Posted by: Kath Usitalo | March 26, 2012

Recipe File: Pasties According To Mom

Trying to replicate Mom’s and Grandma’s pasties

Pasties (PASS-tees) are an all-in-one meal that consists of a flaky but substantial crust that holds a combination of meat and root vegetables. The Cornish introduced the pasty to Michigan during the copper boom of the late 19th/early 20th century when the immigrants came to work in the mines.

Pasties made a solid, all-in-one meal that could be toted into the mines. Finnish immigrant miners adopted the handy, hearty meal so, although pasties are a Cornish tradition, they’re generally associated with the Finnish-American culture of the U.P. because well, there are more of us.

Great Lakes Gazette readers know that I am on the hunt for The Best Pasty from a restaurant or roadside stand.

Pasty Queen, Grandma Ellen Lahti

I’m searching for something that stands up to the memory of the pies handcrafted by my mom Elsie and her mom Ellen Lahti.

Grandma was a great home-cookin’ cook who put her skills in the kitchen to work at her own restaurant in Detroit.

Ellen’s neighborhood diner was a magnet for Yoopers who came to the Big City to work in the auto plants and at the Burroughs Corporation.

Her pasties, and Mom’s version of them, were the tastiest. I’ve tried to replicate them using the recipe Mom shared with me (more or less).

Notice that i use “about” a lot in this recipe. No exact measurements when you’re told to chop 8 potatoes or 10 carrots, and the sizes of those veggies can vary. I guess that’s why it’s hard to recreate the dishes we remember. Mom and Grandma didn’t use measuring cups for everything; some of the proportions were done by eye and experience.

I think these turned out okay. Not quite Mom’s or Grandma’s, but pretty good.

Wonder if Mom packed pasties for this picnic with Dad?

This crust calls for lard. If you are opposed to lard you can substitute shortening or butter, but the resulting crust is just not the same. You could use your favorite pie crust recipe or ready made pie crusts.

Vary proportions of veggies according to your taste (some folks do not use rutabaga).

Try to dice the potatoes, carrots and rutabaga about the same size.

Quantity of pasties will depend on how big you make them. This recipe is for 8 pasties but I rolled out each crust to about 10 inches and got 12 pasties.

I’ll be sharing with the family! Thank goodness they freeze well (the pasties, not the family members).

Makes about 12
Preheat oven to 375

8 potatoes, peeled and diced
3 C onion, chopped
10 carrots, peeled and chopped
small rutabaga, peeled and diced
3 lb ground beef
1 tsp pepper
6 tsp salt
(I added a pinch ground allspice—optional)

8 C sifted white flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 lb lard
1-1/2 to 2 C icy water

In large bowl mix potatoes, carrots, rutabaga, meat, onion and seasonings.

In another bowl mix flour and salt. Cut in lard. Add water slowly to make a dough you can roll. Knead lightly to form a ball. Do not overwork.

Lightly flour surface. Form a portion of dough into a ball (between tennis and baseball size) and roll into a circle.

Place about 1-1/2 C filling on one half of circle. Dot with a bit of butter (less than a teaspoon). Fold dough over and moisten, seal and crimp edges. Poke top with fork.

Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for about an hour until golden brown. (I brush top lightly with a dab of butter about halfway through baking.)

Enjoy with ketchup and a little more butter.

Previous posts about pasties:

You’ll find pasties all across the U.P. I passed on taste-testing the gas station version

Mackinaw Pastie & Cookie Co.

Hiawatha Pasties



  1. Here’s to hoping the “sharing with the family” will stretch to me!! Yum! One of the best benefits to being married to a Finn was defintely my introduction to the pasty! Never got to sample Grandma’s version but your mom’s were mighty tasty as are yours. I’m so thankful you secured the recipe and are keeping the Pasty Day tradition alive. Now if we could just figure out Grandma’s scalloped potatoes…
    Mary Lou

    • Yes, I’ll drop off your pasties soon! You’re right about those scalloped potatoes. Wonder if Ellie knows…

  2. These look amazing. Wish I was part of the family so I could try yours!!

    Question—you’re on the lookout for the best restaurant or roadside stand pastie. So, what great ones have you found so far??

    (PS—LOVE the picture of your parents’ picnic. Priceless.)

    • Hi Laurel…
      I added a couple of links for good pasties. I like Hiawatha (link above) and Muldoon’s in Munising. I need to write about that…

  3. […] Recipe File: Pasties According To Mom (Great Lakes Gazette) […]

  4. Some of the most awesome pasties that I have had replace the ground beef with small chunks of beef (stew meat) and include like sized chunks of veal and pork

    • I may have to experiment with that. Thanks!

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