Pasties: Before we go further, let’s make sure to get the pronunciation correct. PASS-tee, the delicious “miner’s pie” of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Never, ever say PASTE-ee; that’s the sparkly stick-on used to cover the jiggly parts of a stripper.
Cross the border from Wisconsin to Upper Michigan, and pasty shops abound. A few shops have leaked into “the mitten” part of Michigan, or into northern Wisconsin, but pasties seem to remain a local staple. Talk about a bargain: a pasty is a complete meal for $5.
What are pasties, anyway?
When iron and copper were discovered in the the U.P. during the early 1800s, miners came from Cornwall, England to work, hoping for a better life. They brought their pasty recipes with them, because the hefty pies stayed warm until mealtime or could be heated on the back of a shovel. Easy to eat, no fork or knife needed. Pasties are nourishing, too–they weigh 12-16 ounces and can contain about 1,000 calories.
Classic pasties are a semi-circle of dough, filled with a handful of ingredients: beef, potatoes, onions, and sometimes rutabaga or carrots. Salt and pepper. That’s it–simple, huh? Yet ask a hundred Yoopers–that’s what residents of the U.P. proudly call themselves–where to find the best pasty, and you’ll get a hundred answers.
The perfect proportions and exact ingredients are debated:
- should the meat be ground or diced?
- potatoes in slivers or squares?
- rutabaga? If so, how much?
- are carrots an aberration?
Then, there are the updates and additions to the classic. Ham and cheese, chicken, vegetarian…and breakfast pasties, with eggs. Opinions are firm–and varied. USA TODAY’s “10Best” list of pasty shops will surely result in a lively discussion among U.P. residents.
Want to make your own pasties?
There’s a Yooper saying: “The best dinner is a pasty and a Pabst.” Can’t get there to decide for yourself? Here’s the recipe for 5-6 pasties:
***Crust: (TravelSmart Woman’s tip: Go ahead, cheat a little. Buy pre-made pie dough.)
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening, such as Crisco…or lard, if you want to be authentic
3/4 cup cold water
- Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gradually add water, tossing with a fork until a ball forms.
2. Divide dough into 5-6 portions; roll into a circle about 9-10 inches.
3 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2-1 teaspoon salt, according to your desire and blood pressure
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/4 pound ground pork
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
Optional: 1 medium carrot, diced
1/2 cup diced rutabaga
In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, onion, salt and pepper. If including carrots or rutabaga, this is the time. Add beef and pork; mix well. Add butter and toss.
***Assemble and bake:
- Place 1 cup of filling in the center of each circle. Fold pastry over filling and seal edges tightly with a fork; cut slits in the tops.
2. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown.
Serving note: Pasties are eaten with ketchup. Yoopers especially like to dip the crust in ketchup. Some folks like brown gravy, but I have no idea where it would come from, except a store-bought jar. Stick with ketchup.
Every region–and sometimes a city–has its favorite food. Food that people crave when they move away. In Chicago, it’s the Italian Beef sandwich.
Want more food favorites?
Spanish Tortilla: Make It at Home