In Our Own Backyard…Cranberries, stuffing - and pasties?Sometimes my husband calls them pasties (pay-sties) and sometimes he calls them pasties (paa-sties). But somehow, the word “pasties,” pronounced as it was meant to be pronounced when referring to the popular little meat pies, is never quite the first thing out of his mouth.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Sometimes my husband calls them pasties (pay-sties) and sometimes he calls them pasties (paa-sties). But somehow, the word “pasties,” pronounced as it was meant to be pronounced when referring to the popular little meat pies, is never quite the first thing out of his mouth. Maybe it’s because he grew up in the central part of the state and I grew up in northern Minnesota, but somehow pasties have always been something I’ve happily taken for granted.
Our family once had a “pasty-off,” where we had three different types of pasties to taste test and decide which was best. Two were made in little communities on the Iron Range, and one was made by church ladies and sold at a once-a-year fundraiser. The night of the “tasting” was sheer heaven on earth. It was all about flaky crust, delicately crimped edges and savory fillings. My husband, the cosmopolitan, thought he had to have gravy on his pasty to keep it from tasting too dry. But when we finally persuaded him to try ketchup instead, he was sold from the first bite.
After that night, we thought we’d had the best of the best – until we journeyed to the Upper Peninsula of northern Michigan last weekend for a friend’s wedding. For anyone who’s never heard of the pasty fame of the U.P., well, it’s legendary. Every little bakery and pie shop, as well as most of the grocery stores and even some of the gas stations, has their particular version of pasties for sale. There are breakfast pasties, pasties with rutabagas and pasties without rutabagas, pasties with the crust crimped on the side in the shape of a D, pasties with the crust crimped along the top, and pasties with all of the dough tucked underneath and sealed on the bottom. There are pasties made with premium ground round, pasties stuffed with ground venison, even pasties that are half meat and half apple pie filling – an entire meal in one.
On our first day in the U.P., our local hosts took us to a small town just outside Ironwood, where we visited the Randall Bakery. With the exception of a rather amazing assortment of baked goods, the main attraction on the bill of fare is pasties. You can get them Cornish-style (with rutabagas) or traditional U.P.-style, (without), and the table-side menu says you have two choices – a pasty with milk or a pasty with coffee – that’s it. A couple of women sitting at stools along the counter soon picked up on the fact we were visiting for the first time, and they advised us the clear choice was to order a pasty to eat hot at the restaurant – and then order a box of frozen ones to take home!
The pasty I ate for lunch that day was life changing. The crust was made with lard and so flaky it almost dissolved as I bit into it. The filling was loaded with delicious flavors of meat and onion, and even the delicate steam that emerged as I cut into it was a treat for the senses.
I thought it very likely must be one of the finest pasties in all the world – until the next day when we ate pasties from a place called Joe’s. They looked a bit different than the ones at Randall’s, but the flavor was equally as savory and the crust virtually melted in our mouths. It would be tough to say which was the better of the two, so we simply didn’t bother to try.
By the time we returned home to Duluth at the end of the weekend, we were glutted on pasties. The virtues of a thickly crimped crust versus a finely crimped one were coursing through my mind. Ground round versus ground chuck – who could possibly decide? Carrots, or no carrots? Lard versus shortening? Meat or apple pie filling – or both? My mind and my appetite have been in a tailspin ever since, and I’m tasting pasties in my sleep.
And with Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, I can honestly say that it’s a bit of a relief to look forward to a traditional holiday dinner.
Hmmm….I wonder how turkey pasties would taste?