June 1, 2013

Bear Essentials:
Mitten Noms - Michigan Classics

( + Pasties )

If you're from Michigan, you saw this title and envisioned a meat- and potato-filled pie.  If you're from anywhere else, you might be expecting stripper glitter and tassels.

It's PAAH-sties, folks.  Not PAY-sties.

But the original Cornish miners who brought this dish to the Upper Peninsula probably would have been happy with either option when they broke for lunch.

BTW, if you're looking for pasty recipes via Google Image Search, please make sure you include the word "recipe" in the search parameters.  Otherwise...well, it's your choice.  But there's no unseeing that stuff.

Supposedly, pasties developed as an easy lunch for miners.  The edging crust gave them a nice handle to grab onto without getting the rest of their lunch dirty.  Not a lot of hand sanitizer in the mines, I'm guessing.

The most typical fillings for pasties include just beef, potatoes, onions, and rutabagas - or, as I once overheard two elderly woman fondly refer to them at an upper-peninsula restaurant, "baygies."  This version goes a teense more posh, adding pork (which I think brings a lot to the table), and a bit of garlic powder.

There's something terribly satisfying about biting through a layer of flaky pastry and hitting a mouthful of starchy root vegetables and meat - like thumbing your nose at the carbohydrate gods.  And if it's still not quite enough - well, you can always have pie for dessert.

slightly adapted from Taste of Home
Pasties are, by their very nature, meant to be filling.  Half of one of these moon-shaped pies is enough for me, but those with larger appetites might be able to handle a full pie.  While fork and knife are totally acceptable, don't be ashamed to eat these with your hands if the mood strikes: feeling the heat of the pie warming your fingers is a joy of its own. 

Vegetable Shortening  [ 1 cup ]
Boiling Water  [ 1 cup ]
Flour  [ 3 cups ]
Salt  [ 1 teaspoon ]

Red Potatoes  [ 3 pounds, peeled and diced ]
Rutabagas  [ 1 1/2 pounds, peeled and diced ]
Onion  [ 1 medium, chopped ]
Ground Beef  [ 1 pound ]
Ground Pork  [ 1/2 pound ]
Salt  [ 1 1/2 teaspoons ]
Black Pepper  [ 1 teaspoon ]
Garlic Powder  [ 1 teaspoon ]

Butter  [ 2 tablespoons ]
Half-and-Half  [ for brushing pasties ]

1.   Stir together Shortening and Water until Shortening has melted.
2.   Mix in Flour and Salt until mixture forms a soft dough.
3.   Cover Dough and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours.

4.   Heat oven to  350 degrees. 
5.   Mix together Potatoes, Rutabagas, Onion, Beef, Pork, Salt, Pepper, and Garlic Powder.

6.   Divide Dough into 6 parts.
7.      On a floured surface, roll 1 portion of Dough into a 10-inch round.
8.   Place about 2 cups of Filling on one half of round, leaving about a 1-inch border clear.
9.   Dot topping with 1 teaspoon Butter.
10.   Using pastry brush or finger, wet Dough border.
11.   Fold clear side of Dough over filled side, forming a half-moon-shaped pocket.
12.   Press edges together with a fork or fold decoratively.
13.   Place on ungreased baking sheet and cut several slits in top to vent.
14.   Brush top of Pasty with Half-and-Half.
15.   Repeat with remaining Dough and Filling.
16.   Bake 1 hour, or until golden brown. 

Makes 6  9-inch Pasties


  1. We travelled through the U.P. in 2009, on our way to and back from the East Coast. After seeing sign after sign for miles, I decided to take advantage of a fuel stop to go into the little restaurant next door and find out what these pastys were. First off, I got chided (very nicely) for pronouncing it wrong, the cook himself telling me there were no strippers here. I was then offered a taste of this little heavenly recipe. I bought one to share with my husband and 3 year old son. The latter gobbled up pieces faster than I could hand them to him, and ended up more than half of it on his own, leaving my husband and I wanting. Thank-you for the memories - and the recipe, which I 'll definitely be making soon!

    1. What a great story, Joelle! My husband and I both have fond childhood memories of pasties, so I'm not surprised your son enjoyed them so much. Luckily, this recipe makes a ton.... Good luck making these at home!

