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The Butte Pasty

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 11 April 2011 at 11:26

In the latter years of the 19th Century, and throughout much of the 20th, Butte, Montana was the center of hard-rock mining in the USA. The tremendous deposits of gold, silver and other minerals mined from deep within "The Richest Hill on Earth" were impressive enough, but they were completely eclipsed by the copper that was subsequently discovered there at a most opportune time in world history, when advances in invention and technology created a huge demand for copper, a prime conductor of electricity. Wiki enumerates an impressive hoard taken from the area's mineral wealth:

Quote From 1880 through 2005, the mines of the Butte district have produced more than 9.6 million metric tons of copper, 2.1 million metric tons of zinc, 1.6 million metric tons of manganese, 381,000 metric tons of lead, 87,000 metric tons of molybdenum, 715 million troy ounces (22,200 metric tons) of silver, and 2.9 million ounces (90 metric tons) of gold.
 
 
 
In order to rip this cornucopia of resources from the earth, hard, physical labour was needed in the form of miners, who flocked from many key areas to work in the young, booming city. Immigrants arrived from as near as the gold, tin and lead mines in Colorado and Michigan, and as far as Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Wales, Cornwall....and Ireland.
 
 
And it was Ireland in particular that contributed most to the ethnic character of Butte. Making up the largest single percentage of Butte's population - nearly all "straight off the boat" - Irish Catholics, and their culture, heavily influenced Butte's growth and tone on all levels, from the hard-working miners toiling (and sometimes perishing) beneath the ground, to the unimaginably wealthy and influential giants of industry, including the Copper King himself, Marcus Daly of the mighty Anaconda Company, who almost single-handedly put Butte on the map with a ranking not far below much-larger cities such as Chicago.
 
 
Here are a couple of interesting views of Butte, looking uptown circa 1908:
 
 
and nearly the same view in more modern times - if you look carefully you can see some of the same buildings:
 
 
As the 20th century began, Butte was as much an Irish enclave as Boston, and whole families flocked to a place where they would be accepted and welcomed at a time when most of America treated the Irish with derision. Comfortable in a community of friendly, like-minded people, Irish Catholic traditions flourished and became an integral part of the landscape. The conditions for miners were indeed harsh, but considering "the norm" of the time, Daly took very good care of his workers and was revered as a benevolent father figure by most, if not all of his "children." From all the counties of Eire, Irish families emigrated to work there under the safe assumption of sponsorship, good wages and opportunities for their children. The huge importance of Butte to the Irish is underscored in the admonition given by one Mary Hagen to her daughter, Lizzie, as Lizzie and her father were boarding a ship at Liverpool:
 
Quote Now don't forget, Lizzie - When you get to the New World, don't stop in America. You go straight to Butte, Montana.
 
Young Lizzie never saw her mother again, but she did make it to Butte - she survived and prospered and went on to become the grandmother of two of Butte's most famous sons, the famous daredevil, Robert "Evel" Knievel and Montana Congressman Pat Williams.
 
The Butte Pasty (pronounced so that it rhymes with "nasty") is the culmination of eating traditions of miners from Ireland as well as Cornwall and Wales, and is a perfect example of a kind of "peasant food" that is a little different from what we have normally discussed here. Usually, we are talking about farmers using what they get from the land; however, here we are talking about the working class making the most of what they can afford in the mining towns - wives preparing for their men something substantial and nutritious as they send them into the depths of the earth, possibly never to return. Pasties were made with as much love and care as one could imagine and indeed were revered by their hard-working recipients as "letters from home" and reminders of what was waiting for them when their shift was over.
 
Wiki provides a brief description of a traditional pasty:
 
Quote A pasty...is a filled pastry case.... It is made by placing the uncooked filling on a flat pastry circle, and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. The result is a raised semicircular package. The traditional Cornish pasty...is filled with beef, sliced or diced potato, swede (also known as a rutabaga) and onion, and is baked....[O]ld Cornish cookery books show that pasties were generally made from whatever food was available. Indeed, the earliest recorded pasty recipes include venison - not beef....Pasty ingredients are usually seasoned with salt and pepper, depending on individual taste. The type of pastry used is not defined, as long as it is golden in colour and will not crack during the cooking or cooling, although modern pasties almost always use a short crust pastry. The use of carrot in a traditional...pasty is regarded as a "no-no...."
 
 
 
Wiki also provides a fair amount of historical and cultural information on the pasty, specifically on its importance to miners:
 
Quote The exact origins of the pasty are unclear....miners and other workers adopted it due to its unique shape, forming a complete meal that can be carried easily and eaten without cutlery. Traditionally, tin miners would keep their pasties hot in large ovens at the surface, each marked in pastry with the miner's name before baking. The miner could then eat the pasty holding the thick edge, which ensured that his dirty fingers (possibly including traces of arsenic) did not touch food or his mouth. Any excess pastry was left for the Knockers, capricious spirits in the mines who might otherwise lead miners into danger. There is also a traditional belief that the pastry on a good pasty should be strong enough to withstand a drop down a mine shaft.
 
