It wasn’t just ticks we found while venturing through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula recently, but some pretty darn good eating, too.

Not only is the fish outstanding (try the Lake Superior whitefish at The Vierling in Marquette or the fish fry at Stucko’s Pub if you’re ever in the area), but there’s a little treat called a pasty (pronounced pass-tee) that is available in pretty much any town you wander into up there.

The pasty is basically a pie crust surrounding ground meat, potatoes, carrots, onions and, sometimes, rutabagas and baked to perfection.

Most places guard their pasty recipe like it is gold, but you can find a couple if you look around or you ask real nicely.

The following recipe is pretty darn authentic. All the old timers we talked to in various places insisted that lard, not butter and not shortening and not margarine, is to be used in the crust. It’s the only way to make it flaky like it’s supposed to be, they told us.

We were also told that you can use ground meat instead of cubes and that venison can easily be substituted for the beef. However, the pork is key to keeping the meat from being too dry.

Here’s the recipe:

4 cups flour
1 ¼ cups lard, chilled and cut into ¼ inch bits
10 to 12 tablespoons ice water
1 ½ pounds top round steak, trimmed and cut into ¼-inch cubes
½ pound pork loin, trimmed and cut into ¼-inch cubes
5 medium potatoes, peeled, washes and chopped
2 cups chopped rutabaga or turnips, depending on your preference
1 ½ cups finally chopped onion
1 ½ cups chopped carrots
1 teaspoon ground pepper

In large, chilled bowl, combine flour, two teaspoons of salt and the lard bits. Work quickly and rub the flour and lard together with your fingertips until it begins to flake together. Pour in 10 tablespoons of ice water, toss together with your hands and gather dough into a ball. If your dough starts to crumble, add up to two tablespoons more water, a tablespoon at a time, until everything sticks together.

Divide the dough into six equal portions and form them into balls. Dust them with flour, wrap in wax paper and chill in the refrigerator for one hour.

While you’re waiting, combine your beef, pork, potatoes, onions, turnips/rutabaga, one tablespoon of salt and your pepper into another bowl. Set aside.

Once dough has chilled, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and then take out and roll one dough ball at a time on a lightly floured surface until it’s a rough circle about ¼-inch thick. Using a nine-inch plate or the lid to a pot as a guide, cut the dough into rounds with a pastry wheel or a sharp knife.

Take about 1 ½ cups of the mixture (don’t over fill or it will tear the dough) and place in the center of the rounds you cut out and then form into a strip in the middle of the dough. Fold one side of the round over the mixture and press edges together from one end to the other until all of the mixture is sealed in. Your seal of dough should be about ½-inch wide along the edge. Crimp the seal by pinching it with your fingers along the entire length.

Transfer the sealed pasty onto an un-greased baking sheet using a spatula and repeat the process until all of the remaining filling and dough is gone.

Bake the pasties for about 45 minutes or until the dough is a golden brown.

A lot of places offer ketchup and brown gravy to go with the pasty, but we found the best way was to simply dive right in without the condiments. Why ruin such a naturally good taste?

Anyway, we thought we’d share this recipe and the concept of the pasty with everyone. What a great way to use up some venison hamburger, hey? We were also told there are multiple variations on this recipe, including using poultry instead of pork and beef. There were also veggie versions, which had broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms, onion and rutabaga mixed with cheddar cheese and baked in the crust like the other mixture. Right in the center was a piece of cream cheese, too.

No matter which way you make them, these pasties are a pretty tasty treat, and filling, too.

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