Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance
FAMILY HEIRLOOM RECIPES
Wisconsin State Fair
August 3, 2014
(Image by Catherine Lambrecht)
Nannette Piasini, West Allis, Wisconsin
A pasty is a generous full meal in a one person sized meat and potato pie. It can be eaten hot from the oven on a plate with a fork. It can be eaten cold from the lunch box held in your hand. The traditional method of eating a pasty. is to cover it with gravy or ketchup. I am a creature of my generation and like salsa or plain Greek yogurt with mine. My husband melts any orange colored cheese on the top of his pasty. Include a side salad with the meal, if you must. I have packaged some up for my dad’s suppers and included garden relish and a desert. I have even chopped up the rare leftover pasty into hash, served with eggs over easy. There are no hard rules when it comes to what to eat with a pasty.
Pasties are a convenience food, sort of. The people I learned from would block off half a day to make 2 or 3 dozen. They are wrapped up in foil or plastic freezer bags once they cool down. Then, they are stored in your freezer until needed. Pasties take about 45 minutes to an hour to defrost in the oven at 325°F. The time is dependent upon a combination of when a hungry person starts checking the oven and when the potatoes are hot. If they bake a little longer the crust will be crispier and the inside a little dryer. That is where the gravy or salsa come in handy. During that time you can be picking up the house, or getting the children from practice, or visiting with company, or relaxing with your feet up.
My mother-in-law (Gen Piasinj) would put them in the oven before church service. The kitchen table would be pulled away from the wall so people could fit around and we would share the Saturday night meal together. There were 4 generations around that table.
The history of how the pasty became a family food took a turn I did not expect when I contacted my husband’s family historian, Aunt Carol (Hinkley). I had always believed the history of the pasty came through my husband’s maternal Irish/German Grandma Laura4 (Shay). Her parents settled in Channing, Michigan where pasties are common. This is the same small town in Northern Michigan my husband grew up in. Surprise and shock. The pasty history came through his maternal Grandpa, GrantS Hinkley’s mother: Grant’s dad, Fred was English and his mother, Beulah Pupper was Welsh —- and made pasties. They settled in Mitchell, Wisconsin.
I was introduced to pasties by my husband’s family in Northern Michigan. Churches and the local VFWs sell them as fundraisers. Hot pasties can be purchased at Dobbers in Iron Mountain through the drive through. This is very handy in the Winter. The other pasty shops make you track through the snow into their store. Pasties are served at the sit down restaurants. I’ve visited relatives while they were making pasties. Both husband and wife were sitting at the kitchen table peeling potatoes. The local stores carry pasties in the freezer section and delis. And, if you time it right, you can buy seconds at Nylunds on the bottom of the hill in Crystal Falls, Michigan. You can also make your own.
Gen gave me ‘Recipes From The NorThwoods’ published by the Altar Guild of St.Rose and St Marg; 1978, as a bridal shower gift. In it was Millie Olson’s iconic pasty recipe1 that is the base for the pasties that fill everyone’s freezers. That recipe provided the basics. Gen taught me how to make that pasty recipe like a Pupper-Hinkley-Piasini-Piasini. The recipe I make is in the family tradition. When the children were young I would bake a supply of pasties and freeze them as described above. Now we bring back seconds from Nylunds because I work a full time job and pasties are time consuming to make for every day. Pasty baking is reserved for special events.
I’ve baked pasties for church suppers. I coordinated a pasty sale as a church fundraiser. God bless the senior women who do this on a regular basis in the UP6• It wore me out.
The first visitors to the weekend house in the UP were welcomed with dinners of pasties pulled from the freezer. It did not matter if the family came from 15 miles or 800 miles away. It took me out of the kitchen to enjoy the visit while the pasties heated in the oven.
3 years ago I decided to swap out my traditional ziti bake with 36 homemade pasties for our family’s donation to the UMW 2 UWM 3 University Christian Ministries luncheon. There were a couple students in the buffet line who readily identified pasties. The ones who had no idea what they were looking at were quickly converted by the enthusiasm of those who did. A story relayed back to me was about a diehard pasty eating student who comes to school prepared with enough frozen pasties to allow one per month for the school year.
Pasties can be documented in our family for 5 generations beginning in the 19th century:
Pu pper-Hinkley-Piasini-Piasin i-Darnall
The 5th generation has put their mark on the pasty. Our married daughter makes pasties from anything that falls out of the fridge. Our son did experimental fillings last year with the memorable apple and kale filling. Our niece included pasties for a meal at Lakeland College where she attended college and now works full time in food services. Lakeland College is 22.9 miles from Mitchell, Wisconsin where this started with her great-great grandparents: Beulah Pupper and Fred Hinkley.
1- Millie Olson was the premier cook in Channing, Michigan. She ran the school cafeteria when my husband and brother-in-Iaws were in school. Every child enjoyed her good cooking. My husband recalls there were always pasties available in the North Dickenson lunchroom.
2- United Methodist Women
3- University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
4- Laura Hinkley nee Shay Born 1904
5- Grant Hinkely Born 1903
6- Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Residences are often referred to as Yoopers.
Nannette Piasini, West Allis, Wisconsin
6 C. unbleached flour
2 C. Crisco (do not substitute)
2 t. salt
2 C. water
Mix the first 3 ingredients together with your hands until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the water until mixed. Let rest while the filling is prepared.
12 large potatoes peeled and diced to ~ 1/2 cubes
5 medium white onions diced ~ 1/2″
2 lbs. ground round
2 T Lawry’s season salt (go ahead and substitute)
Mix the filling ingredients together until they are evenly dispersed.
Flour for rolling
– 1/4 C butter (do not substitute)
– 1/2 C milk
Divide the crust dough into 12 portions. Roll one out to 10″ diameter round. It is a soft, sticky dough. Be generous with the flour and use a light touch with the rolling pin. Place a generous 1-cup of filling onto one half of the circle. Dot the filling with 1 teaspoon butter. Fold the other half of the crust over the filling to form a half moon. Seal the ends with your favorite pie crimp. Transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet. Now roll out the next portion. I can usually cram 4 pasties on a baking sheet setting them on a diagonal with two folded edges facing each other. Brush the tops of the pasties with milk and cut a couple vents in the top crust to let steam escape.
Bake at 400°F oven for 45 – 50 minutes. Check to make sure the potatoes are done. With practice you will be able to tell by the smell.
The pasties can be served immediately or allowed to cool, then wrapped in aluminum foil or put into a freezer zipper bag and frozen for later use. To reheat, place the frozen pasties onto a baking sheet and bake in a 325° F oven for ~ 45 until hot.