Michigan’s UP & Its Pasty

Thank you Mohamad for this fantastic experience of being a continued guest author on your blog. You have a wonderful following of beautiful people, whom I am grateful to be meeting along the way. Today I bring a favorite or rather a traditional food of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in America.

Pasty, rhymes with ‘nasty’ and is a food of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula‘s miners. Have you ever heard of a pasty? It is a portable meat-pie meant to be eaten by hand. No silverware needed. A miner’s delight. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) is known for its copper mining.

old black and white photo of about 30 mineres, sitting in tiers atop a pile of mining debri

In the early 1800’s, there was a rush to mine copper deposits in the UP. Tin mining in England was going bad. Laborers from Cornwall England brought over the pasty. Cornish miners favored its portable-ness. The small meat pie was easy to carry into the mines for their 12-hour workday.

In 1864, a bigger wave of Finnish immigrants came in. They observed the Cornish on how to behave “American” and took or claimed the pasty as their own, slightly altering the ingredients.

NOTE: Having lived over half a century in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, I was not a stranger to the UP. At one time, a pasty could only be found in the UP. Today, they are in fast food chains most anywhere in the Lower half of the state. Point being, I had always been told the pasty was Finnish. Talk of a pasty being Cornish, was simply not allowed.  The ‘elders’ knew the pasty was Finnish! End of conversation! Goes to show, we should question everything.

The copper miners loved the pasty, for it provided a balanced hot meal, while down in the mines. Should a pasty become cold before it was ready to eat, no problem. The miners discovered they could reheat it, by setting the pasty on their shovel blade and holding it over the flame of their candle-lamp. I heard of one account, where the miner forgot about his heating food and caused a fire down in the mine. Lesson learned, the hard way.

What is the pasty?

plated food showing a cut open pastyThe pasty (rhymes with nasty) is a round pastry, filled with hot fresh cooked food, folded in half and pinched shut. The filling consists of beef, turnip, potato and onion, keeping a crunchy texture. Seasoned with only salt and pepper, served with a gravy or ketchup, it was meant to be practical. A mix of complex carbs and protein was pure fuel for the miners and then for the loggers.

SIDE NOTE: In my young adult life, I met a native of the UP’s, Keweenaw Peninsula. The Keweenaw is the most northern point of the UP, as seen on the map. I no longersolid blue image of the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan USA recall her name and will call her Auntie, for she was like the great aunt to all around. She was an elderly woman who joyfully lived in a small apartment above one of the local stores. Like most all communities in the UP, everyone knew everyone and were like one big family. Always helping and looking out for each other and loving life. And that is where I learned how to make authentic pasties.

It took me months to master the making of the dough for the pastry. The ingredients were simple, the process was a mastered skill. Over the winter months, I would practice by making pasties often, becoming creative with the ingredients. When summer would roll around and roads no longer snow covered, I would make the day long trek north, to Auntie’s place. We would then make pasties together and she would marvel at my progress.

I have not made pasties now for decades. I no longer recall the details she gave, nor her recipe or technique for the dough. Perhaps one day soon, I will get out my flour and dive into the recesses of my memory, to reconstruct the perfect pasty pastry, in Auntie’s honor.

Thank you for joining me in another Michigan adventure from the days of when I lived there.


Branching Out – my personal blog
Hempren – my educational blog

Images Pixabay.com

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