Yooper Pasties

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Okay.  Now those of my readers who are Yoopers (specifically) or Michiganders (generally)  will know exactly what I’m saying.  Those of you who don’t have kith or kin in either Michigan or Cornwall might need a little explanation.  The pasties of which I speak are pronounced ‘PASS- tees’.  The ones you’re probably thinking about are pronounced ‘PAY- steeze’.  My pasties are handheld meat pies and not little adhesive backed ‘modesty’ panels worn over, well, you know what.  So from now on, each time I type ‘pasties’, please think the correct pronunciation, k?  That way I don’t have to blush every time you read it.

 

And also for those of you not from Michigan, I should probably toss in a few other definitions:

 

  • Yooper:  A resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
  • U.P.:  A widely used acronym for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Well, heck, you’d get tired of typing out Upper Peninsula of Michigan every time too, eh?
  • Big Mac:  A nickname for the Mackinac Bridge; the 5 mile long suspension bridge that links the U.P. to the lower Peninsula.
  • Trolls:  Residents of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  Get it?  They live under a bridge?
  • Summer:  Two months of bad snowshoeing.

 

I also have a big announcement.  This is Foodie With Family’s 100th post.  Please, please, please stop back tomorrow for a really great giveaway.  Trust me when I say you won’t want to miss this one!  We’re giving away a gift certificate for up to $100 to one of several merchants.  I say ‘up to’ because for each 25 commenters up to 100 we’ll add $25 to the gift certificate.  Tune in tomorrow for details.  Entry in the drawing will be as easy as leaving a comment!

 

But back to the food…

 

Pasties are a Yooper (and Cornish) specialty.  The Cornish miners that came over to the Upper Peninsula during the golden era of iron and copper mining brought the pasty with them as part of their homeland’s cuisine.  Owing partly to it’s convenient, hand-held-meal portability and mostly to the fact that it’s mouthwateringly delicious and warms you from the inside of your toes to the tips of your ears in cold U.P. weather, pasties were soon not just the fare of Finnish and Cornish miners, but were adopted as a favored food through the entire region.   More than just popular in the U.P., though, pasties make an appearance in troll restaurants under Big Mac, too. One of the best in the northern part of the lower peninsula is Cousin Jenny’s in Traverse City, Michigan.

 

A pasty is so representative of Yooper culture and food that those of us who are Yoopers-in-exile get wistful when we whip up a batch or talk to relatives who just picked up their pasty boxes at the local church’s fundraising drives.  I had actual hunger pangs when Val emailed me the ‘pasty order form’ from an insert in their church bulletin a few Sundays back.  I pictured a couple dozen Finnish grandmas up in Marquette whipping together hundreds of succulent pasties to sell to benefit the local community chest, booster club, or whatever worthy group they decided to support that year.

 

Then I did what I often have to do when I finish talking to Val.  I walked into my kitchen because I was starving.  All that pasty talk had left me with two options; feeling sorry for myself or making my own.  I decided to whip up a couple dozen pasties.

 

Perhaps ‘whip up’ is not the best description of the process involved in making pasties.  It’s a bit of a job, but if you have sisu*  you can manage.

 

 

*Sisu:  A Finnish term that translates roughly into English as having an inner strength of will, obstinacy or persistence to power on in the face of adversity regardless of the cost.

 

 

I heard someone describe pasties once as ‘hand held beef stew pies”. I think beef stew wishes it was a pasty. While there are variations in pasties based on what the cook can get -beef, venison, chicken, turkey, etc…- and the ratios of vegetables there are some things you’re likely to find in them all. Potatoes, onions, carrots and rutabaga are the traditional pasty veggies and I’m happy to stick with them because you don’t mess with perfection! You’re not likely to hear me saying that often in the kitchen, but we’re talking about food as tradition when it comes to pasties, people. I admit that I frequently make cheese pasties, and they’re divine, but that’s a completely different animal than a Yooper pasty. Truth be known, I don’t think of the cheese ones as pasties. I think of them as cheese pastries. Delicious, to be sure, but in a different food family altogether.

