Last year I wrote a kind of disjointed article about hand-held food in different cultures. One item I mentioned was the Cornish pasty, an English meat pie that has long been popular in Minnesota and on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
You’d think you could find them in Wisconsin, too, but I can't say for sure.
Well, I got an e-mail the other day from The Pasty Oven, a manufacturer in the town of Quinnesec, Mich., an Upper Peninsula town on the Wisconsin border, and one of my sources for the story.
To wit: “Dear Bret, This interesting thing is happening, we are getting 2-3 messages a week from small shops, bakerys & restaurants a week asking if they can sell our pastys. Is this news worthy? Shops in TN,WA, FL, AL, NC, AZ, OH, PA”
I think it is kind of newsworthy, or noteworthy at the very least.
Read on for more information about pasties. Below is excerpted, with my permission, from the May 19, 2008, issue of Nation’s Restaurant News.
By the way, the people at the Pasty Oven make pasties for a living, so spelling doesn't need to be a priority for them. Get off their backs.
A regional delicacy that flourishes in northern Minnesota and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is the Cornish pasty.
Pronounced pass-tee, the item originated in the British county of Cornwall.
Tim Tikkanen, executive director of Main Street Calumet, which promotes events in that Upper Peninsula town, including the annual PastyFest, says the hand-held pastries were brought to the area in the 1840s, following the discovery of copper in the area. Skilled miners from Cornwall arrived to ply their craft.
“Every ethnic group brought their foods with them,” says Tikkanen. “Over the generations, with the intermingling of the ethnic groups and cultures, they adopted each other’s foods and said, ‘Hey, that’s pretty good stuff.’”
Upper Peninsula native Patty Tyler makes the pasties at Cherokee, a restaurant owned by her son and daughter-in-law Aaron and Lisa Tyler in Muskegon, Mich., which is not in the Upper Peninsula.
She mixes ground beef with potato, onion and rutabaga.
“You definitely have to have some rutabagas in there,” she insists. “If you don’t have a rutabaga, then it’s not a real original pasty.” The uncooked items are wrapped in a dough that’s somewhat more substantial than a piecrust, and then baked. They’re eaten with brown gravy or ketchup, or occasionally mayonnaise. “But they’re fine all by themselves,” she says.
“There’s different ways to make them,” she says. “Some people use cut up chuck meat, but I like the meat to be evenly distributed with the potatoes. It makes a nice, solid meat pie,” she says.
Tyler also makes what she calls a Celtic or Scottish pie, which is made with sausage instead of beef—although she says some sausage can be added to a Cornish pasty—and cabbage instead of rutabaga.
Tikkanen says that turnips are a common addition to the local pasties.
“Some people have stronger sentiments than others,” he says, “but the Cornish people will kind of bristle if you add carrots to them.… Some of them will say that’s a Scandinavian additive.”
The fifth PastyFest, which started in 2004, will be held June 27-28. It includes a pasty bake-off in three categories—individual, commercial and nontraditional. In that last category, contestants have made breakfast pasties, Mexican pasties and others.
One year a turkey dinner pasty won, Tikkanen says.