It’s pasty season once again in the Rang household. For people who grew up in northern Wisconsin, Michigan or Minnesota, pasties are comfort foods that warm you both inside and out. They are filled with a tasty combination of meat and vegetables baked into a crust. They warm the house as they are baking and give your body the energy it needs to keep you warm on that walk after dinner.
Mary Harvey was the secretary at a Methodist Church in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula when our friend Alan served there as pastor. She also baked wonderful pasties. He says that her pasties were in great demand at the church, in the community and of course by her family. “They were big, the crusts were tender and flaky and they were stuffed with meat and vegetables seasoned just right.” Alan’s family had a standing order for Mary’s pasties and ate them almost every week in the winter.
As always seems to be the case, when a recipe is developed by housewives in their homes there are hundreds of different versions. Pasties are a good example. While most traditional pasty recipes call for beef or pork, some specify chicken or turkey. Others are made with fish or crabmeat, and today there are even vegetarian pasties that omit the meat entirely.
Mary’s recipe is different from the the one I usually follow because it uses a combination of beef and pork and turnips instead of rutabaga. The crust is also very different. It uses vegetable shortening instead of lard and the flour is stirred into the melted shortening and hot water rather than being cut into the flour as is usually done to make pastry crusts. I thought that the dough would make tough crusts, but they turned out just fine and were very easy to make.
For the crust:
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 tsp. salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
3/4 lb. round steak
3/4 lb. pork steak
3 cups chopped potatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 1/2 cups chopped turnips
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
8 T butter
First make the crust. Pour a cup of boiling water over a cup of shortening in a large mixing bowl and stir until it is completely melted. Blend the salt into the flour in another bowl, then add the flour to the liquid and stir rapidly until it forms a ball. Cool the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour before rolling out the crusts.
Make the filling while the dough is cooling. Remove extra fat from the meat and cut it into thin slices about an inch long. Peel the potatoes, turnips and onion and scrape or peel the carrots and chop all the vegetables into a quarter to three eighth-inch dice.
Mix the meat and vegetables together with the salt and pepper in a large bowl. Refrigerate the bowl if you are not ready to assemble the pasties.
Preheat the oven to 400º.
Make the pasties when the dough is well chilled. Divide the dough into eight pieces. Use your hands to make a small ball, then roll the dough on a floured surface into a circle the size of a dinner plate. Place a cupful of filling near the center of the circle and dot the filling with a tablespoon of butter cut into quarters. Fold the dough over the filling and seal by turning the edges to make a rim.
Prick the dough with a fork in several places to let steam escape while the pasty is cooking. Place the pasties on lightly greased baking sheets and bake them at 400º for fifteen minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350º and bake for another fifty-five minutes until the pasties are lightly browned.
NOTE: If necessary, heat the bowl of water and shortening in a microwave a few extra seconds until the shortening is melted.
Pasties are still not Jerri’s favorite food, but she liked these better than the ones I have been making for years, so I guess that I’ll be making these again.