The pasty was introduced to Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP) in the 1800s by Cornish miners who immigrated there in search of a good living in the newly-developed copper and iron mines of the region. They were admired by the people living in the UP, and many of their customs aside from pasties were copied. The shape of the pasty made it very easy to be heated up in the mine; it was placed on a shovel and held over a head-lamp candle.
The pasty held up to the collapse of the mining industry in the UP by becoming a popular food with the major ethnic groups that remained in the area - the Finns and Swedes. 30 years after the mining industry fell, a small group of Swedish immigrants made it to the area, and changed the look of the UP pasty, making it somewhat different than the original Cornish pasty. The UP pasty generally contains diced meat, as opposed to the sliced meat of the Cornish variety, which also tends to have a larger quantity of vegetables.
The pasty suited the jobs of the Cornish miner due to its handy shape. Cornish tin mines contained arsenic, and it was an advantage to the miner that they could hold the pasty by the convenient 'handle' that it provides to the eater. They would be able to eat the inside and discard the crust when they were finished. The Cornish pasty also was a complete meal in one pastry. On one end of the pasty was the meat dish, and it was next to a sort of dessert that could be cooked in the pasty at the same temperature. This allowed for a miner to simply place the hot pasty into a coat pocket and not have to carry separate items into the mine. This combined savoury/sweet pasty is different from the pasty of today, which is savoury from one end to the other.
Origin of today's Pasty
There is no definitive answer to who originally created the pasty. Some people feel it was the Vikings, who brought it over when they invaded Britain. Whereas some feel it may have developed from the Italians, as the Cornish, who developed the pasty, were sailors. But the first written reference to the pasty was with the Cornish. There are many popular forms of the 'pocket pastry', including the Kalakukko, a Finnish fish and bacon mix, Karelian, a Russian-Finnish rice-filled pasty, the Tamale, a Cuban dish made from cornmeal and filled with pork or other ingredients, and the Pierogie, which is a pasta dough, commonly filled with potato and onion.
You can find pasties with toppings of all sorts. Ketchup and beef gravy are common in the UP, but alternatives may include mustard, Barbecue sauce or Worcestershire sauce. But it's just as good served plain.
- 3 1/2 cups (385g) all-purpose flour, set 1/2 cup (55g) aside
- 1 teaspoon (6g) salt
- 1 cup (225g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces2
- 3/4 cup (180ml) ice water
- 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water
- 1 pound (450g) coarse ground beef (minced)
- 1/4 to 1/2 pound (110g to 220g) coarse ground pork (from the shoulder or roast)
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 1 medium rutabega (or turnip), diced into 1/4-inch pieces
- 2 - 3 medium potatoes, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon (3g) pepper
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh chopped parsley or 2 tablespoons dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon (2g) shortening
To prepare the dough: In a large bowl, place 3 cups of the flour. Stir in the salt. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the ice water a little at a time until dough forms. If dough is too sticky, add remaining flour one tablespoon at a time until it is no longer sticky. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Place the dough in the refrigerator to chill 15-20 minutes.
To prepare the filling: In a large bowl, combine all the filling ingredients. Mix gently until thoroughly combined.
Preheat the oven to 400°F degrees (200°C, Gas Mark 6). Lightly grease a baking sheet with shortening; set aside.
Remove dough from the refrigerator. Divide the dough into six pieces and roll out each piece into an 8 1/2-inch circle (use a plate as a guide) about 1/8-inch thick. Place about 1 cup of the filling mixture on half of the circle. Spread the mixture to within 1/2-inch of the edge. Brush the edge with water and fold top half over filling. Seal and crimp the edges. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough and filling. Make a small slit (about 1/2-inch long) on the top of the pasties. Brush with the egg/water mixture.
Bake until vegetables are tender and meat is cooked through, about 50 to 60 minutes. If desired, place 1/2 teaspoon of butter through the slit of the pasty after 30 minutes of baking to keep the filling moist. Remove from oven; let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.