Friday, May 11, 2012

Guest Blogger Jan Drexler!

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.
2.     Filling:

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!


  1. I love the doggies , Jan! And the recipe. Gravy sounds perfect! :)

  2. those look good! but look like lot of work and I'm too after you said we could use the leftover dough for apple turnovers, well, my mind and tummy sorta drifted that way!
    is Wynter a german shepherd?


  3. Jan, I've made pasties before (and mispronounced it for years... possibly decades) and you're right... they tend to be bland...

    But then I made them with leftover seasoned beef stew... and chicken stew....

    So much better! I just had to keep the dough a little thicker and be really careful to fork-prong the edges to keep them together, but they came out much more moist. I love the idea/picture of men and kids taking a basket of pasties into the fields for lunch. Can you imagine how peoples knickers would twist nowadays if you said your kids worked the farm field all day?????

    We are goofy modern folks.

    This is awesome, and what a treat to have you here in the cafe! Hey, I've got fresh sweet tea and I'm putting more coffee on. I need a caffeine fix!

    1. Yes, leftover stew would be wonderful in these. The filling is just dry as it is.

      But people had to make do, right?

    2. Oh, yeah... they put us to shame. Dagnabbit!!!

  4. Hi all,

    We're on the road today, traveling to Kansas for my college-girl's college graduation tomorrow.

    Lunch is McDonalds....makes these pasties look pretty darn good, let me tell you!

    1. Sorry to reply to the last comment, Jan, but, techno-bot that I'm not, I can't find the comment box on here, so commenting the only way I can figure out! lol...

      Love this post. My daughter is married to an Australian and she's always making him meat-pies that look like this. Perhaps she even calls them pasties, if I recall. She's in Auz right now, so can't just call to ask her! I know they ate them when they were in England, too. I'm going to save this post for her to read later.

      And love your puppies! Fun to see them. Safe travels and Congrats to your daughter! Busy week...

    2. A daughter in Australia... ROAD TRIP!!!!

  5. Love the doggie pictures. Everything tastes better with a dog helping out, don't you think? And I have a nifty recipe for a veggie pot pie that I could use in these pasties instead of the beef. I think the first time I heard about Cornish pasties was in The Secret Garden. That was years and years and years ago but now I finally have a visual.

    Happy graduation day tomorrow!

  6. Jan, I will take one of the pasties and all of the doggies!

  7. I *love* Cornish pasties and yet I've never made one, so thanks, Jan, for showing me how easy it can be. I will definitely be printing this out to try. You gals have the *bestest* recipes on this site!

    It's nice to see your critters getting in on the snacks. My Lab will eat anything he's given except lettuce. He spits that out, but our Shelties liked it. They ate everything except dill pickles!

  8. Thanks for stopping by today, everyone!

    We're safely in Kansas (my goodness, it's green here!) and all set for a mini writer's convo at Panera in the morning with some other Topeka writers, and then commencement in the afternoon.

    See you tomorrow!

  9. Jan, growing up in Michigan, we used to have pasties all the time. Always the store-bought variety, though. So this is amazing. Now I can make. Whoo-hoo!

    Thanks for sharing.

  10. I love them plain, no gravy, no ketchup. Definite rutabaga, onion, ground roast, potatoes, salt and pepper. Perfection!!

  11. Rozee, the ground meat makes them easier to eat, doesn't it? Otherwise stuff falls out of them! I loved that farmers used to take pasties to the fields for their lunches. A meal-in-hand. What a great image that is!