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll lay this out in a step-by-step fashion:  It’s easier if you can benefit from someone else’s experience when taking on a project like this for the first time.   I recommend you start this whole project at least three hours prior to when you’d like to eat the first time you make these.  If you’re feeding less than the full regiment that I victual at each meal, feel free to cut back on quantities.  Just keep in mind that pasties freeze and reheat beautifully.  Any cooled,  leftover pasties can be wrapped in a layer of heavy-duty foil and frozen for up to two months.  To reheat your frozen pasties, leave them in foil and put them on a cookie sheet in a preheated 350 °F oven for about 50 minutes or until heated through.  Then you can email me to thank me for sharing this recipe with you.

 

A fresh-from-the-oven pasty served with the traditional ketchup.  That’s right.  I said traditional ketchup.  If you insist you can eat it with gravy, but that’s Yoopers identify tourists.  Just sayin’…

For a printable version of this recipe, click here!

Yooper Pasties

This recipe yields about 16 plate-sized pasties.  Feel free to adjust amounts but you might want a few of these in your freezer.  They’re the ultimate winter meal-in-one.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 large rutabaga and 1 small rutabaga, peeled and diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and diced
  • 8 medium potatoes, preferably a waxy variety like Yukon golds or reds, peeled and diced
  • 4 pounds lean ground beef
  • enough sturdy pie dough for eight double crust pies (or eight boxes prepared refrigerated pie crusts)- I use the butter tart crust dough from the Fannie Farmer cookbook.  If you need the recipe, email me and I’ll happily pass it along!
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

Method:

 

First you are going to sharpen your knife so that if you slip and take off a finger while wrestling your rutabaga it’ll be easier to reattach.  I kid.  Sort of.  My point is this.  Exercise caution with the rutabaga because it does not go gently into that good night.

Rutabagas are hard little things to get into, but easy once you get it cracked open.  They store really well in cold weather root cellars which is one reason they’re so popular in the U.P.

The best way to prepare the recalcitrant little beast is to slice a sliver off one end of the rutabaga so that it stands sturdily on your cutting board.  Then use your biggest sharpest knife to lob it in half.  If it’s freaking you out too much to try to hold a slippery, wax covered, round and really hard vegetable while trying to cut it, feel free to whack it in half with a hatchet or an axe.  Just don’t do it on your kitchen counter!

 

Splitting the rutabaga is the toughest part of the whole operation.  Once you’re there you’re golden!

 

Once you have the brute opened, lay it on the flat side and dismantle it further so your original sphere is in quarters.  Take another little bit off the bottom so you can stand the quarters up on their ends and use another sharp knife to remove the peel from the insides.

Use a sharp knife.  Really. 

 

From this point on, cut the rutabaga into 1/4″ slices and stack them like a deck of cards.

 

See?  Rutabaga cards.  Delicious!

Now you’ll take your rutabaga cards and slice them into 1/4″ strips that will then be cut into 1/4″ cubes.  Isn’t that wonderfully symmetrical?

Now you’ll have your super adorable sous chef peel your carrots.

Combine all diced vegetables in a gigantic mixing bowl.

 

Break up ground beef over the top, add salt and pepper to taste, and mix up thoroughly.

 

Roll out a piece of pie crust to a diameter between 8″ and 10″.  Lay on a pie plate with the crust hanging over the lip of the plate by about 1/4″.  Use your hands or a large spoon to transfer as much filling onto the crust as you can, mounding and pressing down lightly with your hands, to fill the half of the crust that is hanging over the plate.

 

When in doubt, refer to the picture below.  This is by far the easiest way to form pasties.

Now fold the empty part of the pie crust over the filling, pinch the seams together, transfer to your countertop and crimp the edges with a fork.

Using yet another sharp knife, slice three little vents into the top of the pasty and transfer it to a baking dish or parchment lined baking pan.

You might find it helpful to use a benchknife to help move the pasty from counter to pan.

Now slide those pans into a preheated 375°F oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.  Since pasties don’t traditionally get an egg glaze, they won’t be a shiny brown when done, but a deep crispy looking golden brown.  Oh I’m getting so hungry talking about these.

Serve hot, cold, or anything in between.  My Dad used to heat his pasties up on the steam-pipe at the factory where he worked or on the manifold of the log skidder he operated.  I meant it when I said they were portable!

To eat in true Yooper fashion, smother with good ketchup.  If you have an aversion to ketchup you can serve with whatever gravy you prefer.  Either way they’re soooooo good.

 

Comments

  1. Yum. My Mom used to make a version of these when I was a kid. (we’re Scottish and Irish) We didn’t smother ours with ketchup though. ;)

    Congratulations on your 100th post!!

