Upper Peninsula Pasty Canadian Version
Lunches, Vintage Meets Modern Recipes

Upper Peninsula Pasty (Canadian Version)

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If you’re unfamiliar with the hearty hand-held meat pies known as the Upper Michigan Peninsula Pasty, you’ve been missing one of the tastiest Northern secrets. Pie pastry is packed full of meat and root vegetables in the traditional version of the “Past-ee.” Our version of the ground beef Pasty is full of delicious carrots, peas, onion, potato, and a mix of ground pork and beef. The working lunch is filling and can also double as a picnic food or an easy meal for on the go. Served with sour cream, it’s a delicious complete meal. 

Years ago, my Gran (Grandmother) would take me on tours across the border to the US. We would travel around to various stops, and on one of these excursions, we ventured to the city of Mackinaw. There were many touristy shops in the village, and in one of these quaint shops, I first tasted the Upper Michigan Pasty. The renowned dish came over with the Cornish immigrants years ago. Local miners quickly adopted the recipe to have an easy, satisfying meal. And boy, oh boy, if it isn’t just one of the tastiest hand pies out there. 

The big hand pies are made with a traditional pie pastry and savory ground meat filling. We’ve shaken things up for this Canadian version of the Upper Peninsula Pasty. 

Let’s get started with the pastry. 

This pastry recipe must rest in the fridge for an hour, so we are making it up first. This particular pastry makes enough for two double-crust pies should you want to use it again later.

The butter should be nice and cold, and I highly recommend using a pastry knife to work the shortenings into the flour. It allows the pastry to develop that cornmeal-like texture easier than mixing with your hand. 

Once we’ve worked the shortening into the flour and salt mix, we add the ice-cold water. We are adding the water a little at a time so we don’t add too much. I like to use a big mixing bowl for pastry that’s being worked by hand; it allows for more gentle flour tossing without creating a big mess. If you prefer, turn it onto a lightly floured surface to work it into a soft pastry ball. Add only just enough water, or it will become tough. 

You will know when it’s formed a nice non-sticky ball of dough that it is ready to be wrapped up. Use enough saran/cling wrap to cover it completely and place it in the fridge for an hour. 

During the hour it’s chilling, you will be getting the filling for your Pasty’s ready. We will start by cutting up the root vegetables. I cheated a little in this recipe by using a frozen pea and carrot mixture. If you are cutting carrots from fresh, keep the pieces small and uniform so they cook evenly through with the potatoes. 

We are using two good-sized potatoes diced roughly the same size as the frozen carrot pieces. As well you will need to dice up your onion. I use red simply because I like red onions more than yellow cooking. You can use cooking onions if you have them on hand instead. 

Set your diced veggies aside while you get the ground pork and beef on to brown. We can purchase a split package of ground pork/beef mixture locally. If you can’t use two small packs, one of each meat. While in the pan, use a utensil to break it into fine ground pieces and mix the two types of meat well. Halfway through the browning, add in the vegetables and your frozen mix. We want to blend the flavors as much as possible while thawing out our frozen vegetables and browning the meat the rest of the way. 

Add to this simple salt and pepper. Traditionally Upper Michigan Pasties are not overly spiced. If you would like to add other spices, do so now. 

Once the mixture is browned, set it aside to cool. Get your pastry out of the fridge and roll it to 1/8″ thickness. That’s pretty thin, so be careful when folding over the meat mixture so as not to rip the dough. Holes in the dough can be ‘patched’ with extra dough if needed. Remember, good food isn’t dependent on appearances unless you are serving guests. In fact, many meals can look downright awful and still pack a flavorful punch while satisfying hungry bellies. 

The dough should be cut into 8-9″ circles. The Upper Peninsula Pasty’s are large. One is good for the average person to take to work, and two, if they are ravenous. 

