Cornish Pasty

Image of Bar


Cornish Pasty History and Folklore!

The Cornish pasty (sometimes written as pastie) is the original hand-held convenience food was originally made as lunch ('croust' in the Cornish language) with a pedigree that dates back to the Middle Ages. In the 13th and 14th centuries, pasties were filled with venison, beef, lamb, salmon and lampreys (eels), dressed with rich gravies and sweetened with dried fruits. It was a high table dish enjoyed almost exclusively by royalty and the upper classes.

The pasty became synonymous with Cornwall some 500 years later (about 1860), thanks largely to the development of tin and copper mining in the county. Filled with beef, potatoes, onion and turnip, the pasty was a highly portable, well-insulated and nutritious meal ideally suited to the grueling conditions underground. Some miners would have a pasty with a sweet course at one end - containing apple, jam or treacle.

The modern Pasty derived for Cornish miners who were unable to return to the surface to eat. The story goes that, covered in dirt from head to foot (including some arsenic often found with tin), they could hold the pasty by the folded crust and eat the rest of the pasty without touching it, discarding the dirty pastry. The pastry they threw away was supposed to appease the knockers, capricious spirits in the mines who might otherwise lead miners into danger. A related tradition holds that it is bad luck for fishermen to take pasties to sea.

The pasty's dense, folded pastry could stay warm for 8 to 10 hours and, when carried close to the body, helped the miner stay warm. In such pasties meat and each vegetable would each have its own pastry "compartment," separated by a pastry partition. Traditional bakers in former mining towns will still bake pasties with fillings to order, marking the customer's initials with raised pastry. This practice was started because the miners used to eat part of their pasty for breakfast and leave the remaining half for lunch, meaning that a way to identify the pasties was needed. Some mines kept large ovens to keep the pasties warm until mealtime. It is said that a good pasty should be strong enough to endure being dropped down a mine shaft.

When Cornish miners emigrated to work in the USA, Australia, South Africa and South America they took their pasty-making skills with them. The tradition continues to this day in many former mining boom towns and cities. Three million pasties are produced in Cornwall every week with ninety per cent of them sold outside the county. Efforts are being made to give the Cornish pasty protected status under European law. It would prevent producers outside the county from calling their pasties 'Cornish'.

Home bakers argue their pasties are vastly superior to their commercial counterparts. Opinions vary considerably however on whether to crimp on the top or the side of a pasty, to slice or dice meat and vegetables and to use glazed or un-glazed pastry. The debate all adds to the pasty's appeal and charm. Like the Scottish kilt, or the Welsh dragon, it has become a strong symbol of Cornwall - an edible cultural icon famous throughout the world.

Traditional bakers in former mining towns will still bake pasties with fillings to order, marking the customer's initials with raised pastry. This practice was started because the miners used to eat part of their pasty for breakfast and leave the remaining half for lunch, meaning that a way to identify the pasties was needed. Some mines kept large ovens to keep the pasties warm until mealtime. It is said that a good pasty should be strong enough to endure being dropped down a mine shaft.

Pasties are still very popular throughout Devon and Cornwall, and also in the rest of the United Kingdom. Pasties in these areas are usually hand-made and sold in bakeries or (less often) specialist pasty shops. They are also sold in supermarkets, but these are mass produced and often taste entirely different from traditional Cornish pasties. Several pasty shop chains have also opened up in recent years, selling pasties that are more traditional than the common mass-produced varieties while still offering novel fillings. It is common in some areas for pasties to be eaten "on-the-move" from the paper bag they are sold in, making them essentially a fast food.

