Michigan Pasties

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.

33 Notes Leave a Note

  1. oh, babysitting days…

    so much fun history! I’m totally into it too πŸ™‚ these look like the perfect cool-weather comfort food…now that I’m living in Michigan I’ll definitely have to try them out!

  2. I love pasties! When I visited Michigan a few years ago I loved hearing the “Yooper” accents and we definitely stopped for a pasty at a local shop. Never thought to make them myself but now I’m curious. And I love anything with rutabaga in it, so that’s the clincher.

    • Jeannette – Oh, yay, a pasty lover! Yoopers are fun people to know and pasties are just part of what to love about them!

      Robin – Ha! I did not address the other kind of “pasties” as I had so much to say about this kind of pasty πŸ™‚ I would certainly have to inform any non-Michigan person about what kind of pasties we were talking about before sending out invites to the pasty party!

  3. If I were invited to a pasty party, I might be a bit concerned. However, it sounds like this was all above board and I should really get my mind our of the gutter. You had me at meat and pastry, anyway! xo

  4. Pasties sound a lot like empanadas…delicious! I loved this post, btw…always happy to get a fun history lesson involving food πŸ™‚ xoxo

  5. I’m just commenting on this because I am a Yooper and I love pasties!! We live in a small town here in the U.P. and we are spoiled with pasty sales at least 2-3 times per month. That doesn’t mean we don’t buy some to freeze, because they are easy to reheat and still delicious!! Hope you all enjoy this recipes, it sounds like a pretty darn good one!!!!!

    • Hello to another Yooper! I envy you those pasty sales! i’m a dislocated Yooper…(north California now) and have found several pasties shops up here in the Grass Valley area (pasties came with the gold miners in the 1800s too), thank heavens πŸ™‚ I missed them soooo much when we lived in southern Cal. It was such a joy to sink my teeth into one again when I saw the shop in Grass Valley. More North than even that now and I’m definitely going to use your recipe to make my own; not going to wait any longer for a road trip to get another one. Am making your recipe this week! Thanks πŸ˜€

  6. Remember, there are about as many pastie recipes as there are Yoopers.
    So when you make pasties, keep experimenting until you find one that you like.

  7. My husbands family is from Eagle River, MI and we go up there every other year. Love that you have a recipe for pasties We would buy some bring them home and freeze them.

    • One of the great things about pasties is that they’re usually associated with such fond and happy memories! Making pasties is a bit of work, but it’s great to have some in the freezer for a cold night. Buying them to freeze is a great idea, too!

    • Hi Gretchen! I’m sure you could. This is the technique my northern Michigan friend uses, but I think freezing them raw would work fine, too. You may need to increase the baking time, though.

  8. Hello,
    I would like to make mini pasties for a party. If I make them about the size of an empanada, how long do you think I should bake them to ensure the meat is cooked through?

    • Hi Paige! I’ve never tried mini pasties, but what a cute idea! I suppose I would start by doing a test bake, baking one mini pasty for half the time (about 25-30 min) or until the top is golden brown and then cutting into the pasty to make sure the meat is fully cooked. Have fun!

  9. Do you bake the pasties before you freeze them? I wasn’t sure because the instructions say “let them cool and wrap in foil before freezing” but then it also says that they’ll have to bake for 50-60 minutes when you’re ready to eat them after freezing.

    I wanted to make sure you were saying to bake them for 50-60 minutes twice, once before freezing and once after.

    • Hey Megan! You do bake for 50-60 minutes and then bake again for 50-60, this ensures the filling cooks properly and then there is no need to defost the pasties before baking. I updated this recipe slightly and tried wrapping the pasties “raw” and then baking from frozen for 60 minutes and that seems to work great, too. I’ve done both ways and they both work great. Here’s a link to the new post if you want to check it out https://www.dulanotes.com/northern-michigan-pasties-2014/

  10. I too am a Michigan native & my parents used to make pasties all the time. Also had fund raisers with them at church. I grew up cutting them up on the plate after baking then adding lots of real butter & ketchup to taste. I also make a very “Americanized” version using Pillsbury pie crusts, ground beef or turkey, frozen cubed hashbrowns, & frozen peas & carrots or veg of your choice, This can also be made on the stovetop & eaten without the crust, however, the crust is authentic.

  11. Have you ever made the gravy, and if so, do you mind sharing a recipe? I love any kind of meat pie. Also, you mentioned another version. What makes that one different? I am a cheater on some things made in my kitchen. This includes dough of any kind…so I use pillsbury products for my pasties, tortierre, etc. I have done the homemade dough when I was young and energetic.

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