Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pasties.. a Yooper Tradition

There's this little part of the world that not many people know about called "the U.P."

No, you don't say "up"; it's like this: "You pee" or U.P.

Anyway, in this little world of rustic life, there comes a tradition handed down from generation to generation. I grew up in the U.P.; hence, I am a Yooper.

All Yoopers eat pasties. It's just what they do. After a child is weaned, they get a pasty, usually on their first birthday.

So, what IS a pasty (Pas-tee) anyway? It's essentially a meat pie. The original Cornish miners from Cornwall, England brought their traditions and recipes with them as the settled in the mining towns in Michigan's upper Peninsula. My grandmother made these (among other things) for my grandfather when he went to work in the mines. I learned from her.
First of all, a pasty is a work of art. There are some things that have to be done just right. For example, the potatoes have to be peeled and then "chipped". It means they ARE NOT DICED. They have to be in irregular chunk like sizes in order to not by potato-mush when you are done. Chip up an entire 10 pound bag or less, depending on how many pasties you want to make.

Exhibit A: chipped potatoes.

Getting the crust going: This is a big procedure, but you should know how to make a pie crust already. This is very much the same. Take a 5 lb. bag of flour and dump it in a big bowl. Add 3 cups of crisco and 2 T. of salt. Cut this with a pastry cutter or mix with your hands until it is like coarse meal.
To make one pasty at a time, take 2 cups of this pastry mix and add enough cold water for a dough--usually about 1/3 of a cup. You can roll this out into a big circle, but keep it rather thick. I like to have my crust about 1/8 of inch thick for pasties.

The other ingredients that go into a pasty are usually: raw onions (chopped), dried parsely, green peppers chopped and rutabaga (chipped). My gram usually mixes these all together with the potatoes. I don't have a picture of that, and I don't have very exact quantities. I learned this from my gram, who doesn't measure. So, this probably doesn't even qualify for a recipe.

Notice the raw meat. It is ground chuck (90% lean) beef.
Getting back to that big circle you rolled out, place a few heaping handfuls of all of the potato mixture on the crust and dab raw meat throughout the mixture. Keep in mind, everything is RAW.
Place a pat of butter and season generously with salt and pepper before folding the edge of the crust over this big mass.

You fold the excess crust in a turning fashion around the perimeter. These are quite large, but that's the way we like them. Now you will be really glad that you made the crust very thick because you have to hoist that baby on to a cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour at 350*.
Ketchup is what is eaten with pasties. This is one half of a pasty. Enormous eh?

Here's that birthday boy with his pasty.

I love it when my kids snap photos of me when I'm eating or doing something else ridiculous. But I just wanted to show you how real yoopers eat them. You really do pick them up. Note the pickle on the side of the plate. That's also authentic yooper eating. Now, for a radish..

Yes, this is what causes five pound weight gain. So, we have them once a year. Oink..


Anonymous said...

OMG! the pasties sound delicious!!!!!
Just found your blog today and wanted to say hello from lower SouthWestern Michigan.
blessings from blessingtheelements

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips. I didn't know about "chipping!" Pasties are absolutely GREAT, and we always buy them when we go back up north! I've never really learned the art, but I think I'm going to try this week!

Aisling said...

I never have succesfully made proper Cornish pasties at home, at least, nothing that matches the real thing, still hot in the paper bag, sat on a cornish beach with the sand being whipped into your pasty by the wind. Oh yes, that's the way to do it!

Aisling said...

heeheee, yes, we used to holiday (sorry vacation) in Cornwall every year when I was a kid. Have you ever gone really traditional and put dessert in one end and the savoury in the other? I've never tried one like that, but apparently that's what the miners would do, and they would twist the pastry a different way at each end so that the miner knew which end was which.

Anonymous said...


Jena Webber said...


I HAVE heard of the pasty going: half apple pie and half meat pie. Sounds delicious. I didn't know about the crust twisting. Wow! What a treat to meet a real person who can authenticate my traditions!

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! Our home in northern Michigan is right by a wonderful bakery that specializes in pasties. . My California relatives were in awe of the yummy meal in a package and the history of the pasty. I can't believe you actually make them. . .You domestic diva, you.

pink and green mama MaryLea said...

Yummy! I'm going to have to try this. Of course when I saw your blog title my dirty mind was thinking of completely different kinds of Pasties (as required by law in some of our adult establishments downtown! )hee-hee!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I am a great fan of the U.P. (my mom graduated from high school in the Soo), and I am so impressed that you are the genuine "coal miner's granddaughter" Yooper article. I've tried making pasties several times, but your "chipped" chunks look much bigger than mine. You're inspiring me to try again...after I'm a bit less "morning sick" all day.

Anonymous said...

I was born and raised and still living in the beautiful U.P and I eat those all the time and make them at home also. where in the U.P are you from? we should contact eachother, my e-mail in