Pronounced PAST-ee (not like “paste”), Michigan’s local hand pies, or pastys, were born out of necessity when miners were kept away from a hot lunch during long, hard days working underground. The delicious aroma of a freshly baked pasty likely hit the gentle breezes in Michigan when Cornish immigrants arrived in the 1800s to work in local copper and other ore mines in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They brought their traditional Cornish recipes with them, and a delicious treat was introduced to the U.S.
What’s in a pasty?
Instead of a sweet filling, like you might find in other kinds of hand pies, pastys are savory “meat turnover” or “meat pie” and often have a meat and vegetable filling like a good stew. You can try your hand at making your own homemade pastys, or grab one locally from any number of beloved pasty bakeries and restaurants when you head to Michigan on your next road trip.
A little pasty history
Once Cornish miners arrived and brought their pastys into the mines for lunch, the tradition started rubbing off on other immigrant groups as well. Soon, you could find Finnish and even Italian miners packing their own kind of meat pies in lunch pails. Tradition also lent itself to how to eat a pasty (or how not to eat it), which means holding the pie by the crimped edge and tossing the crimp, rather than consume it. Why was this bit thrown away? The miners’ dirty hands, that’s why! They avoided eating dirt (and sometimes deadly arsenic dust) that would have been on their fingers come lunchtime. For luck (and health) they tossed the pasty crimps to the ghosts (or Knockers) in the tunnels and went back to work.
How to do it yourself
Making a pasty from scratch isn’t much more complicated than preparing ingredients for stew, just with an added portable shell. You can mix up the filling and use store-bought pie dough for the pastry shell, or try making the complete recipe from scratch. Remember, your pastys don’t have to look beautiful, they just need to taste good!
Never made a pasty? Check out an authentic Cornish pasty recipe How To video
Where to buy a pasty in Michigan
Chances are, you can ask Michiganders where their favorite pasty shop is, and you’ll get a lot of different responses. Some famous favorites include Joe’s Pasty Shop in Ironwood, MI, Muldoon’s Pastys in Munising, MI in the Upper Peninsula, and Jean Kay Pasties in Marquette, MI.