Church-made chocolate eggs can tear Reese’s to pieces.

When spring comes to West Virginia, you can be certain that good food isn’t far behind. The pungent smell of ramps fill VFW halls and conference centers around the state. In Helvetia, Fasnacht revelers line up for hearty Swiss cuisine at The Hutte. In Pickens, locals fire up their pancake griddles for the annual West Virginia Maple Syrup Festival.

But one tradition is sweeter than all the others. Lent may be a season of sacrifice and fasting, but it’s also the time churches all over West Virginia gather to churn out those delectable chocolate-covered eggs.

They come in all different sizes and flavors, from the traditional peanut butter to cherry nut, maple nut, and coconut. Customers are more than happy to fork over the cash for these Easter-time treats, and volunteers often make thousands of these eggs to keep up with demand. For many churches, it’s the largest fundraiser of the year.

WV Living talked to Brenda Manzo of the Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Monongah to learn about the care that goes into these incredible edible eggs.

We’ve been making them at least 35 years. Just some ladies in the church got together. It was so long I don’t know where they got the idea. The ladies that started it, they’ve all passed away.

We have anywhere from six to 11 women who get together two or three days a week during Lent. We start after Ash Wednesday. Our last week is the week before Palm Sunday. We don’t work Holy Week.

We make usually around 1,700 eggs. That’s a lot of peanut butter. We used 368 cups of peanut butter last year, 136 pounds of margarine, and 240 pounds of sugar. Chocolate—we used 262 12-ounce bags. That was for the suckers, too, but we didn’t make a lot of suckers.

We’ve just had fun making them. We didn’t have any trouble getting volunteers. We have a lady who comes in and mixes up our batches of peanut butter filling. She does that the day before. We come in the next day and start measuring and molding. We have a mold that we put them in, so they’re all pretty uniform. We put chocolate on the bottom, lay it upside down, and let it dry. They dry fast because the filling is cold. Then we turn them over, put the chocolate on, and send them out to be wrapped.

This year we’ve speeded up our process by making the flowers—that’s just a little royal icing meringue flower piped on a piece of wax paper—letting them dry, and then putting them on. Having them already dried has saved us an hour a day.

It’s for the church general funds. It’s very profitable. We’ve got them in the post office, we’ll have them in the Dairy Cone. We have them in Prunty’s Pub. We have them in McAteer’s Restaurant and several beauty shops in Fairmont. Local vendors call us and they want them. They can be habit forming.”

interviewed by ZACK HAROLD

photographed by CARLA WITT FORD

Zack Harold
Written by Zack Harold
Zack Harold is a southern West Virginia native. He covered education, health, and government at the Charleston Daily Mail before becoming the newspaper’s features editor. He joined New South Media in 2015, became managing editor of WV Living in January 2016, and took over as managing editor of Wonderful West Virginia in July 2016.