The pasty's dense, folded pastry could stay warm for 8 to 10 hours and, when carried close to the body, could help the miners stay warm. Traditional bakers in former mining towns will still bake pasties with fillings to order, marking the customer's initials with raised pastry. This practice was started because the miners used to eat part of their pasty for breakfast and leave the remainder for lunch; the initials enabled them to find their own pasties.
 
In 2006, a researcher in Devon discovered a recipe for a pasty tucked inside an audit book and dated 1510, calculating the cost of the ingredients. This replaced previous oldest recipe, dated 1746, held by the Cornwall Records Office in Truro, Cornwall. The dish at the time was cooked with venison, in this case from the Mount Edgcumbe estate, as the pasty was then considered a luxury meal. Alongside the ledger which included the price of the pasty in Plymouth, Devon in 1509, the discovery sparked a controversy between the neighbouring counties of Devon and Cornwall as to the origin of the dish. However, the term pasty appears in much earlier written records, for example the 12th century romance, Erec and Enide, written by Chrétien de Troyes, mentions pasties - eaten by characters from the area now known as Cornwall. Cornish historian, Les Merton, states that evidence could be found that the pasty was eaten in Cornwall as far back as 8,000 BC, passed down without written records.
 
"There are caves at the Lizard in Cornwall with line drawings of men hunting a stag and women eating a pasty. At that time it was wrapped in leaves and not pastry, but the leaves were crimped, so I would say there is positive evidence of pasties in Cornwall from primitive times." — Les Merton
 
Other early references to pasties include a 13th century charter which was granted by Henry III (1207–1272) to the town of Great Yarmouth. The town is bound to send to the sheriffs of Norwich every year one hundred herrings, baked in twenty four pasties, which the sheriffs are to deliver to the lord of the manor of East Carlton who is then to convey them to the King. Around the same time, a 13th century chronicler Matthew Paris wrote of the monks of St Albans Abbey "according to their custom, lived upon pasties of flesh-meat" A total of 5,500 venison pasties were served at the installation feast of George Neville, archbishop of York and chancellor of England in 1465. They were even eaten by royalty, as a letter from a baker to Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour (1510–1537) says ...hope this pasty reaches you in better condition than the last one...
 
Pasties have been mentioned in cookbooks throughout the ages, for example the earliest version of Le Viandier has been dated to around 1300 and contains several pasty recipes. In 1393 "Le Menagier De Paris" contains recipes for pasté with venison, veal, beef, or mutton.
 
[As stated above,] pasties in...mines [were] associated with "Knockers", spirits which create a sounds similar to a knock to indicate the location of the veins of ore. Although they were supposedly helpful to the miners, they would also be mischievous when a miner was caught whistling or swearing. To appease the Knockers, and encourage their good will...miners would discard the crimp of the pasty within the mine, for the Knockers to eat. Sailors and fisherman would likewise discard a crust to appease the spirits of dead mariners. These crusts were usually snapped up by seagulls, popularly held in West Country superstition to be the souls of dead mariners.
 
With the heavy Irish influences in Butte, the pasty was a natural shoe-in as a chief association with the mining city; from The Butte Heritage Cookbook:
 
Quote Old-timers claim the pasty arrived in Butte, Montana along with the first housewives who followed their husbands into the mining camp. Long favored in the copper miner's lunch bucket, the pastry-wrapped meal was an ideal way for "Cousin Jeannie" to provide a hearty meal for the hard working "Cousin Jack." As the miner unwrapped his lunch, he would refer to the pasty as a "letter from 'ome." Its popularity spread quickly throughout the camp, and today the pasty is as much a part of Butte as the Berkeley Pit.
 
 
As I mentioned above, the Butte Pasty is a unique derivation of the traditional pasty, simplified by necessity to a humble pastry shell filled with beef, onions and potatoes, with a modest seasoning, usually consisting merely of salt and pepper. While the exact recipe and method varied from house to house, these basics remained constant.
 
here's how it went down - after consulting many traditional pasty recipes, most coming directly from butte itself, i settled on a general amalgem and came up with this recipe, which will be a staple in our house from now on:
 
Quote per pasty:
 
dough:
 
1 cup flour
3 tbsp shortening
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold water
 
filling (in this order, bottom-to-top):
 
