Cornish Pasties, etc.
By Guest Jan Drexler
Our discussion a couple weeks ago about Regional Favorites started me thinking about some regional favorites that span cultures. Some dishes are so simple, so basic, that it seems every culture has a version.
One I’m aware of is the Cornish Pasty (that’s pass-tee, not paste-tee). There are versions all over the country, brought by immigrants from various northern European countries.
There’s the Bierock, brought to America by the Volga Germans and Russians, and you find them in Kansas. The Runza – very similar to the Bierock – is also from Germany, and you find them in the eastern parts of the Dakotas, Nebraska and parts of Minnesota. These two are so similar you can almost say they’re the same, but don’t say it out loud when you’re in Kansas! They’re both made with a yeast dough shell and filled with a ground beef and cabbage mixture. The big difference between them is their shape. Bierocks are bun-shaped, while Runzas are rectangle shaped. Yes, I know, not much of a difference, but don’t tell the Kansans or Dakotans that…
The other common variation has a pastry shell. The Fleishkuckle, also from Germany, is common in North Dakota and parts of South Dakota. The filling is made of ground beef, ground pork and onion. The Cornish Pasty is the other version with a pastry shell, but has a diced beef, potato, turnip and onion filling.
You’ll find similar dishes in the Italian Calzone, the Russian Chebureki and various smaller versions like the Chinese Wonton, the Polish Pierogi and the Italian Tortellini.
All of these sandwiches were developed for one purpose: a quick, portable, filling meal for the men to take to the fields or mines with them. One real advantage is that if your hands are dirty (which they are – just think about miners and farmers and no running water…), you can hold your meal by one corner and then discard the soiled end of the sandwich.
The one I’m most familiar with – because of my Michigan roots – is the Cornish Pasty. It was brought to America by the Cornish families who immigrated here to work in the copper mines in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The only other place I’ve found them is right here in the Black Hills of South Dakota, in Lead (pronounced Leed), where the Cornish miners came to work in the Homestake Gold Mine. You’ve heard of “Black Hills Gold”? This is where it comes from. Lead is just down the road from Deadwood, and the mine is still going strong. There’s a grocery store in Lead, run by the King family, where the miners still buy their pasties. What can I say? It’s tradition.
Here’s the recipe for your own Cornish Pasties! This recipe will make about six pasties, with enough leftover pie crust to make a couple pies or apple turnovers.
1. Pastry or pie dough – use your favorite. I used our own Valerie Comer’s No Fail Pie Crust recipe, found here.
o ½ cup onion, cut into small cubes
o 1 cup potato, cut into small cubes
o 1 cup swede, cut into small cubes [note from Missy: keep reading to find out what it is!]
o 6 oz. beef – round steak or rump steak – cut into small cubes
o Salt and pepper
When you cube the meat and vegetables, make sure the cubes are uniform in size, about ¼”. I bought thin cut round steak, and since it was already about ¼” thick, making the little cubes was easier. After I finished, I thought I should have tried using my food processor. The size of the pieces doesn’t matter, as long as they’re small and uniform.
My dogs always want to share whatever I cut on the cutting board, and yes, I do give them the scraps. Wynter isn’t too sure about veggies, but doesn’t want to be left out.
Connor, on the other hand, inhaled his piece so fast, the only picture I was able to get was him looking for more….
You will also need one egg, beaten with about 1 Tablespoon water to make an egg wash.
And now you’re asking “What is Swede? Do I have to cook a Swedish person?” Ewww. No one would eat it! No, Swede is the British term for a yellow turnip, or Rutabaga. I didn’t have Swede, or Rutabaga, so I substituted a white turnip and a couple parsnips.
Roll out a small portion of your pie crust dough into a round about 1/8” thick, and larger than 6” in diameter.
Using a 6” plate or bowl, cut a circle out of the dough.
Place a spoonful of filling in the center of the dough (be generous, but not so much that you can’t seal the Pasty). Next, brush some egg wash on the edge of the circle with a pastry brush.
Bring the edges together and seal them, making a half-moon shape, then fold and crimp the edges with your fingers to make a secure seal.
Move your Pasty carefully to a greased baking sheet, and brush egg wash over the surface.
Bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes. (And don’t go to another room and get lost on the internet like I did when these were baking…they were in for an hour…).
You can serve these warm or cold, but believe me, they’re better warm.
These do not make an exciting meal by themselves…in fact, they’re pretty bland. BUT, if you go against tradition and serve them with gravy….
Can you think of other dishes that span cultures like this one? Let’s hear about them!