raffle. Prizes for the big raffle include the grand prize of $1,000, one $500 prize, five $200 prizes and five $100 prizes. Many of the other items being raffled are gift certificates to area businesses. Twenty-five percent of the raffles’ proceeds go to charities. Past recipients were the NH Food Bank, New Horizons, Habitat for Humanity, Shriners Hospital for Children, Make a Wish, and the Santa Fund. The other 75 percent goes to the church’s building fund. This year, church members hope to raise enough money for a new door that is currently being installed. Several years ago, the church was able to build an addition to make the building handicap-accessible.
A musician will be at the event, playing Greek music throughout the day.
A lot of work goes into making the lamb for the barbecue. The group purchases 500 pounds of boneless lamb and chops it into cubes. The meat is then covered in a marinade that includes many different spices: “You take a handful of this and a handful of that until it looks good,” Leuchs said. Some of the ingredients include onion, oregano, parsley, dill, salt, pepper and garlic.
“You can’t cook Greek food without garlic. That’s just a given,” Leuchs said.
Cooking for the event is an ongoing process.
“Some of it is already done and in the freezer, but a lot of the major items are prepared the week before the barbecue,” Leuchs said. Each day of the week before the barbecue, the group focuses on a specific item. Leuchs said there are generally six to 12 people working in the kitchen each day, but different parishioners participate in making the various items.
Leuchs says planning the barbecue is a great way to build community within the parish: “Just about every person in the church participates in one way or another,” he said. “My favorite part of the event is the camaraderie…. It’s just kind of fun to work with everybody. We laugh and giggle.”
One of the luxuries of the event’s small size compared to other church festivals is the flexibility it affords the cooks.
“We’re small enough that we can kind of cook to order,” Leuchs said. The cooks have to barbecue throughout the day in order to meet demand, but they are able to give attendees freshly cooked meat that doesn’t sit in warming pans.
Saint Nicholas’s has been hosting the barbecue in its current form for the past 15 years, but the Parish Council continues to make changes to improve the event.
“The festivals are very common. Just about every Greek church in the country does one,” Leuchs said. Many churches hold their festival on the name day of the saint for which the church is named. Unfortunately, the name day for Saint Nicholas is in December, a month in which the weather is not especially conducive to barbecues. Area churches cooperate in order to spread the festivals out over the months with pleasant weather, and Saint Nicholas’s is very happy with their June position. A few years ago, the church moved the festival to the weekend of Father’s Day.
“It’s been great. I guess people hang around because Father’s Day is on Sunday,” Leuchs said.
Leuchs has been working to get the food quantities perfect over the last few years. In the past, festival organizers have run out of lamb before the event was over.
“The lamb I’ve been upping every year for the past four or five years,” Leuchs said. Last year, they used 500 pounds of lamb and had the correct amount. Leuchs said that last year they got the other food quantities just about right: “We began to run out of things at 5:30, which is when I want to start running out of things.”
The church usually makes around $15,000 from the barbecue, which is a significant part of the church’s overall funding. “Twenty percent of our budget for the year comes from this event,” Leuchs said.