Once Upon a Pasty
If you’ve been to the Upper Peninsula, you have probably had a pasty. In the 1800s, many Cornish migrants came to the US, particularly the UP, to work in the iron mines. With them, they brought Cornish pasties. These hearty hand pies are traditionally packed with beef, onions, potatoes, and rutabagas. Today, they remain wildly popular throughout the UP and northern Michigan acting as a reminder of Michigan’s mining history.
Pasties have always been an incredibly utilitarian food, meant to be carried in pockets and heated in a shovel over a flame. But today, sometimes that’s just what you need in a meal.
These non-fancy pies are a perfect thing to make this time of year. The starchy root vegetables are stored safely in cellars, ready to be scrubbed, chopped, and assembled. The local meat, butter, and flour is available all year long. Plus, pasties keep incredibly well in the freezer, so you may as well make a bunch to sustain you all winter long.
When I made pasties, I scaled my recipe off the amount of rutabaga, potatoes, and onions I received in my CSA from Green Things Farm that week. Chopping the filling took the most time, but it made a huge difference in the texture of our pasties. We accidentally made a bunch…as in 2.5 gallons worth of filling. (We had to use a 5 gallon pail to mix everything and ended up with about 20 pasties.) Fortunately, both finished pasties and the pasty filling freeze really well.
Below, there is a scaled down version, so you don’t have to devote your entire day to make pasties (unless you want to!).
To make 4 pasties
2 cups flour, like Grand Traverse Culinary Oils Red Spring Wheat Flour
2/3 cup shortening, or local butter or lard (I used a mix of Calder Dairy butter and local lard)
1/2 cup water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut fat into flour and salt, add water and knead until well blended. Divide into four equal balls and chill. Sprinkle with plenty of flour and roll into circles.
3 cups diced potatoes (about 3 small potatoes)
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced rutabaga
3/4 lb diced stew meat or cube steak
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
2 tsp thyme leaves
Chop everything into small, uniform pieces. Mix together and season with with salt and pepper.
Roll out your chilled dough balls in to approximately 8inch rounds. Scoop in about 1/4 of the filling into the center. Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together, ensuring to squeeze out any air. Make an egg wash out of a beaten egg and a dash of water and brush pasties with it.
Place on cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Enjoy with ketchup or gravy.
Note: When reheating frozen pasties, add a small dish of water in the oven to help rehydrate.
Emma Beauchamp is the Communications Manager for Taste the Local Difference. She is treasuring the last few weeks of her CSA. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org