  2. The pork sounds good! Bet it makes them a bit more moist, they tend to be kinda dry.

  3. I've heard of versions where there's gravy involved, but yeah, this one is straight meat and veggies. I think the pork does bring a nice complexity of flavor to the mix.

  4. My family was from Butte and Irish. We never put pork in ours but it makes sense. Pasties are an excuse to clean your fridge if you're not well off. Years ago flank steak was tough and cheap I'm kinda spoiled. Suet or lard made dough makes a huge difference in the crust and KISS. Keep it simple stupid. Why bake hamburger for an hour when you can have a cheese burger? Diced steak/beef with potatoes, onions and topped with a mound of ketchup is old skool.

  5. Ok This might sound like a dumb question but I need to make these right! My mom was born and raised in Michigan and has not had one in 15 years! I want to make them just right for Mothers Day! SO anyway...
    DO i need to cook the potatoes first before mixing?
    Also do I need to let the dough rest after I take it out of the fridge?
    Thank You!

    1. Hey, Bryan! What a great thing to do for your mom! Don't worry about cooking the potatoes in advance - they'll cook up just fine as the pasties bake. And whether you let the pastry rest after pulling it out of the fridge will really depend on how cold your fridge is. As long as it's pliable (can be rolled without breaking your wrists and isn't fragmenting as your roll it), you can use it immediately. If it's not pliable, I'd let it sit on the counter for 5 minutes and then check it again, repeating as necessary, until it wants to cooperate. Good luck!

  6. Made these for my sister and her family. Brought back memories. We are from anaconda montana and we used to eat these a lot. The dough was so wonderful to work with.

    1. So glad you had a good experience! We just revisited the recipe ourselves. Such a great fall comfort food. :)

  7. ....And they were fabulous! I am pleased to inform you that these are indeed a direct translation of Cornish pasties, but with a few adaptations. I clearly remember all the (many) pasties I ate on holidays in Cornwall, everyone who made them made them differently but the overall impact was the same - these fit the picture (flavour???) perfectly!

    1. Hey Deborah, I'm so glad you had a great experience! I've been thinking lately about revisiting this recipe again - it's been too long since I got my pasty fix. :)

  8. I am a Cornish woman and believe me pork is never put in a real Cornish pasty.Just beef, potato, lots of onion, rutabaga, pepper and salt. My dad's pasty was always about 10inches to a foot long...No dessert on pasty day!!

    1. I think you've hit on one of my favorite things about food here Anonymous - no recipe remains stable, and the results are under constant evolution. Not only does that make food a sort of globally collaborative creative project, but it ensures that for most dishes, there's a version out there to suit almost anyone. :)

  9. I lived in the UP for ten years. My children were born there. I fell in love with pasties the second week I was there. Just note if you think they are dry make a gravy brown or white, your choice

    1. Hi there! I've never had pasties with gravy, but it sounds delightful. My husband is partial to ketchup, but I'd prefer the savory taste of meat on meat. :)

    2. My Polish grandmother was from Calumet in the UP and made this family favorite for years. Never used Pork either and usually used an inexpensive cut like round steak...everything cut in small pieces and always that butter inside...more like a tablespoon .....always absolutely delicious! We visit the UP often and found so many variables to this tasty treat....have to say I never met a pasty I didn't like.... I'm a ketchup person and hubby (from Pennsylvania) likes the gravey on top!

  10. Just made some pasties tonight using a different recipe, which suggested store-bought pie crust. The filling was delicious, but the pastry burst open pretty early in the game. Might have over-filled them. I covered it with gravy and served it to my husband anyways. He loved it. I will try your recipe next time. By the way, I enjoyed your writing style, gave me a few chuckles, thanks! ;)

    1. Thanks, Hilda! Hope the next batch turns out more successfully. :)

  11. Can these be frozen?

    1. Hi there! I've never tried, but I imagine they could be - my local store carries pasties in the freezer section.

  12. I make pasties out of left over roast. Make about 6-8, bake all of them, cool, individually bag them, then freeze them. Then all I do is microwave them for 1-2 minutes. Nice after a long day.

  13. My mother was from Michigan and made delicious Pasties. She would put potatoes, ground meat, onions and s&p in a small pot of water and simmered to make a broth that we would put on the pasties is you wanted. Yummmy they were delicious.