A pasty from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan Cornish miner immigrants helped to spread pasties into the rest of the world, in the 19th century. As tin mining in Cornwall began to fail, miners brought their expertise and traditions to new mining regions. As a result, pasties are very common in Nevada County, California; Silver Bow County, Montana and Deer Lodge County, Montana; parts of Wisconsin; and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In these areas, pasties are now a major tourist draw, including an annual Pasty Fest in early July in Calumet, Michigan. Pasties in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan have a particularly unusual history, as a small influx of Finnish immigrants followed the Cornish miners, in 1864. These Finns (and many other ethnic groups) adopted the pasty for use in the Copper Country copper mines. About 30 years later, a much larger flood of Finnish immigrants found their countrymen baking pasties, and assumed that it was a Finnish invention. As a result, the pasty has become strongly associated with Finnish culture in this area. Pasties are also found in the slate mining region of eastern Pennsylvania, where settlers from Cornwall and parts of Wales also were fond of the pasty and used them consistently as a food source for men working in slate quarries in the "Slate Belt" region that included the towns of Bangor, East Bangor, Pen Argyl and Wind Gap, Pennsylvania. Many churches to this day hold "pastie suppers" or sell the items as a means of making money for their parishes.

Some more History:
From 1150 to 1190 a man by the name of Chretien de Troyes wrote several Arthurian romances for the Countess of Champagne. In one of them, Eric and Enide, it mentions pasties: "Next Guivret opened a chest and took out two pasties. "my friend," says he, "now try a little of these cold pasties And you shall drink wine mixed with water...." " Both Guivret and Eric came from various parts of what today is considered Cornwall.

Pasties are also mentioned in the Robin Hood ballads of the 1300's "Bred on chese, butre and milk, pastees and flaunes." and "Thys knight swolewed, in throte noght pering/ More then doth a pastay in onen tryly!" The pasty was not unique to England by this time, a French Chronicler, Jean Froissart (1337-1414) wrote "with botelles of wyne trusses at their sadelles, and pastyes of samonde, troutes, and eyls, wrapped in towels" Today the French call the pasty, tourtiere. The pasty has even shown up in a William Shakespeare play. In the Merry Wives of Windsor (1600) "come, we have a hot pasty to dinner"

Pasties are also found in South Australia (particularly the Yorke Peninsula). Most country bakeries in South Australia produce pasties, as well as large brandnames such as Balfour's and Vili's. They may also be found in the Mexican cities of Pachuca and Real del Monte, and are commonly served with different ingredients, such as jalapeņo peppers.

In 1985 a group of Young Farmers in Cornwall spent 7 hours making a record-breaking pasty - over 32ft long. This was believed to have been beaten in 1999 when bakers in Falmouth made their own giant pasty during the town's first ever pasty festival.

Top Icon

Pasties are still very popular throughout Devon and Cornwall, and also in the rest of the United Kingdom. Pasties in these areas are usually hand-made and sold in bakeries or (less often) specialist pasty shops. They are also sold in supermarkets, but these are mass produced and often taste entirely different from traditional Cornish pasties. Several pasty shop chains have also opened up in recent years, selling pasties that are more traditional than the common mass-produced varieties while still offering novel fillings. It is common in some areas for pasties to be eaten "on-the-move" from the paper bag they are sold in, making them essentially a fast food.

A pasty from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan Cornish miner immigrants helped to spread pasties into the rest of the world, in the 19th century. As tin mining in Cornwall began to fail, miners brought their expertise and traditions to new mining regions. As a result, pasties are very common in Nevada County, California; Silver Bow County, Montana and Deer Lodge County, Montana; parts of Wisconsin; and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

