A Michigan Pasty (pronounced pass-tee, not pay-stee) is a childhood memory recently revived by a couple of online friends. In essence a meat and vegetable hand pie similar to a Cornish pasty.
So I’ll confess now: we were trolls.
While I did live in Michigan for a time as a child, we never dwelled further north than Flint. But I had relatives, two and three generations back, who were Yoopers (residents of the Upper Peninsula) and whom we’d visit somewhat regularly.
Perhaps I should explain troll. The Mackinac Bridge (“Big Mac”) connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. We lived downstate in the lower, hence we were from under the bridge.
I still pronounce the word Grandma as Gramma and all carbonated beverages (generally speaking) are pop. Not soda. Not Coke. Pop. What do you want, I was 5 or 6 years old at the time and these memories can imprint rather strongly.
As the story goes, Cornish miners came to work the mines in the U.P. in the 1800s and brought along their food tradition of the pasty. At lunch time, the miners would put their pasty on their shovels and hold them over their head-lamp candles to reheat. Then, they’d hold their pasty by a lower corner, usually marked with their initial (to differentiate it from the other pasties for other members of the same family), and eat downward until they reached the corner. At which point they’d discard the corner since it was now covered in soot and arsenic from the mine.
I’d more-or-less forgotten about these magnificent meat-filled hand pies until rather recently. My friend Ron Smith, from lostinapot.com in Sweden, wrote about them and rekindled the memory.
Fixed in my mind after that, I went ahead and made a batch from Ron’s recipe which he credits originally from Lawry’s Pasty Shop up in Ishpeming and now Marquette as well. I wish I had a family recipe to crib from but sadly those are long-lost now. However, Ron’s recipe worked just great. The crust was good enough that my oldest simply devoured it and proclaimed you could put anything in there and it’d still be good. Always a good sign.
As a side note, the expression you get when a teenage grocery cashier picks up your rutabaga and slowly, silently, stares at you ever so quizzically, “Ummm…”
While I seem to remember carrots and various kinds of beef and pork, I tried to follow Ron’s directions to the letter. I even sealed the edges up with a fork (Grandma just rolled them up, I think).
But I must say, they were simply outstanding.
Again, be sure to visit Ron (lostinapot.com) when you get the chance. Thank you, sir.
A Michigan Pasty (pronounced pass-tee) is a childhood memory recently revived by a couple of online friends. In essence a meat and vegetable hand pie similar to a Cornish pasty. Visit suppertimeblues.com to learn more.
- 2 cups flour
- 2/3 cup shortening
- 1/2 cup water
- Dash salt
- 3/4 pound ground chuck or cubed steak
- 3 cups diced potatoes
- 1/2 cup each of diced onion and rutabaga
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cut shortening into flour and salt, add water, and knead until well blended.
Form into four equal balls and chill for an hour.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Coat with plenty of flour and roll dough into 8-inch circles.
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
Divide into four equal portions and place in center of each crust.
Fold over and seal edges. Bake at 400 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.