Pasties: The Meaty Center Of 'Yooper' Food

This week, Weekend Edition Sunday is exploring the culture, traditions and economy of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The assembled pasty, just before it goes into the oven. Ned Wharton/NPR i i

The assembled pasty, just before it goes into the oven. The small circle of pie crust is filled with meat, potatoes, onions and spices. Ned Wharton/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ned Wharton/NPR
The assembled pasty, just before it goes into the oven. Ned Wharton/NPR

The assembled pasty, just before it goes into the oven. The small circle of pie crust is filled with meat, potatoes, onions and spices.

Ned Wharton/NPR

Miners have hearty appetites. They work hard during cold Michigan mornings. So, when the whistle blows for lunch, it's time for a pasty.

The meat turnover was brought to Michigan's Upper Peninsula by immigrant miners from Cornwall, England, and "Yoopers" — the local population — are very opinionated about them. A pasty is a small circle of pie crust filled with meat, potatoes, onions and spices. Some have carrots. The pasty at Lawry's Pasty Shop in Marquette — voted best by the local newspaper — has rutabaga.

Brothers Peter and Mike Lawry run the three-generation family business, which has been in the area since 1946. Their ancestors worked the local mines around the turn of the century.

"I started making pasties, my brother and my sister and I started making pasties, in about third grade in the summertimes with our grandma," Peter says. "When we'd made our first couple pasties, we'd go spend the night at Grandma's house and eat our pasties and show our grandpa how we did."

Sometimes they would help their grandmother make pasties for the shop.

To demonstrate, the brothers mix meat, onions, potatoes and rutabaga in a tub. Peter shakes in spices. The mixture is scooped — or "gobbed" — into the dough. Mike folds the crust over the stuffing, then shows off his special technique to seal the pasty up.

"When I'm teaching people, I like to say it's kind of like a wave," he says. "You roll the top over the bottom — it's like a wave rolling in on shore." The braid-like crust is the part that people like to break off and dip into ketchup, Mike says.

Not too long after the pasties are pushed into the oven, a wondrous smell of onion, beef and pie crust fills the room. "It's wonderful in the morning when you're hungry," Peter says. "When you go home in the afternoon and your wife says, 'Oh, ya smell like a pasty again,' it's a little different."

"Sometimes it's funny," Mike adds, "when you go to the bank with our deposits in the morning, the ladies in there will tell us that our money smells like pasties and it makes them hungry."

Lawry's Pasty Recipe

"Gobbing" the filling. i i

Scooping, or "gobbing," the filling onto the crust. NPR hide caption

itoggle caption NPR
"Gobbing" the filling.

Scooping, or "gobbing," the filling onto the crust.

NPR

Recipe courtesy of Lawry's Pasty Shop

Makes four pasties

Crust

2 cups flour

2/3 cup shortening

1/2 cup water

Dash salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut shortening into flour and salt, add water and knead until well blended. Form into four balls and chill. Coat with plenty of flour and roll into circles.

Filling

3/4 pound ground chuck or cubed steak

3 cups diced potatoes

1/2 cup each of diced onion and rutabaga

2 tablespoons dried parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Divide into four equal portions and place in center of each crust. Fold over and seal edges. Bake at 400 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.