In these areas, pasties are now a major tourist draw, including an annual Pasty Fest in early July in Calumet, Michigan. Pasties in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan have a particularly unusual history, as a small influx of Finnish immigrants followed the Cornish miners, in 1864. These Finns (and many other ethnic groups) adopted the pasty for use in the Copper Country copper mines. About 30 years later, a much larger flood of Finnish immigrants found their countrymen baking pasties, and assumed that it was a Finnish invention. As a result, the pasty has become strongly associated with Finnish culture in this area. Pasties are also found in the slate mining region of eastern Pennsylvania, where settlers from Cornwall and parts of Wales also were fond of the pasty and used them consistently as a food source for men working in slate quarries in the "Slate Belt" region that included the towns of Bangor, East Bangor, Pen Argyl and Wind Gap, Pennsylvania. Many churches to this day hold "pastie suppers" or sell the items as a means of making money for their parishes. Pasties are also found in South Australia (particularly the Yorke Peninsula). Most country bakeries in South Australia produce pasties, as well as large brandnames such as Balfour's and Vili's. They may also be found in the Mexican cities of Pachuca and Real del Monte, and are commonly served with different ingredients, such as jalapeņo peppers. In 1985 a group of Young Farmers in Cornwall spent 7 hours making a record-breaking pasty - over 32ft long. This was believed to have been beaten in 1999 when bakers in Falmouth made their own giant pasty during the town's first ever pasty festival.

From the cookbook Cornish Recipes Ancient and Modern, "It is said that the Devil never crossed the Tamar into Cornwall on account of the well-known habit of Cornish women of putting everything into a pasty, and that he was not sufficiently courageous to risk such a fate! However, that may be, the Cornish pasty, in its various forms, is a delectable dainty and deservedly world famous."

During the 1890's a pasty actually started a mine fire. What happened is a miner forgot about his meal warming on a shovel. The pasty eventually caught fire (because of the high amounts of lard) and spread to the timber holding the walls up.

The miners would place the pasty on what one would hope was a clean shovel and either hold over a candle or flame to warm up the pasty if it had gotten cold.

The pasty remains relatively unchanged today, a few places have put in healthier vegetable shortening instead of lard, and a couple of other minor changes like the cut of meat used. It's importance in this area can be seen at local fund raisers for local groups and charities. Local food businesses make and sell anywhere from 50 to 100 pasties every day!

Cornish Pasty Recipes

I was watching a travel show called Globe Trekker on PBS and they featured the Cornish Pasty, the women who made a rather large pasty said that the meat is best to be cooked inside the pasty and that the juices keep the meat and ingredients moist.

Neville's Cornish Pasty (UK)

For the pastry (this is for short-crust):
1 1/2 c plain flour
Lard or vegetable fat
Pinch of salt
Water

For the pasty filling:
Chuck steak
2 large potatoes
1/2 large turnip (swede)
1 large onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Water

For the pastry, place flour and salt in a bowl, rub in the fat, until the mixture is so fine that it falls through the fingers. Tip mixture onto a lightly floured table top. With your index finger make a well in the centre of the mixture. Add water a little at a time until it forms a pliable but stiff dough.
For the Cornish Pasty filling, finely chop the steak. Dice the potato, turnip (swede) and onion. You may prefer to slice them. Add seasoning. Mix all in a bowl or to be really authentic use your kitchen table top.
Using a floured table top roll out half the dough to a circle the size of a plate. Make a mound of the filling in the centre of the dough. Dampen round the edge of the dough with either water, or milk. Fold over the dough, to make a half moon shape, crimping the edges. Make a slit to let out steam. Brush with beaten egg to glaze.
To cook your Cornish Pasty:
Place on lightly greased metal baking tray in the middle of a preheated oven, for around 40 minutes at 450°F. The pasty is cooked when their undersides turn brown and crisp.

Top Icon

Cornish Pasty

2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, diced
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 pounds rump roast, cubed
1 onion, chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 small carrots
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons milk

In a small saucepan, cover carrots with water. Bring water to a boil and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Let cool and slice. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl. Add butter, and rub to the consistency of coarse crumbs. Mix in water. If dough is sticky, add more flour.
Roll dough out until about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out six circles, each about 5 inches round. Do not stretch the dough.
Mix meat and vegetables together, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover half of each pasty base with the filling. Moisten pastry edges, fold pastry over the filling. Press edges together with a fork. Transfer raw pasties to a baking sheet, brush tops with milk, and make a small slit in each top to allow steam out.
Bake at 450°F ( 230°C) for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 350°F (175°C), and bake for 35 minutes.
Servings Per Recipe: 6
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 559
Total Fat: 27.3g
Cholesterol: 101mg
Sodium: 403mg
Total Carbs: 51.3g
Dietary Fiber: 3.8g
Protein: 26.1g

