Photo by John Ivanko/farmsteadchef.com
The cornish pasty is a hand-held comfort food filled with meat, potatoes and rutabagas that served as the go-to meal for miners in the mid-1800s.
The sign of a good pasty: When you drop it down a mineshaft, it doesn’t break apart. So the saying goes back in the lead-mining days of Mineral Point, Wis. Hard-working Cornish miners who arrived in the 1830s and 1840s chiseled homes out of rock and brought with them their culinary mainstay: the pasty.
Traditionally filled with sirloin-steak cubes, onions, potatoes and rutabagas, all wrapped by a tasty crust, the Cornish pasty were the miners’ version of a hearty take-out meal. To avoid confusion with all the meat-and-vegetable pies everywhere, each miner’s initials were written on a crusty corner. A solid ridge of dough around the pasty provided a handle for the miners to hang onto—their handle was usually tossed away, rather than eaten. Because some of the mines might have contained arsenic, tossing the crust away reduced the likelihood of ingesting any.
Like most visitors to Mineral Point, we toured numerous art galleries, for which the community is now known. We included a stop by our favorite potters, Diana and Tom Johnston, who live and work at their Brewery Pottery Studio, housed in an old brewery (hey, it’s Wisconsin!). Then we headed over to the Red Rooster Café for some of Helena and Patti Lawinger’s Cornish pasties.
For us farmstead chefs who are looking for something different try out with our cellared rutabagas and potatoes, pasties might fit the bill perfectly. You could also use a turnip in place of the rutabaga. It’s comfort food you can hold in your hands, or if you want, serve on a plate with ketchup, a little gravy or chili on top.
Recipe: Cornish Pasty
Yield: 6 individual, miner-style pasties.
Crust (adapted from Farmstead Chef)
Note: Double all ingredients to prepare two batches of this crust recipe, making each batch separately to ensure crust flakiness.
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup butter (about 1¼ sticks)
- about 1/4 cup cold water
- 3 medium potatoes, cubed
- 1 small rutabaga, cubed
- 1/2 cup carrots
- 1 pound ground hamburger
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1 tsp. rosemary
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
Mix together flour and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two butter knives until pieces are size of small peas. To make pastry extra tender and flaky, divide shortening in half. Cut in first half until mixture looks like cornmeal. Cut in remaining half until like small peas.
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon water over part of flour-shortening mixture. Gently toss with fork; push to one side of bowl. Sprinkle next tablespoon of water over dry part; mix lightly. Mix gently until all is moistened. Gather dough with fingers and form into ball.
Repeat process for second crust. Refrigerate crusts overnight before making pasties.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a bowl, combine potatoes, rutabaga, carrots, onions, hamburger, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper, and mix well.
Divide chilled dough into 6 pieces and flatten them on floured surface, rolling each into 10-inch round circle (dinner-plate size), roughly 1/8-inch thick. Place plate over dough and use knife to cut out each round.
Use about 3/4 cup filling to fill half of each pasty round. With water, moisten edge of half with filling, and fold empty half over filling to close pasty. Crimp edges with fork or dull edge of knife. Cut several slits on top of each pasty.
Place pasties on lightly oiled baking sheet, and cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour. Remove foil for last 30 minutes to brown crust.
Let pasties cool 15 minutes. Serve “lead-miner” style, wrapped in a white towel or on a plate, topped with chili or gravy.
Savoring the good life,