Friday, August 02, 2013

Cornish pasties

'Cornish pasty' is one of those terms I don't like to speak aloud because if I pronounce it correctly people might think I'm mispronouncing and if I pronounce it incorrectly they might think I'm ignorant. You just can't tell until they say it themselves.  For the record, you pronounce it like this. Like nasty.

When I went to buy the the beef for the pasties, the butcher said, "What are you making?"

I said, "You know, those Cornish. . ."

He said, "Oh Cornish pasties. I made those about a month ago." He pronounced it like you'd pronounce "pasty" when describing someone's complexion.

Then we talked pasty crusts. He made his with Crisco and shared a long description. I didn't tell him I was going to make mine with lard because I didn't want him to feel unmanned. The lady customer is using lard and I, the big butcher, used Crisco?

You can have no idea how I pined for pasties when I was a kid flipping through American Cooking: The Eastern Heartland. That spread was one of my all-time favorites. You can't easily tell from my photograph of the photograph, but if you look closely at the middle photograph on the right you'll see they placed the pie on a shovel for the shot. Miners in Michigan supposedly used to put their pasties on shovels and then heat them with the candles in their head lamps. Do you believe that? Could a candle really heat a pasty through a shovel? Wouldn't that take several hours?

So I made the pasties and they were tasty and not hard at all. Here's a recipe that's very close to the recipe in the book. For the record, I used a turnip, not a rutabaga, and did not apply an egg wash. I halved the recipe and the pasties still fed three of us for three nights in a row, so be aware that this is a lot of hearty food. We had more filling than dough, and after the first night I fried the leftover filling like hash for myself and let the males in the house eat the actual pasties because they seem to have faster metabolisms. It was delicious hash. The pastry is like packaging and you don't need that when you're eating at home.

Verbatim conversation with Mark this morning as I sat at the computer trying to write this post:

J: "What did you think of the pasties?"

M: "The meat pies?"

J: "Why don't you say 'pasties?'"

M: "Because that sounds like a gross word. But then meat pie does too. It was pretty unattractive, the meat inside looked like dog food, but it tasted really good. You're a good cook."


  1. I adore pasties! But yeah... don't really love saying it out loud.

    When pronounced incorrectly, it remind me of uh... the things stripper wear. Which is enough to kill your appetite.

  2. In the UK there are now regulations on whether a pasty can be called Cornish or only Cornish-style, which adds a new layer of linguistic complexity! And definitely only ever pronounced with a short/flat A. The real debate is scone/scone (i.e. 'skon' or 'skone')

  3. LOL. I love pasties. I first had them in the south of England and they are addictive. I live in NYC and there is a store devoted to all things British. There you can get fresh baked pasties, steak and kidney pie, McVities digestives, Euthymol tooth paste (yes weird but what a fantastic looking tube), tea, marmelade, Marmite (yuck). Heaven. I am not English but love this food.

  4. There's a great Cornish Pasty shop in downtown Grass Valley, CA next to the library. I like them with vinegar and after the tongue blistering heat has cooled a bit.

  5. I too have my doubts about the candle and shovel story. Maybe that would warm it up a bit if it had only been out of the oven for an hour or two. I've never had a pasty. I always remember Bill Bryson's story about eating a pasty in Michigan. He was really looking forward to it, but was very disappointed because it seemed flavorless. He attributed this to a palate accustomed to cheesesteaks and pepperoni pizza, but perhaps he just got a bad pasty. I think the recipe you linked to sounds delicious.

  6. I gave up on other pasty recipes and make mine with ground beef, potato, carrot, onion-- and Worcestershire sauce which gives it so much more flavor. I use a simple pie crust which makes them more fragile but tastes good.

  7. I am so going to try a vegetarian version of these. I don't care what the pasty snobs think.

    1. My aunt owns a vegetarian restaurant and does broccoli, cheddar and cream cheese in place of the meat.

  8. I also absolutely cannot say "pasty" aloud (always only ever referring to the food) because I cannot remember which pronunciation goes to each object, and get all nervous and flustered.
    Which is awkward, since my husband is of a Yooper lineage accompanied by a nostalgic and impossible pasty recipe calling for 2 kinds of meat, but no specifications on the crust.
    Also he one time wore the clothing object as part of a college Halloween costume. That's a whole different kind of awkward.

  9. I've just discovered your blog via your book which I got with my birthday money this year. I love both! I'm from England (Cambridge to be exact and I hoard American cookbooks so your penchant for British ones made me smile) so I though maybe I could trade favours. So, I was wondering why you use what we call plain flour instead of "strong bread flour" for your Moro inspired bread in your book? I think you recommend the same for bagels? My Mum would have used bread flour for both so I wanted to check before trying the recipes...or maybe I could make a comparison batch? Fun! Anyway, my favour back if you can clear up that conundrum for me is to reassure you that you have the pronunciation for pasty absolutely right. The 'pas' bit of pasty should rhyme with 'gas'. Thank you and thanks for a great week spent snatching moments to read your book.

  10. I live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula...and pastys are a hotly contested item... parsnip, rutabega, turnip... pork, beef, sausage, pasty meat.. Crisco, butter, lard... it's all good tho.