Cornish Pasties

12 oz quantity pastry (pie pastry?)
1 med onion
1/2 lb lean ground beef
6 oz potatoes
6 oz carrots
1/4 tsp salt
12 oz (1 lb.) flour
Pepper
Beaten egg
Divide pastry into 4 and roll into 8-inch circles. Combine ground beef, chopped onion, peeled and finely cubed carrots and potatoes, salt and pepper. Brush edges of pastry circles with water. Divide out meat mixture and place on each piece of pastry. Fold over pastry so each pastie is a half circle. Seal edges well. Place on baking sheet, brush with beaten egg. Bake at 425°F for 40-45 minutes. Makes 4.

Traditional Finish: Bring edges to top, seal and flute edges. This is a traditional English recipe originally prepared for the fisherman in Cornwall (S.W. England) by their wives. Each being a convenient "package" of meat and vegetables!

Cornish Pasty

2 c flour
2/3 c oleo
1 lb ground round
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c chopped carrot
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp salt
4 tblsp milk
1 c (1/4 inch) cubed raw potato
1/8 tsp pepper

Preheat oven at 400°F. Mix flour and salt. Cut in margarine until cornmeal consistency. Add enough milk to make pastry dough; cover and chill. Mix meat, vegetables and seasonings well. Divide pastry into fourths. Roll each portion on floured board until 3/16 inch thick circle. Place meat mixture on 1/2 toward the center line of pastry, cut vent marks in the half.
Moisten edge of pastry lightly with water. Fold pastry top over bottom, crimp and flute edges of pastry. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until nicely browned.
Serve hot or cold. Yield 4 serving (sandwiches). For appetizers cut in half and 8 servings. Good packed in lunches also. Or other snacking.

Michigan Pasties

Pastry:
3 c flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 c shortening
1/2 c cold water

Combine flour and salt; cut in shortening and add water. Mix until dough is formed.

Filling:
1 1/2 lbs. beef round steak, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 small carrots, sliced thin
1 small rutabaga sliced thin (optional)
1/2 c finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of pepper
1 tblsp butter

Mix all filling ingredients together. Divide pastry into 6 equal pieces. Roll each into 8 or 9 inch rounds. On half of each pastry, place 1/6 of the filling. Fold top half over filling and seal edges. Place on cookie sheet. Make a slit in top of each pastie and add 1/2 teaspoon hot water. Bake for 20 minutes in 350°F oven; then for 60 minutes in 325°F oven. Remove from oven when done and cool covered with dish towel. Serves 6. (The Cornish miners carried these to work instead of sandwiches).

Cornish Pasties

3 c flour
1 c suet, ground fine
1/4 c lard
1 tsp salt
12 tblsp cold water (or more)
1 lb beef, diced or cubed
1/2 lb pork, diced or cubed
Potatoes
Onions
Turnips
Carrots
Butter

Blend lard into flour and salt, then add suet and work thoroughly. Add cold water and make a soft dough. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each crust into a 6-inch round. On half of the dough, build up the following ingredients: 1/2-inch layer of finely chopped potatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper; 1/2- inch layer of sliced turnip, carrot, chopped onion, beef chopped and pork, and season once more. Add piece of butter to top of ingredients. Now fold the uncovered portion of the dough over the filled portion and crimp the edges - shape of a half moon. Make 1-inch slit in the top of the dough and place prepared pasties on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400°F for 1 hour. Check while baking to make sure they don't burn.

Some information is from:
Cornish Recipes Ancient and Modern by Cornwall Federation of Women Institute, 1955
http://www.cornishlight.co.uk/cornwall-welcome.htm
Globe Trekker

Top Icon

Home Icon E-Mail Icon


 Date & Inn Image