  2. mmmm….I was thinking about pasties just the other day, even though the weather does not match the season here (It was 80 today!) We moved to Baltimore from MI a little over a year ago and I don’t know what my chances are of finding a pasty around here. I will have to try this recipe and make them for myself. I would love the pastry recipe you use with it too.
    Congrats on the 100th post!

  3. yum, comfort food! I love that you use rutabaga in them — the lowly rutabaga is an underappreciated vegetable! I will have to try this recipe!
    Congratulations on your 100th Post!

  4. YAY! How exciting!

    And thanks for the cultural learning explanation. As a Westerner I wouldn’t have known any of this and a big LOL about the paysties. Hilarious!

    Okay, they look unbelievably tasty {pronounced T-A-STY} no matter what they are called!

  5. I love reading FWF!

    The variety is great but a few more quick recipies is always appreciated.

  6. Well, I’m posting again, because I”d like to be entered, and I’d definately like to see some more fried chocolate covered cricket recipes. . . Ok, not really. I enjoy frugal speedy recipes and recipes that I can make in bulk and freeze for later. :)

  7. Pasties are my all time favorite comfort food. My grandma’s recipe is cubed beef & potatoes with shredded rutabaga and onion. KETCHUP….and lots of it…. is required though. :)

  8. pink bowl says:

    oooohhh, I LOVE pasties! Grew up on em, even as a troll! Grandma had a cottage up but we lived we lived under the bridge.We used to be be able to get as trolls but thats nearly impossible now. You gotta cross big Mac to get the good ones. I’ve never made them and Albies just aren’t the same. You know, Albies actually puts broccoli theirs. Can’t you go to jail for that? Thanks for sharing, I’m going to make em next week!

  9. Cheri weeks says:

    I make these with ground turkey, sweet potatoes, red onions and curry powder, yum!

  10. This is so funny and makes me feel so cozy. I’m originally from Marquette, MI and we enjoyed many Jean Kay Pasties. Thanks for taking me back!

  11. Mmmmm! These somewhat remind me of the Louisiana meat pies– aka Natchitoches meat pies– that I grew up with. Of course, I think ours are an inheritance from West Africa by way of Jamaica, but still….

  12. I love Pasties, don’t ya’ know, hey!! We moved south from Milwaukee a decade ago, and I was JUST thinking (a few weeks ago) how much I missed heading to the local pasty shop for lunch. It was always mobbed, but absolutely delicious and worth the wait. The last time we were in da UP, the US Women’s soccer team beat the Chinese for the championship. We were eating Pasties at a downtown bar… Fond memories.

    I think most of the “authentic” pasties use lard in the crust, which adds that certain bit of artery-clogging yumminess you can only get in da UP! I’m gonna throw on a “Yoopers” CD, open a beer, think about deer camp, and make a big ol’ batch of dese-here pasties!!

  13. More of your wonderful recipes and tips please. :)

    I’d love to try one of these. I’m intrigued.

  14. Heather- Give the ketchup a shot. you might be pleasantly surprised. And you want more bug recipes? My sons’ll love you.

    Cindy- Pastry recipe on the way…

    Hot Garlic- Thank you, ma’am. I’d never heard of the Utah scones, either. We’re even!

    Candace- Thank you. Ask and you shall receive. More quick recipes coming up!

    Noel- You’re right. Ketchup is kind of crucial.

    Pinkbowl- I think broccoli in pasties might be a prosecutable offense. Broccoli? Huh? How does that resemble potatoes, onions, rutabagies, carrots or beef? Try Cousin Jennys…

    Cheri- That sounds very not Yooper, but still very yummy!

    Leah- Marquette rocks. I hail from L’Anse. My Dad went to MTU. I learned to love hockey before I learned to walk.

    Sherri- Jamaican meat pies are awesome. I used to buy them from a little Jamaican grocery on Genesee St. in Rochester, NY. Good stuff… Try the Yooper ones on for size some time.

    Darryl- Oh heck, yeah. Lard is my friend. “First Day of Deer Camp” is a classic. Make the pasties, watch ‘Escanaba in da Moonlight” and yell ‘Hey! Buckless!” at the tube. Da U.P. is da best.

    Melissa- You got it. If you try a pasty, you’ll understand me as a human.

    For Everyone… How do you respond to this question, “Is ‘dis da Saudy deer camp?”