Lay the meat mixture on one side of the pastry circle. Leave enough room around the edge to crimp it together afterward. Fold the empty side of the dough up and over the meat mixture. Do NOT underfill your Pasty’s. These are meant to be very meaty and have lots of filling. Use milk or half-and-half cream to seal the edges together. Then using your fingers crimp the edge tightly as you would for the edge of a pie shell. If you prefer, you can use a fork’s tines to push the two edges together to seal it up tight. 

Ensure the edges are sealed, or any juices made will seep out while baking. You will be baking these in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for 1 hour! The tops of the Pasty’s need to be brushed with milk or half and half cream to get a nice golden brown. Once you’ve done that, place them on a prepared baking sheet and pop them in the oven. 

When they have finished baking, they can be covered in the fridge for up to three days. Or serve immediately for dinner with a scoop of sour cream!

Substitutions for the Upper Peninsula Pasty Canadian Version

  • Our version is taken from the American, which in turn is taken from the Cornish version-which means traditional vegetables, including rutabaga, potato, and carrot. So omit peas and add turnip for a tasty traditional version.
  • Add spices to the pork/beef meat, like oregano or thyme, while browning. 
  • Add garlic for a rustic flavor.
  • Use straight ground beef or chopped beef for the filling instead of the ground beef/pork blend.

Expert tips:

  1. Years of baking means lots of experience rolling things out. To achieve the best roll, I recommend purchasing a heavy rolling pin. It will allow the pin to do the work, and you will have to press less (I may have broken a wooden pin or two in my day) 
  2. Ensure the pastry dough is rolled evenly to the same thickness for a more even bake.
  3. Flip the Pasty’s halfway through baking to get both sides evenly browned. 
Upper Peninsula Pasty Canadian Version (1)

Upper Peninsula Pasty's (Canadian Version)

Amber Bondar
The hearty hand-held meat pies known in Upper Michigan as Pasty's are so satisfying for a working mans lunch or dinner. Ground meat is packed into a flaky pie pastry shell and baked with vegetables for a delicious comfort food classic.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour
Course lunch, Main Course
Cuisine American, Canadian
Servings 10

Equipment

  • 1 baking sheet
  • 1 mixing bowl
  • 1 Frying Pan
  • 1 measuring cup
  • 1 Spatula
  • 1 Tablespoon
  • 1 Teaspoon
  • parchment paper optional

Ingredients
  

Pastry

  • 1 Cup Golden vegetable shortening Or Crisco
  • ½ Cup Salted Butter
  • 4 Cup Flour
  • 2 Tsp Salt
  • Cup Ice Water More if needed

Pasty Meat Filling

  • ½ LB Ground Beef
  • 1 LB Ground Pork
  • 1 Red Onion Diced
  • 2 Large White Potatoes Diced
  • 1 Cup Frozen Peas and Carrot Mix
  • 1 Tsp Black Pepper
  • ½ Tsp Salt
  • Milk or cream to seal pastry and brush outsides

Instructions
 

Pastry

  • Mix the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl.
  • Add the golden vegetable shortening and the cold butter. Cut in with pastry knife until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
  • Add in a bit at a time the ice cold water. Use more if needed to make a soft non-sticky pastry dough.
  • Wrap pastry dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

Making the Meat Filling

  • In a fry pan add the ground meats. Mix them together and break into small pieces over medium heat.
  • When partially browned add in the vegetables and spices.
  • When fully browned remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Forming the Pasty's

  • After one hour remove the pastry dough from the fridge.
  • Roll a small ball of pastry dough into a 8-9" 1/8" thick round.
  • Spoon some of the cooled meat mixture onto one side of the pastry round. Be careful to leave an edge to crimp.
  • Run a line of milk or cream around the edge by the meat mixture.
  • Lift the empty pastry side up and over the meat mixture.
  • Put the two edge pieces together and crimp with your hands or tines of a fork.
  • Brush outside of Pasty with milk or half and half.
  • Bake in a preheated 350℉ oven for one hour or until golden brown.
  • Serve immediately with sour cream. Or let cool and store in airtight container in fridge for up to three days.
Keyword ground beef, ground pork, lunch ideas, Pastry, Pasty

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