History of Pasty - Cornish Pasty:
Pastie or Pasty (PASS-tee) - These are basically
individual pies filled with meats and vegetables that are cooked together. They should
weigh about two pounds or more. The identifying feature of the Cornish pasty is really the
pastry and its crimping. When pasties are being made, each member of the family has
their initials marked at one corner. This way each persons favorite tastes can be
catered to, identifying each pasty.
The solid ridge of pastry, hand crimped along the top of the pasty, was so designed
that the miner or traveler could grasp the pastie for eating and then throw the crust
away. By doing this, he did not run the risk of germs and contamination from dirty hands.
The crusts weren't wasted though, as many miners were believers in ghosts or
"knockers" that inhabited the mines, and left these crusts to keep the
ghosts content. There is some truth to this rumor, because the early
Cornish tin mines had large amounts of arsenic, by not eating the corner
which the miners held, they kept themselves from consuming large amounts of arsenic.
One end of the pasty would usually
contain a sweet filling which the wives would mark or initial so the
miner wouldn't eat his dessert first, while the other end would contain
meat and vegetables. The true Cornish way to eat a pasty is to hold it in your hands, and begin to eat it from
the top down to the opposite end of the initialed part. That way its rightful owner could
consume any left over portion later.
Pasties are one of the most ancient methods of cooking and of carrying
cooked food. It is said that the early Irish Catholic Priests created them in order to
transport food as they walked about the countryside preaching and aiding the people. The
dish is mentioned in Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor (1598).
The earliest known reference to the
pasty contribute it to the Cornish. From 1150 to 1190, Chretien de
Troyes, French poet, wrote several Arthurian romances for the Countess
of Champagne. In one of them, Eric and Enide, it mentions pasties:
Next Guivret opened
a chest and took out two pasties. "my friend," says he, "now try a
little of these cold pasties And you shall drink wine mixed with
water...." - Both Guivret and Eric came from various parts of what
today is considered Cornwall.
Irish people that migrated to northern England took the art of pastie making with them.
Soon every miner in northern England took pasties down into the mine for his noon lunch.
Pasties were also called oggies by the miners of Cornwell, England. English sailors
even took pastie making as far as the shores of Russia (known as piraski or piragies.
The Cornish people who immigrated to Michigan's Upper Peninsula in the
United States in the middle of the 19th century to work in the mines made them. The miners reheated the pasties
on shovels held over the candles worn on their hats. In Michigan, May 24th has been
declared Michigan Pasty Day. In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the pasty
has gone from an ethnic food to a regional specialty.
In 1968, Governor George Romney
declared May 24th as Michigan Pasty Day.
Cornish Pasty Recipe - How To Make Cornish Pasty:
This pasty recipe is courtesy of Kim Miller of Newberg, Oregon.
A native of Traverse city, Michigan, Kim says
that she does not know which family member this recipe originally came from, but that it has been passed down and shared by three generations
of women in her family since the late 1930s.
Yields: Makes 6 pasties
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 55 min
Pasty Crust (recipe follows)
1 beef bouillon cube
1/2 cup hot water
5 1/2 cups diced potatoes
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 cup finely diced rutabaga*
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound lean ground pork
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* Turnips may be substituted.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Make Pasty Crust.
In a large bowl, dissolve beef bouillon
cube in hot water. Add potatoes, carrots, onion, rutabaga, ground beef,
ground pork, pepper, and salt; gently stir until well mixed.
Place 1 1/2 cups of vegetable filling in
the center of each rolled dough rectangle; bring short (6-inch) sides
together and seal by crimping edges together. Makes 3 or 4 small slits
in the top of the pasty to allow steam to escape during cooking.
Place pasties onto a large ungreased
baking sheet. Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until golden brown; remove from oven.
Can be served warm, but real Michiganities
eat their pasties cold with tomato ketchup. they make a great sack lunch and freeze well.
Makes 6 pasties.
4 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup solid vegetable shortening or lard
1 1/3 cups chilled water
In a large bowl, sift together flour and
salt. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut vegetable shortening into
flour mixture until particles are the size of small peas. Sprinkle in
water, a little at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is
moistened and pastry dough almost cleans side of bowl. Form dough into a
ball and cut dough into 6 sections.
On a lightly floured surface with a
floured rolling pin, roll out each section into 6 x 8-inch rectangles.
Fill and bake as directed in recipe.
Comments from readers:
Thanks for the history of the Cornish
Pasty! My family came over from Cornwall as copper/ore miners to the
Ishpeming area. I learned from my mother, who learned from her mother. I
hadn’t made Cornish Pasty in
years, but ran across a recipe I’d transcribed as I helped her make hers years ago, so gave it whirl. They were great!
- Susan Boase, Portland, OR (1/28/15)