I had my first pasty when I was a young teen and my friend, Janelle, asked me to babysit with her for the weekend. She usually invited me when she was babysitting for the doctor with the big house or the “hot tub people” as we liked to call the family with the hot tub. This time we’d be at the doctor’s house and she was bringing pasties her Dad made along for dinner. Special Northern Michigan pies and hanging out with my friend sounded like a great Friday night.
We had fun playing with the two kids and immaturely laughed at the human body pictures that were everywhere. We were very excited when it was time to heat the pasties for dinner. Janelle had forgotten her Dad’s oven directions and with teen logic and no experience in the kitchen, we ended up with a cold and doughy mess. Sadly, we threw them out and ordered pizza.
For the longest time I had really terrible thoughts when thinking about the pasty. What we cooked up that night was disgusting. Fast-forward to 2010 and I have a new friend originally from Northern Michigan and she invites Marc and I to a pasty party. She likes to make huge batches and freezes them for easy meals in the winter. We had delicious snacks and wine as we chopped and chopped. For dinner that night we enjoyed warm pasties homemade only minutes earlier. I definitely wanted to give the whole thing a try myself.
Pasties dates back as early as 13th century England and there is evidence that Jane Seymour made one for Henry the VIII! In the 17th and 18th century their popularity shifted to working class people and in particular, tin miners from Cornwall. The pasties did not require cutlery and the pockets stayed warm for an extended period of time. If the pasties did become cold, they would reheat them on a shovel over a candle in the mines. Some stories say the miners would hold the crimped crust in their dirty hands, eat the pocket of filling and toss the crust.
Wondering how they came to Northern Michigan? Around 1864 migrating Cornish miners and an influx of Finnish immigrants spread pasty love when working in Northern Michigan copper mines. If you ever visit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you will see pasty shops around. It’s their thing. Some adorn these with gravy, but my friends and many people I know use ketchup for dipping.
I love these pasties just the way they are; a tender butter crust and a flavorful filling. The two kinds of meat and the root vegetables are enhanced only with a bit of salt and pepper. It can only be described as something humble and perfect for a cold night.
I adapted the crust and filling recipe below from one I found on a forum a year ago while looking for an authentic pasty recipe. Her Grandfather was a miner and the recipe was from her Grandmother. The technique for the small dice on the veggies and freezer directions come from my Northern Michigan friend, Shannon. A labor of love, but I feel like I stumbled on a new fall tradition.