Pasties the way mom made them, by Kate Johnson (recipe)
I was born in Butte, Montana and my family subsequently moved to Bozeman when I was a year old. Throughout my childhood, I traveled back to Butte for holidays and family gatherings and one of the highlights of these trips was enjoying foods that were specific to the area.
If you have not had the pleasure of eating a pork chop sandwich from Pork Chop Johns in Butte, you have not lived! Likewise, the M and M cafe served up some amazing fare with the entire kitchen, cooking area and dishwashing station, right behind the 12-seat counter. And, if you go to the Vu Villa for pizza, you will see my mother’s maiden name painted on the outside of the restaurant. My mother’s grandparents owned a grocery and liquor store for many years and their name remains.
When we moved to Nevada, I felt a shared sense of belonging due to the “Wild West” feel and the mining industry that literally defines my birthplace. The most identifiable food associated with my childhood was a pasty. Nobody seems to know the origins of the pasty, but it is mentioned as early as 1300 AD in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” The pasty first arrived on the scene in Butte with the tin and copper miners from Cornwall, England in the late 1800s. Because this meat and vegetable pocket was both hardy and hearty, it quickly became the mainstay meal of Butte’s miners.
I came from a family of five children and each year we all anxiously awaited the day when my mother would set to work making pasties. She would usually end up making 25 to 30 of them and they would all get devoured within days.
Unfortunately, we lost our wonderful mother 16 years ago, and the things that I miss the most about her were her affable nature and her delicious cooking. While all of us kids have gone on to make pasties, they have never tasted quite as good as my mother’s. She had a special touch with the dough that I have yet to realize. Today I will share my mother’s recipe for pasties. I encourage you to think outside of the box. Pasties do come in many different forms. You may have a crust (similar to a good pie crust) or a filling item that you would prefer. But for me — I always make them the way Patsy Campana Kradolfer made them — here’s to you, Mom. 🙂
Pasties — serves 12
3 lb. round steak cut into bite sized pieces 6 potatoes peeled and cut into cubes
3 medium onions chopped
6 stalks celery chopped
6 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
12 heaping tablespoonfuls of shortening (plus one extra for good measure)
Cold water — add a few tbs at a time, slowly! Enough to produce a soft but not sticky dough salt
Evaporated milk or beaten egg whites
Chop celery, onion, potatoes and steak. Cut shortening into flour and salt to make pea-sized pieces. Add cold water to make soft dough (sorry — no exact amount here on the water). Roll out a golf-sized ball and place mixture in center. Add a good shake of salt, pepper and parsley on top and a nice dab of butter. Close up the pastie by pressing the edges tightly together. Cut holes for ventilation. Brush with egg white or with evaporated milk. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour. Cover with wet towel to cool (this produces a nice soft crust). When ready to eat, heat them up in oven or microwave and top with butter and salt and pepper, gravy or ketchup (kids usually enjoy them this way). They also freeze and reheat very well. Simply double wrap in foil to freeze. When ready to bake, place into oven directly from freezer in the foil and heat at 400 degrees for 1 hour.
Kate Johnson is a longtime resident of Carson City. She practices pharmacy locally at Costco Pharmacy and is an avid gardener, musician, cook and lover of dogs.