Sunday, December 19, 2010


Convenience food has been around for a long time.  Centuries ago, miners' wives invented handy pastries filled with meat and vegetables and even sometimes apples for their husbands' lunchpails.  These pasties (pass-tees) are still traditional in places like Cornwall (England) and northern Michigan and Minnesota.  If you go to Mineral Point, Wisconsin,  formerly a lead mining area, you can always get pasties at a few local eateries. 

It is traditional to make pasty crusts with butter or lard or some other fat and flour - like a pie crust.  Amounts and types of fat and types of flour (e.g. some pasties call for some rye flour in the crust) vary greatly.  There is no one kind of pasty pastry.  (say that fast three times - pasty pastry, pasty pastry, pasty pastry.)  There are various types of meat and vegetable pies that call for a bread-type crust made with yeast - but those dishes are NOT pasties.  We can talk about those another day.

If you are going to the trouble of making homemade pasties, make a big batch.  More efficient and I guarantee you and your family will be glad to have extra.  Have some for dinner and save some for lunches or for "fast food" if you simply must be in the car during meal time.  And while you are eating your pasties, say a little thank you prayer to all the miners in the world who still risk their lives every day so others can have more comfortable lives.  (And yes I know coal is a serious contributor to global warming but I have looked at some of the numbers and it is going to be a little while before we figure out how to do without coal.  It is powering this computer right now.)

This recipe is adapted from a recipe in The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas.  (For another take on pasties - see the blog Heavy Table.  They apparently had the same idea I did and decided to write about this great winter food.)

Winter Pasties
This recipe calls for mashed potatoes.  It results in a softer and flavorful crust that is quite easy to handle - important for a beginning pasty maker.  This makes enough for twelve medium sized (single serving) pasties.  If you have a stand type mixer, this is very quick and easy with the paddle attachment.
3 cups white or whole wheat pastry flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 cup (two sticks) butter, slightly softened
1 1/2 cups homemade mashed potatoes (leftover are just fine)
Enough ice water to make the dough hold together
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the butter in chunks and mix swiftly and lightly with your fingers or a paddle mixer to blend.  Add mashed potatoes and incorporate.  Add ice water a few spoons at a time - you don't want the dough to get too wet.  Form into a ball and refrigerate, covered, about 30 minutes.  When it is time to use the dough, you will need to divide it into 12 piece and roll each into a circle- about 7-8 inches in diameter.  Use flour to keep dough from sticking.

While the dough is chilling, make the filling.  (You could say that three times fast, too.  Isn't this fun?)
I figure about a heaping half cup (that means rounded up over the edges of a half cup measure) per pasty - so you will need about 8 cups of filling.  If you have a little extra, just bake in a covered baking dish like a casserole.
My suggestion is to use about 2 cups of diced raw meat (I used venison) and 6 cups of raw vegetables.  Pasties NEED root vegetables.  They will cook inside the pasty when it bakes.  This time I used carrots, onions, parsnips and potatoes.  If you want to use beets, cook them first and dice and add just before you are ready to fill the crusts.  It is important that the pieces of meat and vegetables be no more than 1/2 inch dice - maybe a bit smaller.  It takes a little longer to do the chopping, but it is easier to fill the pasties that way.  If you were making a great big pasty or even baking it in a 9 x 13 pan- then the pieces could be larger.  Salt and pepper and add some herbs if desired.  I used a little dried sage.

Roll out dough circles.  Place a heaping half cup on half of each circle.  Brush a little water on the edges before you fold in half and crimp.  Prick a few holes with a fork to let steam escape. Bake at 375 degrees about 25 minutes - until crust is nicely browned.  Serve at once or cool and refrigerate and reheat later.  These can be microwaved (briefly - or the crust will get tough).

Here are some step by step pictures to help you.
Diced venison, onion, potatoes, carrots and parsnips.  Rutabaga would be good, too.

Leave room on the edges - don't be afraid to push the filling gently around after you fold over the crust - to get it distributed like you want it.  This will get easier the more you do it.

Six individual pasties fit nicely on a big cookie sheet.  I love this sheet - it was made in the USA!

Don't forget to make little holes for the steam

Some juices leaked out of two - no worry.  Just slide a good strong spatula underneath the pasty will lift right up.

1 comment:

  1. thank you, peggy! i'm going to try these this week!