It’s Wednesday night at Calvary United Methodist Church, and the church is empty except for the bustle of activity in the kitchen.
Ladies from the church are making the church’s famous cheese balls to sell at the annual Holiday Extravaganza on Saturday at the church.
Two kinds will be available: Holiday Balls and Spicy Port Balls.
Both balls are made with a cream cheese base and covered in finely chopped nuts. The holiday ball includes onions, and green peppers straight from Becky Isaacs’ own garden. The spicy balls are made with port wine.
Isaacs, chairwoman of the event, said they have been selling the cheese balls for eight years. She said she borrowed the idea from her previous church — Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church in Sykesville.
“They were gracious enough to share their Spicy Port Ball recipe,” Isaacs said. “I already had the Holiday Ball recipe because it was my mother’s.”
The balls are available in 1 pound for $6, or half a pound for $4.
“They freeze really well,” Isaacs said.
The ladies behind her nod in agreement. Many freeze them to serve at Thanksgiving, Christmas and even New Year’s celebrations.
The ladies work in an assembly line. Two ladies shaped and weighed the cheese balls — one assigned to each type of cheese ball. One person is assigned to chop the nuts in a food processor. Two more add the chopped nuts to the outside of each ball. If it’s a Holiday Ball, another adds a maraschino cherry before passing it to the person waiting to cover the balls with plastic wrap. They are refrigerated until Saturday.
Isaacs said she started preparing at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, but had already chopped the onions a few days before. Assembly started around 5 p.m. and usually wraps up by 9:30 p.m., including cleanup. By night’s end, they had 200 balls.
As for which flavor is more popular, she said it changes year to year. One year it might be the spicy ball, another year the holiday ball.
“People from the church seem to prefer the spicy, while people who come from outside the church prefer the holiday,” she said.
The Holiday Extravaganza will feature more than just cheese balls. Isaacs said there are 22 vendors, baked goods tables and a lunch of homemade soups, including a vegan one, and sandwiches. The youth group also makes food that helps pay for mission trips. There will be craft kits that children can either stay and put together or can be purchased later.
The event also includes live music from Frederick Community College Flute Choir, the church’s own hand bell choir, and the church’s Agape guitar ensemble.
“It kicks off the holidays,” said Beth Strakonsky, who has been a church member for 28 years and has started helping make the cheese balls.
The ball-making process, she said, also allows her to spend time with friends.
“We’re like family,” she said.
The cheese ball is part of the annual holiday feast tradition. She freezes several for the holidays and said her daughter has already placed her orders as well.
Leisa Moyer has been a church member for about 18 years. She has helped make cheese balls since they started. For her, it’s about more than just helping make the balls.
“The reason I participate in the bazaar is in my hometown one of the local churches used to have a bazaar and I would go with my grandmother,” she said. “That’s why I like to participate in the bazaar — because of that nice memory of just going to the church with my grandmother.”
Meg Winter has been a church member for 21 years and has been making cheese balls, too, since the beginning.
Winter said she enjoys the camaraderie while they make the cheese balls.
“We have fun. It’s one of my favorite things to do,” she said.
Cheese balls are now a holiday requirement at her home. Her daughter, she said, has placed her order as well.
The setup takes about two days, Isaacs said, because the bazaar is on two floors of the church. The entire church is handicapped accessible with an elevator available for those to venture to the second floor.
Last year the church raised $8,000 from the extravaganza that they use to distribute to local charities, Issacs said. This year they’ll do the same with the monies but also are raising funds for a new organ, which at more than 100 years and is past repair.
“This year for the first time I had people who wanted to pre-order,” she said, noting that they didn’t do that this year. “I think this might get to the point where we’re going to have to do it.”