Past-Tees are wrapped in Pays-Tree!
Pasties are wrapped in Pastry.
ha! That should tell you about how to pronounce the name of the meal I’m talking about.
My father grew up in the U.P. in Iron County, Michigan. He is now in the grips of a memory-loss disease—far from where he grew up, though still in Michigan, so I thought that making him a meal he had often eaten and enjoyed might trigger a happy response. This may or may not have “worked” for him; he ate and seemed to like the food.
Traditionally, Cornish miners carried hearty lunches of meat and potatoes wrapped in heavy crust. There were no hand washing facilities in mines so the thick twisted edge which sealed each pie provided a handle to hold the meal. The dirty crusts could be thrown away. Anyone who has eaten a pastie knows how well they retain heat, another useful feature for men working in deep cold mines.
Pasties are well loved in the U.P. where many believe they are a fine example of Finnish food. In fact, Cornish miners were recruited to work the rich iron and copper mines in mid and western Northern Michigan during the 1840’s, and they were followed by a small contingent of Finnish immigrants in the mid 1860’s. The mines were profitable and technology for shipping on the Great Lakes improved. That first small wave of Finnish immigrants was followed by a large influx in the 1890’s when Calumet far north on the Keweenaw Peninsula became the largest city in Michigan—larger even than Detroit.
Those people found their countrymen baking pasties, and assumed that it was a Finnish invention. As a result, the pasty has become strongly associated with Finnish culture in this area. Something similar happened in the Iron Range in northern Minnesota on the shores of Lake Superior. The author of the book I use to make my pastie crust is from this area: Beatrice Ojakangus.
Basic Yeast Pastry
The Finnish Cookbook—by Beatrice Ojakangas
enough for 8 pasties
- 1 package active dry yeast
- ¼ cup warm water
- 1 cup milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg, well beaten
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 4 to 4 ½ white flour
- ½ cup soft butter
Dissolve the yeast in the water. Combine the milk, salt, egg, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the yeast, stir in 2 cups of the flour, and beat until smooth and elastic. Stir in the butter until blended, add the remaining flour, and mix until a stiff dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth. Place in a lightly greased bowl, turn to grease the top, and let rise until doubled (aobut 1 hour). Punch down and let rise again (about 30 minutes); the dough will be puffy but not doubled.
- 1 pound steak
- ½ pound ground veal
(or use chuck ground for chili,
or regular hamburger meat)
- 2 onions
- 2 pounds potatoes
- freshly ground black pepper
Freeze the steak for 30 to 45 minutes, cut it into cubes, and pulse in a food processor to a coarse grind, turn into a large bowl and add the ground veal using a chopping-turning motion with a large spatula. Don’t stir and press to make the meat become sticky and heavy. Process the onions to a fine chop. Stir the salt into them and let sit for a few minutes before lightly mixing them into the meat. Dice the potatoes ½” dice. You should have about 2 parts beef to 3 parts potatoes. Fold the potatoes into the meat.
Divide the dough into 8 parts. Roll each piece into an oval about the size of a dinner plate: about 10″ by 8.” Wet the edges of the oval, and put 1/8 portion of meat and potatoes on one longer half of the oval. Fold the dough over, and seal by starting on the left (for a right-handed person) and turning an inch of the edge, pressing a sort of pleat, turning another inch of the edges, pressing, and repeating to the end of the half oval.
Place on an oiled cookie sheet, and repeat for the other seven pasties.
Bake at 400°F for 45 minutes. Remove to wire cooling racks.
Serve hot or room temperature with ketchup.