Heirloom Veggies are Perfect for Potpies

Learn all about a veggie pasty: a portable potpie made with heirloom vegetables.

| Spring 2016

  • Surrounded by a delicate flaky crust, and filled with flavorful heirloom veggies, the pasty makes a great take anywhere portable meal.
    Photo courtesy www.RareSeeds.com

I’d never heard of a pasty until I visited Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Once I tasted one of these delicious folded potpies I wouldn’t forget them. A flaky crust, filled with fresh vegetables, and traditionally meat, the pasty is a savory portable meal intended for a lunch box, a picnic basket or eaten as a meal at the table, fork and knife optional.

Though traditional pasties had meat and vegetable fillings, the pasty is easily adapted to accommodate strictly vegetarian ingredients. With the many varieties of heirloom vegetables available by seed today and at markets, the pasty is the perfect way to bring them together.

Historians believe the pasty made its way into the Upper Peninsula by way of Cornwall, Great Britain, as Cornish miners immigrated to the copper mines of America. It seems wherever the Cornish and Welsh miners arrived, the pasty came along. The pasty is a beloved national dish in Cornwall.

Traditional pasties used vegetables such as sliced potato, onion and swede (rutabaga, or yellow turnip). The pastry is D-shaped and crimped on the sides. The heavily crimped edges are thought not only to hold the filling in and keep the ingredients warm for a long period of time, but also to serve as a place the miners could hold onto with their dirty, and possibly arsenic-tainted hands while they ate, and then discard the edge.

Aside from the traditional veggies, the pasty lends itself to accommodate a variety of seasonal ingredients in abundance at different times of the year. For the sweet tooth, some cooks fill them with a pudding or fruit filling for a dessert pasty. Some pasty makers make theirs with the vegetable filling at one end, the pastry dough is pressed or sealed in the middle to create another pocket, and the other end is filled with the pudding or fruit filling. Both the main course and the dessert are tucked into one perfect pasty. 

Carrots were not traditionally used in Cornish pasties, but there are many variations and differences on how the pasty is prepared outside of Cornwall. I rarely make a batch without carrots. I’ve also grown to appreciate the stronger, sweeter flavor of parsnips as a pasty ingredient.



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