  15. Ok, I know this won’t count for the constest but I’ve already won because I’m the husband and father of your FWF crew.
    My work once took me to a small county fair in Lancaster, PA far from the UP. In the crowd near me I could hear the distinctive UP accent between two visitors to the booth I was staffing. Ya, da yoopers have a distinctive sound eh! Round here it’s called talking Finn even though the person could hail from any of a number of nordic backgrounds. So, I subtly listened in and when I heard them mention a town in the UP I introduced mself but not yet as having lived in the UP. I said I had a question for them if they had time to answer it. I asked them simply catsup or gravy? A great big grin came over the couple faces and they knew right away. Her’s was catsup but his??? Well you might not want to know and it left doubt in my mind as to his claim of having lived here. He puts maple syrup on them. He claims it was an accidental discovery. Hrmmpf.

    Anyway nice job on the recipe Becc.

  16. Oh man! I have been looking for a pasty recipe for so long! They are my favorite kind of food this time of year. I’m not a yooper, but spent a ton of time there in the summer growing up.

  17. I’ve heard about pasties before but have never had one. They look delicious!

  18. Your pasties look great! I’m a huge devotee to Cousin Jennie’s but I do make a batch or two at home every winter. The only difference between my recipe and yours is I swap out parsnips for rutabaga and sometimes do ground turkey thighs instead of beef. I never liked rutabaga as a kid and for some reason haven’t given it a second chance as an adult.

  19. My Mum used to make these w/ spinach, sausage and rocotta. We would grow the spinach, harvest. Butcher the pigs and make the cheese from the goats milk. It was a dauting tast, but one that produced an amazing meal as a child… Your blog takes me back to my childhood… I love to read your treasures.. Thank you for sharing~
    ~M~

  20. James Cleft says:

    Don’t ever, ever, EVER call a pasty a pie again or i’ll hunt you down and feed you pies until you burst.

  21. Hmmm. Weird. My gramma, who grew up in central Virginia, made this, because HER mom made them. Almost exactly the same recipe except that ours use bacon, not ground beef, and not so much. So they are more potatoey than meatey. But now that I think of it, her FATHER and paternal grandparents probably brought them down from Michigan when they moved to central Virginia in the late 1800s. And they were Swedish! But they were from Michigan’s UP and that probably is where they came from! How interesting. Culinary anscestry…..

  22. James Lucas says:

    I haven’t had a pastie since I was a wee little boy. You should make one with lamb and mint. Mmmm.

  23. I almost forgot….

    Here are two more definitions that are important if you will be traveling in the UP.
    Da Bridge…. the most common nickname for the Mackinac Bridge. Like…is there any other bridge you could be talking about?
    Down below…. any destination south of Da Bridge.

  24. I’m all for anything that combines meat, onions and pastry. And to think I’ve been pronouncing it wrong all these years. But you’ll have to forgive me, not many pastie fans in Oregon.

  25. Hi! I popped in from tastespotting because I have been looking for a good recipe for meat pies. I just need to figure out how to sneak the rutabegas past the picky eaters and I’ll be set. Maybe I’ll send them to check out the Fall foliage while I cook.

  26. Oh yum. I haven’t had pasties in forever and these look fabulous!

  27. Well! What a great entry to be my first to read! I am challenged to try this yummy dish. Great job Rebecca and Val!

  28. Oh wow! YUM!! These look like curry puffs that you can find in Malaysia! Only bigger!

  29. My husband & I were raised in TC, and going over the bridge meant you were on
    vacation. I’ve made pasties for over 25 years – and I’m the only one of 5 that will use ketchup! The rest eat them plain….. and don’t salt their less than perfect watermelon, either. Ah well. At least they eat the rutabaga.
    I love your column, and read it online from out west. You have a great balance between real life and the ‘best’ way. Thanks!

  30. Congrats on your 100th entry! I’d love to see more awesome recipes! :)
    Pasties? I love them!

  31. congrats! and thanks for the mini michigan lesson!

  32. Congrats! I’m a michigander myself

  33. Yum! So THAT’S what they mean by “Yooper Beer”. It’s all making sense now.

  34. that looks yummy. i’m not the best cook but i’ll be trying a version of this

  35. yum! that looks soo very delicious i will definitely try that wish i could cook it now though :)

  36. Happy 100th! Have a great day!

  37. I grew up in Northern WI so I am very familiar with pasties but I have never made my own- I will have to try it! Thank you for the recipe :)

    Congrats on your 100th post!!

