Upper Peninsula Beef Pasties (also known as Cornish Beef Pasties) are another traditional meal from my mom’s Scandinavian side of the family. My mother’s parents were from Norway and Finland, and their families migrated in the late 1800s to the Upper Peninsula Michigan, where numerous other Scandinavian families had immigrated.
I grew up thinking that pasties were a Finnish food because it was so strongly associated with Finnish culture in UP Michigan. However, the meat pocket meal was originally brought to the US by Cornish miners who immigrated in the early 1800’s hoping to earn a living in newly developing mines. A small group of Finnish immigrants followed the Cornish miners in 1864, and these Finns, in addition to other ethnic groups, adopted the pasty for use in the Copper Country copper mines. The shape and heavy ingredients of meat and potatoes made the pasty both portable and hearty. In the mines it was easy to warm up by putting the pasty on a shovel and holding it over a head-lamp candle. In the workplace, pasties were eaten end to end without a fork.
The pasty became a popular food among both Finns and Swedes in the UP and the tradition survived the crash of the mining industry. In the late 1800s, when my great-grandparents came to the area, this new wave of immigrants were probably introduced to the food by their older Scandinavian kin rather than the Cornish workers, hence the identification of the pasty as a Scandinavian specialty. In fact, the various ethnic groups modified the original Cornish recipe throughout the years, and indeed the Upper Peninsula pasty differs from the Cornish pasty in that the vegetables are usually diced rather than sliced, there are more vegetables, and the crust is thinner.
My family makes pasties for special occasions and serves them with ketchup. My mom has talked about how her mother, my Finnish grandmother, would make pretty designs when folding the crust, although my mom and her sisters tend to just fold the crust closed without as much care over the appearance. I figure the early pasty-eating miners wouldn’t care too much about appearances and would be more concerned about the crust keeping the juices in!
Upper Peninsula Beef Pasties:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
7-8 T cold water
4 medium potatoes
1.5 pound ground beef
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced (optional)
3/4 cup diced onions
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
In large mixing bowl, stir flour and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gradually add the 7 to 8 T of cold water to the dry ingredients and toss the mixture with a fork until it holds together. Form into a ball. Cover and chill the dough for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, peel and coarsely chop the potatoes. In a bowl combine the ground beef, chopped potatoes, diced celery, carrots, turnips, onion, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Set aside.
Divide the dough into six equal portions. One a lightly floured surface roll each portion of the dough to a 9-inch circle. Place about 1 cup of the meat-vegetable filling on one half of each circle. Put 3 dots of butter on the filling before closing the crust.
Fold the pasty crust over the filling to make a half circle. Wet the bottom half to make the top half stick. Fold the edges upward to create a seal. Cut slits in the pasty to allow steam to escape. Place pasties on an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake pasties at 400F (204C) for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with ketchup and mustard. Makes 6 pasties.
Roll out the pasty dough
Chop the potatoes
Mix the ground beef and veggies
Stuff with the meat-veggie filling
Fold the pasties and place on baking tray