The Cornish Pasty: A Traditional Food Ready for Commercialization

Pasty at Mn Hunt Camp

A Cornish Pasty ready to be consumed at the Minnesota Governor’s Opener annual hunt which was held in Hinckley in November, 2018. Going on this hunt caused the author to seek out this classic miner’s lunch-bucket meal. 

Cornwall has been the site of tin and China clay mining since Roman times. Miners working underground needed a filling meal that they could heat and consumed as they worked.  With the introduction of the potato from the New World, the result was a beef-potato savory pie baked in a durable crust. Unlike beef pies served in dishes, the pasty had to be dry enough so as not to weaken its pastry container.

Cornish miners were highly skilled and worked in mining regions all over the world. They were in American mining camps throughout nation. Large numbers of Cornishmen and their families worked in the copper mines of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, at the underground mines in the Iron Range of Minnesota, in the copper mines in Butte, Montana, and in gold and silver camps throughout the Rocky Mountains and California. Wherever they moved they took the favorite lunch-bucket meal with them. Pasty shops and bakeries spring up throughout the country, and a few still may be found in places like Butte.

My participation in the Minnesota Governor’s Opener Deer Hunt in Hinckley, brought me close enough to pasty country to seek them out. The further north I drove the more people knew about them. In Hinckley there was a small bakery associated with a restaurant that sometimes made them, but had none on the shelves at the moment. I had a half-day before the events associated with my hunt would take place and I drove to Duluth seeking a walleye lunch and pasties. The following video records the result.

 

As the video relates, I thought that this pasty could be improved by the addition of other vegetables, and most particularly some onions. In my own pasties I have used dark meat from bear, deer and geese for the cut-meat base. Another version might use pork, turkey or fish for progressively milder-tasting products. For vegetables I really like to add English peas, rutabagars and turnips along with some carrots. I could even envision a sweet pasty with pork and sweet potatoes and maybe a pepper or to for a mild kick. The potential variations in this product are almost endless.

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Three of the author’s bear meat pasties. I have a YouTube video on how to make them.

One could also change the size and instead of the standard 8-inch version offer a smaller 6-incher for hand-held eating and a 12-inch family sized variant. Because all of the components are pre-cooked prior to adding to the crust, the cooking time is just that needed to solidify the bread product. I like to use a worked slightly salty wheat flour biscuit dough for the crust to provide a durable product. The more you work the dough the tougher it becomes.

RunzaFoodGroup[1]

There are similar competitive products. The best known are the Hot Pocket series of crust-enclosed meat and cheese pies. Another is the Runza brand of products which are ground beef with onions and cheese encapsulated in a soft bread, as in a dinner roll.  A similar type of product is a kaloche which is of central-European origin and was brought to the America’s by Czech immigrants. Perhaps the best examples of these are from the town of West, Texas.  In popular knowledge the best known somewhat related product is the Italian calzone, made famous in the line from The Godfather, “Throw away the gun and take the calzone.” However, calzones are cheese filled, rather than have a meat and vegetable filling like the pasties.

Ham Jahapenia Kolache

A West, Texas, Kolache that is filled with ham and peppers along with perhaps a touch of cheese served baked inside a soft roll. These are sold in many variations and might include eggs and a sweet version that contains apple-pie filling.

There is room in the food market for pasties made with a variety of fillings, in different sizes and served with different tomato, mustard and horseradish based sauces.  There are sufficient options in the selection of ingredients to even offer a good-tasting vegetarian product without the traditional meat fillings. The size of the establishment that might offer pasties range from food trucks to sit-down eateries to commercialization for sale in chain grocery stores throughout the world.

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