  38. saude camp… The one and only!

    And on the rutabaga/broccoli comparison, well, they are in the same family–both are brassicas. But so is tatsoi. and canola. and mustard. Want that in your pasty? Well, maybe not, but we all need a little chlorophyll, so I guess it could work. We had some good ones with parm. cheese and peas added this summer. Vegetarian ones from the natural food store/co-op in Houghton, Mi. yum…

    Thanks for the pasty recipe sis. Grandma told me she made her crust with boiling water poured over shortening (“crisco”) in L’Anse many years ago. SHe would refrigerate the finished dough overnight, then wake up early with the other cooks at the church and roll out tons and tons of paper-thin crusts for the pasties.
    I’d like to develop a nice gluten-free dough for non-wheat days around here. Buckwheat flour maybe?

    And lots and lots of ketchup.

  39. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a rutabaga. The little pies look a bit like Polish Pierogies, but I’m guessing they’re heavier – more of a pot pie in a pocket kind of thing. Sounds like a good recipe for fall.

  40. Thank you for providing the photos- I made these for the first time tonight and they were fabulous thanks to your help. I used ground buffalo instead of beef and just used rutabaga and carrots since I had no potatoes. A new staple in our northern wisconsin household. Thanks!

  41. Need pasties now. I’m stuck in Colorado and can only dream about my beloved Michigan. Can you please post your recipe for the Fanny Farmer Butter Tart Crust so I can make some pasties today. Thank you.

  42. WOAH These are #1 on my list to make!!! But… I need the pie crust recipe…. please :)

  43. Thanks!! All of the ingredients are on my shopping list :) YUM-OOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  44. My mom Germaine was born and raised in Iron River along with her best friend & sister in-law Laura. The following is their recipe for the Pastie Crust and a slightly different filling. The addition of margarine to the top of the filling before folding the crust over made them soft and moist inside. Additional notes- We have tried them with rutabaga and they are ok but not as good. My mom liked them with Mustard but the rest of us used Ketchup. My husband (additionally from MI)likes brown gravy but he wasn`t raised with them.

    Crust
    2 cups Crisco Shortening
    6 cups All Purpose Flour
    2 teaspoons Salt
    1 1/2 cups Cold Water
    Combine and roll out into 6 pastie crusts

    Filling
    1 pound Ground Round
    1 Onion finely chopped
    3 Carrots sliced thin
    3 Potatoes sliced thin
    Salt & Pepper
    Margarine slices to top over each Pastie (3 thin pats of margarine/ butter per Pastie)

    Layer in order on one side of the rolled circle or oval pie crust. Fold over dough to make a half circle then pinch the sides together. Cut 3-4 slits in the top of each Pastie for the steam to release. Place the Pastie onto a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining crusts. Bake at 250 for 1 hour until golden brown. Yum!

  45. 350 for 1 hour. typo error

  46. I’m a troll that married a military man so I long for pasties, euchre, Faygo pop, and Better Made potato chips. I can’t wait to try these and educate my Florida friends on some Michigan tradition!

  47. A little tip on dealing with waxed rutabaga (also called turnip in some places). My mother hated the mess of peeling them, and came up with the idea to put it on a plate lined with 2-3 paper towels, and put it into the microwave. When the wax started melting, she would use the paper towels to rub it off, and would continue until all the wax was off. This does cook the outside of the rutabaga a bit, but not that much. And it does away with the mess the wax would leave.

  48. Sandy Johnson says:

    Can’t wait to try your pasty recipe! Congrats on your 100th post! I came from a Scandinavian background but we never had pasties. Would you please send me the pastry recipe you talked about? Thank you SO much!

  49. Is the beef in the raw state or do you brown it first? This sounds so yummy :)

  50. I would like your crust recipe, too..please..I have a good one but I want to do the recipe with EXACT ingredients! Thanks bunches!

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  4. [...] making them — lo, these decades — my Grandma has used a hot water stirred dough for her Yooper pasties and pasty pies. And you’d better believe me, all the food that’s ever come out of my Grandma’s kitchen is [...]

  5. [...] back in 2008, one of the first recipes I ran on Foodie With Family was for my beloved pasties. (Pronounced PAH-steez, not PAY-steez, [...]

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