How to Make a Classic Upper Penninsula Pasty
Pronounced with a soft “a,” the pasty is a single serving baked meat pie than can be consumed without utensils like a sandwich. It has become a popular tourist cuisine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, available in grocery stores, restaurants, and roadside stands from Iron River to Escanaba to St. Ignace.
The U.P. Pasty has its origins in the copper mines of the upper western peninsula, specifically in the Keweenaw Peninsula. U.P. pasty legend says that miners would tuck a warm pasty, wrapped in newspaper, into their shirts for a convenient lunch as they left home in the morning to work in the copper mines. However, it was the immigrants from Cornwall in the United Kingdom that worked in the mines of their homeland who are truly responsible for the introduction of the pasty to Michigan.
U.P. Pasty Etiquette
- Pronounce it correctly, the “a” is soft as in “past,” not hard as in “paste,” you know the stuff you used to eat in the 1st grade.
- Rutabaga is an essential ingredient.
- Eat with friends and/or family.
- Eat plain or with ketchup, never ever use gravy..
- The ideal pasty should be “D” shaped, but I violate this rule.
Having been raised in the U.P., I think I have consumed a pasty or two from almost every outlet that can be found across this great projection of forested and rocky land surrounded by two of the great lakes, Superior and Michigan. My appetite for this delicacy and my frequent consumption may not be sufficient to call myself an authority, but it certainly allows me to call myself a connoisseur. When I left the U.P. to pursue a career, I often found myself craving a nice warm pasty, so I came up with my own recipe. I introduced this gourmet delight to my children, and now they also have a pasty addiction.
- ¾ pounds of ground venison
- ½ pound of ground pork sausage
- 3 medium diced potatoes
- 5 small baby carrots
- 1 medium to large diced white onion
- 1/3 of a rutabaga diced
- Pie crust, enough for two pies
- Salt and pepper to taste
Note: Pasties can be made with almost any meat, but a mix of ground beef and pork works well. If you are handy at making pie crust, the pasties are usually better with homemade instead of store-bought crust.
1. Fry the venison and pork burger in a skillet, salt and pepper to taste.
2. While meat is cooking, peel and dice the potatoes, carrots, and rutabaga into small cubes, about ¼” cubes.
3. Chop onion into small pieces about a ½ inch in size.
4. Boil chopped carrots, rutabaga, potatoes and onion until they begin to begin to get soft. Start with carrots, boil for about a minute, then add rutabaga, boil, then potatoes, boil, then onion. Don’t boil too long.
5. Drain veggies, mix in cooked meat, cool in the refrigerator, usually overnight.
6. Place one pie crust on a cookie sheet and cut in half with a pizza cutter.
7. Place about three large tablespoons (about ¼ cup) of meat/veggie mixture on lower half of the half pie crust and press the mound together with your hand.
8. Wet the edges of the crust around the mound of filling with water.
9. Fold the top piece of crust over and press the edges together with your finger.
10. Work around the edge of pasty with your finger, pulling the edges up and folding them in towards the center, while pressing down.
11. Continue to next Pasty.
12. Bake in oven at 375F for about 45 minutes or until the edges get brown.
- Use different flavors of sausage or just plain ground pork.
- Vary the ratio of beef to pork.
- Try ground turkey.
- Carrots are optional.
- Use red onion. Use more or less onion.
- Make a party-sized Pasty.