The pasty, a meat pie, is a tradition in Ely, and is not to be confused with pasties (if you don’t know, google it, but don’t do it at work). Pasties (used from here on in reference to the meat pie only) are one of those meals that really feels like home. Pasties were introduced to the Iron Range by the Cornish and the Finn’s (25% of Dana & I’s ethnicity) added the rutabaga. Pasties are traditionally served as single serve ‘hand pies’ that are like a savory turnover, but our mom grew up in a family of 10 kids and I can’t imagine how much time it would have taken Grandma Forsman to make individual pasties for the entire family, so she made pasty pies instead.
Every family in Ely probably has their own recipe, you can buy them at the local grocery store deli on a daily basis, and they are a common commodity at church sales. They also happen to give the rutabaga a real purpose in life. Pasties also happen to be SUPER common on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Aj and I drove through there last July on the way home from his family’s cabin, and literally you could buy pasties, smoked fish, and fudge at every gas station, restaurant, and roadside stand.
The last weekend I was home in Ely I made my mom show me how to make pasties, here is how we did it.
A couple of notes: Bless her heart, my mom made homemade pie crust for this learning occasion, but feel free to use store bought pie crust if you want. You’ll need two crusts per pasty. Mom and I tripled the recipe and made 3 pasties. I mean why not? You’re already doing all the work, it’s not that much harder to make 2 or 3 at one time. The recipe below gives you the amounts for one pasty. We use a standard pie pan, not a deep dish one for this recipe. Zup’s, one of the grocery stores in Ely, sells pasty meat (masquerading as chop suey meat) which is just course ground pork and beef. If you can’t get that at your local store, you could just use 1/2 pound ground pork and 1/2 pound ground beef, or buy beef and pork and finely chop the meat.
The first thing to do is chop the potato, onion, and rutabaga into small cubes. Cube the potato last, so that it doesn’t get a chance to turn brown.
If you’ve never cut a rutabaga before, here’s how. Start by cutting the ends off both sides.
Then start taking off the rind by slicing diagonally like this.
All the way around. Rutabaga are tough little beasts, so be careful.
You’ll want to make sure all the green parts are removed (you’ll know what I mean when you start). Then slice the rutabaga into thin slices, maybe like 1/4 inch thick. Then cube them like the potatoes.
Mix the chopped onion, potato, rutabaga, and pasty meat in a large bowl, using your hands to break up the meat into smaller pieces.
You should also season the filling with salt and pepper at this point, I think Mom and I forgot to do this though. Then, set the bowl aside.
Now time for the crusts. Carefully lay the bottom crust into a pie pan, pressing gently into the sides so it fits nicely.
Then use a knife, angled away from the pie pan, to cut the excess crust off.
Fill the bottom crust with your mixed pasty filling. I learned that you want to fill the pie more evenly, not mound it in the center like I had thought.
Now carefully lay the top crust on top and use the same knife trick to cut off the excess crust.
Then use your fingers to pinch the crusts together, I also learned here that dusting your fingers in flour before this will make it much easier, and the crust will behave better.
Now just cut 4-5 slits in the crust and prepare to bake!
Here is where you choose your own adventure. Choose whether you want to enjoy your pasty right away, or freeze it and save for a later date, or maybe both if you made more than one.
To bake and enjoy right away:
Bake at 400 degrees for about 1 hour. Check the crusts halfway through, you may want to protect them with tin foil to prevent burning- either cover the whole pie with tin foil, or use thin strips to just cover the edges.
To par bake, freeze, and enjoy later:
Bake at 400 for 40-45 minutes, then bring it out and allow to cool. When it is completely cool, put it in a freezer bag and put it in the freezer. I highly recommend using ‘disposable’ foil pans if you choose this adventure so your good pie pans aren’t hiding in the freezer. When you are ready to eat it at a later date, plan ahead and let it thaw in the refrigerator for a day. Then bake at 350 for about an hour, or when you can stick a fork in it and there is little resistance. Check the crusts halfway through, you may want to protect them when some tin foil to prevent burning- either cover the whole pie with tin foil, or use thin strips to just cover the edges.
Either way, when your pasty is done, let it cool a bit, then cut it like a pie and enjoy 🙂
Traditionally (in our family anyway), pasties are enjoyed topped with ketchup. If you’re a weirdo (like Dad, who doesn’t like ketchup), you use gravy.
Pasties are also gifted quite often in Ely, they make excellent meals to give to someone who doesn’t have time to cook (like if they just had a baby, or if there was a death in the family) or just to be nice. I tried to gift one of these pasties to a couple of friends in Ely that weekend and they told me they already have 8 pasties in their freezer! So, I took all three home, more for me.
- 2 pie crusts
- 1 large red potato, cubed
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 medium rutabaga, cubed
- 1 pound pasty meat (1/2 pound ground pork, ½ pound ground beef)
- salt and pepper
- Combine the chopped or cubed onion, potato, and rutabaga with the pasty meat in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
- Lay one pie crust into a pie pan, pressing the bottom and sides down gently. Use a knife to remove excess crust from the edges.
- Fill the pie pan with the meat mixture, evenly, not mounded.
- Carefully lay the top pie crust on top. Use a knife again to remove excess crust.
- Use your fingers to pinch the crusts together. Cut 4-5 slits in the top crust.
- Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
- Check the crusts half way through, you may want to add a thing strip of tinfoil to the outer crust to prevent burning.