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Having a ball making cheese balls

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By Vince Luecke

TELL CITY - When it comes to getting a big job wrapped up in short order, Santa's elves have nothing on the women of Mu Gamma Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi Sorority. Take Saturday, when fewer than 20 sorority members churned out more than 900 cheese balls in just over six hours, a production rate of about 150 rich mounds of cream and processed cheeses, spices and nuts per hour.

"We were done by 2 (p.m.) and that's probably a record for us," said Connie Berger, who kept an eye on the onion, Worcestershire sauce and other ingredients that went into the two types of cheese balls the sorority sells: Old English and Holiday. Some customers have a favorite but many order one or more of each. Of the 925 cheese balls made Saturday, the Holiday-flavor cheese ball, which includes pineapple, held a slight edge over the slightly more traditional Old English.

This year's work session took place in the Evangelical United Church of Christ Fellowship Hall since their usual work location, the parish hall at St. Pius, wasn't available.

The sorority has been making cheese balls for as long as some of the more veteran members have belonged - close to 30 years - and proceeds from the sale of cheese balls funds the group's charitable work in the community for the coming year.

Happy customers place orders year after year so there's no need for hard selling. In fact, most new orders come word of mouth, said Susan Harpenau, who worked with her sister, Shirley Quick, in packing the newly minted cheese balls into plastic containers and placing them in boxes for distribution this week.

Many hands may make for lighter work, but the job could still be tedious. Fingers ached and cream cheese stuck to gloves. But the spiced smells of onion and pecans swirled amid the chatter and laughs. And not far away was the quality-control station, two cheese balls and a box of oval crackers ready for weary workers wanting a short respite - and a sample of their hard work and years of experience.