Archive for October 16, 2006

Pasties (Say Pass-Tees)

The Pasty Oven
The Pasty Oven’s whimsical sign, one of many lining US Rt. 2 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (image property of The Pasty Oven)

If you’ve ever traveled to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you have been to pasty country. Traditionally made in a lard crust with meat, potatoes, onions, carrots, and rutabagas (the big yellow turnips sometimes called “swedes” or “beggies”), pasties were brought to Michigan by Cornish immigrants who came to work the mines. In the morning the miner’s wife could wrap up a steaming hot pasty; it was easy to carry in a coat pocket. The pasty could later be retrieved and eaten, often still hot in its crust, as a convenient and hearty out-of-hand meal.

There are as many recipes for pasties as there are for apple pie. If I am going to indulge in all that crust, I eschew the modern pizza and chicken versions for the real thing. These days I am eating less and less meat, but this recipe is for a traditional pasty with beef and root vegetables. For a vegetarian version, the meat can be omitted — add a little more butter for moisture but please, don’t skip the beggies!

You may use your favorite pie crust recipe, but do try the wonderful version below. Perfected by a talented Michigander, it is easy to handle and still turns out flaky.

Vegetables may be used in whatever proportion is desired. I prefer lots of carrots and rutabaga and fewer potatoes.

For a true UP experience, mail-order some Tovio and Eino’s Pasty Sauce, a special catsup-like sauce with a kick.

More about pasties here and here.

enough for one hungry miner, or two to three regular folks
(3 pasties)
with special thanks to gkc

All measures are approximate.

For the crust:

2 – 2 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 c shortening (crisco or canola oil — butter is not recommended)
3-4 TB milk, just enough to bind

For the filling:

1/2 – 1 lb best quality lean, tender sirloin, amount according to taste
1 medium rutabaga
1 medium onion
2-3 large carrots
1-2 large waxy potatoes such as red or new potatoes
(for vegetarian version, increase amount of vegetables as required)

salt and freshly-ground pepper

Eggwash for baking:

1 whole egg or egg white mixed with 2-3 TB water


In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Work in the shortening with fingertips until mixture resembles crumbs. Add milk, 1 TB at a time, until the dough is moist enough to form into a ball. Cover the ball of dough to prevent drying, and let it rest while you prepare the filling.

dough for the crusts
dough for pasty crusts — batch on top right is made with oil, the others with vegetable shortening

Cut the sirloin into small cubes, about 1/4 inch square. Peel the vegetables and cut into uniform cubes, also about 1/4 inch. Toss all filling ingredients together in a large bowl with salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste.

pasty filling
pasty filling

In a small bowl, mix the egg or egg white with water and set aside.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

The crust can be rolled thick or thin, but we don’t want paper thin. The crust must hold all the filling without tearing.

Divide dough ball in half. Roll out one half into a large circle of desired thickness. Invert a 9-inch plate over the center and cut around with a sharp knife or pizza cutter to make a neat circle. Carefully roll up the circle of crust and set it aside. Reserve dough scraps. Roll out the other half, cut and roll up in the same fashion. Set that crust aside as well. Combine the scraps to make one more circle of crust.

On a large ungreased baking sheet, unroll the first circle. Mound approx.
1 1/2 cups of filling about one inch from the right edge. Add a pat of butter on top of the filling. Brush the right side of the circle with a little plain water. Carefully fold the left side of the circle over the top of the filling, bringing the edge down to meet the right side. Tuck in any loose filling with your fingers. Starting at the bottom of the half-circle, roll up the edges of the crust and crimp to seal. Repeat with the remaining two crusts.

assembling pasties
assembling pasties

Brush the tops and sides of the pasties with eggwash. Prick several times with a fork, or cut slits with a knife to release steam.

Bake about one hour *** (note corrected baking time), until crusts are browned and steam rises. If you are unsure, run a knife into the crust — if the vegetables feel tender, the pasties are done.

pasties cooling
pasties fresh from the oven!

Carefully remove to wire rack to cool. Pasties may be served hot or room temperature, with knife and fork, or out of hand. Some folks even like to eat them cold. If you spend an afternoon making lots of pasties, they may be refrigerated or frozen for reheating later.

pasty supper
pasty supper on a snowy autumn afternoon, complete with sauce, pickles, and birdfeeder for entertainment

This (vegetarian version — thanks Asha!) is my completely unconventional entry for Special Edition Jihva — Diwali Treats, hosted by Vee of Past, Present, and Me. I hope she will accept my entry. Of course this is not tradtional Diwali, or even Indian food, but it does represent a new autumn tradition for me — one I intend to keep and cherish. And from what I read, Diwali is all about tradition 🙂

Wishing everyone a happy holiday celebration — whatever and wherever it may be.

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