Few things in life evoke fond memories of childhood and family the way a favorite family recipe does. For me that favorite family dish is pasty (pronounced “pass” + “tee”).
This food is most often associated with Cornwall, England – although it’s history can be traced back much further. It’s considered the national food of Cornwall and since 2011 has Protected Geographical Indication status in Europe (that’s right – the EU takes time to give protected status to regional foods). In its traditional form it can best be described as a big, plump turnover filled with meat and vegetables. Most often its filled with beef (some say venison was used before beef), chipped potato, chipped rutabaga, onion, salt & pepper.
This was a popular meal with the tin miners of Cornwall. The turnover could easily fit into the miners’ pockets where it usually stayed warm until eaten for lunch. Some mines were known to have ovens on the premises and miners would carve their initials into their pasty for easy identification at meal time.
In the 1840s many miners from Cornwall immigrated to the United States and found their way to the Upper Peninsula area of Michigan where mineral mines were just beginning to be developed. With the immigrants came the pasty and it is is still a popular food in this region of Michigan. Finnish and Italian immigrants soon settled in the area as well and they tried their own variations of the Cornish pasty making modifications such as adding carrots – an addition that provoked no small amount of controversy!
My Pollard ancestors were miners who immigrated from Cornwall, England to Iron Mountain, Michigan. Happily they were pasty makers. In a move that has probably made more than a few of my Cornish ancestors roll over in their grave, my great aunt — Elizabeth Pollard Mills — decided to expand the idea of the crescent-shaped pasty and she started making it as a deep-dish pie. This format makes serving it to large groups of people much easier. I’ve added my own variation over the years – instead of chipping the rutabaga (those things are hard as rocks) – I run it through the food processor and shred it (hey, it tastes the same right?).
So, here is the Pollard/Jacobs variation of Cornish pasty:
Crust for a two-crust pie (I use the recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook).
Cover the bottom of the pie crust with a layer of rutabaga (chipped or shredded) – next add a layer of chipped potatoes (its sacrilege not to chip the potatoes) — salt & pepper to taste — next add a layer of chopped onions – then add a layer of ground beef. Repeat. Add a few dollops of butter. Cover with crust. Put aluminum foil around the edges to keep it from burning. Bake at 350-375 for about an hour or longer – until the potatoes are done.
Now – there is one more thing the last couple generations of my family have added that I’m fairly confident no self-respecting Cornish ancestor would even consider. That’s right – after it comes out of the oven we add Heinz ketchup! I must have Heinz Ketchup on my pasty!!!!
This is my comfort food. This is what takes me back to my childhood and extended family gathered ’round the table for the holidays. Pasty. Just thinking about it makes me smile….and makes me hungry!
Pictured: Elsie Victoria Henrietta (Mattson) Pollard (wife of Alexander Pollard) holding Alice Pollard (married Ernest Mulkey), next to her is Elizabeth Pollard (married Alvis Mills) and Bernice Pollard (married Adrian Jacobs) at their home in Iron Mountain, Michigan.
Information for this blog was gleaned in part from Wikipedia and the History Channel websites: