I grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where pasties are a staple. Once you cross the Mackinaw Bridge from the lower to the upper you start to see signs for restaurants and little shops featuring pasties. In 1968, then Governor George Romney, designated May 24 National Pasty Day in Michigan. The pasty first arrived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the 1840s when tin miners from Cornwall immigrated to help develop the mines. The pasty is a complete and hearty meal in itself and can be eaten without plates and cutlery, making it a perfect supper for miners. If the pasty was no longer warm they would heat them by putting them on a shovel and holding the shovel over a heat lamp candle.
The pasties I grew up with are made of ground beef, potatoes, rutabaga, carrots, and onion and seasoned only with salt and pepper. The vegetables are all diced rather than sliced. The vegetables and meat are wrapped in a crust. A pot pie without a pot. If you’re a Yooper, you use catsup on your pasty. If you request gravy you’ll quickly be identified as a tourist. In mi-August of each year there is a pasty festival in Calumet complete with a beer tent and lots of pasty vendors offering samples. The Finns consider pasties as part of their ethnic cuisine and you will see them featured at Michigan’s Finnish Festivals.
The largest pasty on record was made in 2010 and weighed in at 1,900 pounds. I’m not sure now they rolled that crust out or where they found an oven large enough to bake it! As I started working on my pasties yesterday I had come across a recipe that I had saved for an unusual crust. I was a little skeptical but I thought I’d give it a try and I was very happy that I did. The dough came together easily and was great to work with. The recipe for the crust and the filling make a dozen pasties so keep that in mind.
2 cups of shortening
2 cups of boiling water
6 cups of AP flour
1 T salt
Measure out the shortening into a large mixing bowl and add the boiling water.
Whisk together until all of the shortening is melted.
Stir in the flour and salt with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth, soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a plate, cover with Saran Wrap, and refrigerate. Now you’re ready to start chopping your vegetables.
2 pounds of ground beef
1 pound of ground pork
9 cups of diced potatoes
3 cups of diced rutabaga
2 cups of diced carrots
4 cups of diced onion
Salt and Pepper
Peel the veggies and cut them into a very small dice, taking care to keep them fairly similar in size so they cook evenly. Combine all of the veggies in a large stainless steel bowl.
Add the ground meat, season well with salt and fresh ground pepper, and get your hands in there and mix all of the ingredients well. This will help to keep your ratio of meat and vegetables similar in each pasty.
Now you’re ready to take your dough out of the refrigerator and start rolling out the crusts. Divide the dough into a dozen even pieces. If you’re leery about eyeballing it weigh the dough on a food scale and do your math. Take one of the dough balls and, on a generously floured surface, roll it out into an 8 inch circle.
Once you’ve rolled out the dough put a cup and a half of the filling onto the dough.
With your fingers or a pastry brush moisten the edges of your dough for a good seal. Fold the dough over and crimp the edges. Cut a hole or two on top to vent the pasty while baking and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.
Once you have a sheet full of pasties bake them in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 60 minutes.
Serve them piping hot or, if you’re going to freeze them, allow them to cool completely and wrap them in aluminum foil. Enjoy!
When I would make something for my Dad, like a pair of mittens or homemade cinnamon rolls, he would pay me the highest compliment by saying, “This is just like store bought.” Last night when my husband ate his pasty he said, “These are better than the ones we get from the store in the UP”. So I guess I’ve moved up in the compliment department because the ones we get at the store in the UP are pretty darn good!
NOTE: I use Brooks Tangy Catsup exclusively and it’s really good on pasties. You’re welcome to use gravy if you don’t mind being mistaken for a tourist.
Pasties freeze very well and are great to pull out for a meal when you’re short on time.
As always, a recipe is just a guide. Make whatever adjustments you’d like based on your personal preferences in terms of seasoning, vegetable proportions, and type of meat.