1 handful of diced potatoes
1 handful diced (or coarsley-ground) round steak, or other cheap beef
salt and pepper to taste
1 handful diced onons
half a pat of butter, cut into two small cubes
 
preheat oven to 425 degrees. prepare dough, roll out into a flat circle at least 8 inches across. add fillings and fold over. seal and crimp edges, then cut slits in the top. bake on a lightly-greased surface for 45 minutes, adding a tablespoon or so of water through the slits during the last 15 minutes of baking.
 
here are the goods:
 
 
left to right: potatoes (a little more than one per person), shortening (or lard), butter, round steak, black pepper, onions, flour and salt. what could be easier or more basic?
 
first things first - it's time to get some prep work done. i started by trimming the round steaks and cutting them into small cubes, maybe half an inch square.
 
 
keep in mind that montana is beef country, and butte came of age at a time when cattle barons were just as plentiful and propserous as copper kings. beef would have been a plentiful and relatively inexpensive ingredient, particularly the cheap, tasty cuts such as loin tips, flank, skirt and round steaks. this particular beef came from our own grass-fed cattle and was quite good!
 
 
some recipes cut the steak into strips, but i figured a hand-held meal would be easier to eat if you didn't have strips of meat pulling out now and then, so i went with the small cubes. alternately, some families did use a coarse-ground beef that served very well also.
 
next, we peeled and sliced the potatoes, which would have been very plentiful either in backyard gardens or from idaho, which was (and still is) right next door. as stated above, you're shooting for a little more than an average-sized potato per pasty, give or take:
 
 
at first, we simply sliced them, as pictured above; however, while assembling, we found it easier to use them when the potato "disks" were cut into quarters. based on this, i will most likely simply dice the potatoes next time i am making this.
 
after the potatoes were prepared and soaking in a fresh bowl of cold water, we gave the onions a good dicing:
 
 
some recipes call for turnips, rutabaga, even carrots, depending on geography and individual tastes. this is all well and good; and should one choose to add those, there is no problem; i suppose one could even add peas if they like, but i found this to be unnecessary. if you're looking for the "butte pasty" experience, my research tells me that meat, potatoes and onions, with very little embellishment, are the way to go - and a wonderful combination in their own right. the butte pasty reflects the "working man's" fare at the turn of the 20th century, constraned by budget and the necessity for simple, frugal convenience. 
 
the prep work finally done, i was unable to put off any longer that which i had been dreading: the making of the pastry crust. however, thanks to dave's outstanding suggestion to use a food processor, it was actually pretty easy. my main concern after that was how much of each ingredient to use. the recipes were all different, so it was a bit of hit and miss.
 
after much inner debate, i finally settled on a formula that seemed to work very well. one key decision was to make the pasties crusts one-at-a-time, crust first, then filling and assembling them in a sort of assembly line. after i settled on this, things were fairly easy.
 
for the crust (per pasty): 1 cup flour, 3 tablespoons shortening and 1/2 teaspoon salt. i whirled them together in the food processor:
 
 
i found out through trial and error that you want to put the shortening in first when using a food processor. i also tried two tablespoons of shortening at first, but it didn't quite seem to work, so i settled on 3.
 
once these components are well-blended and starting to ball-up, you add a quarter-cup of cold water and get your dough started. then you turn it out onto a floured surface and gather it into a ball:
 
 
knead the dough for just a moment or two, long enough to get it all into a coherent blob, then roll it out flat:
 
 
you want it to be about "yay" thick, maybe one quarter of an inch, and you want it to be at least 8 inches across. once this was achieved, i cut out a circle of dough, using a saucer as a guide:
 
 
to be honest, this step really wasn't that necessary, but for my first attempt i wanted to follow some sort of uniform procedure. it would have worked just as well to roll the dough out carefully into the approximate size, thickness and shape - however, this also worked pretty well! the trimmimgs were kept and re-used when enough accumulated to roll out into the desired size.
 
now the fun part - assembly!
 
lay a handful or so of potatoes on one side of the circle of dough:
 
 
be sure to keep a little all of the filling components away from the edge so that you be able to seal the pasty in a few moments.  
 
then top the potatoes with a handful or so of beef, salting and peppering it:
 
 
then add a handful of onions and top with a couple of dots of butter, each a quarter of a pat or so:
 
 
looking good, i'd say!
 
 
now comes another tricky part: what you want to do is fold the bare side of the crust over the top of the filling, meeting them together with the bottom edge out just a little bit:
 
 
this maneuver might entail a little stretching of the pastry dough, so you do want it to be a little flexible.
 
once you get it folded over, you want to fold/roll up the edges (tucking in the ends so they aren't sharp/pointy). this action will most likey require a little poking of the filling back into the pasty, but no worries. when the edges are together, seal and crimp the seam:
 
 
as you can see, after doing a few of these, the dough has picked up a little pepper (and presumably salt) here and there, but no worries ~ it just adds a little to the flavour!
 
after crimping, you can cut any manner of small slits or whatever into the top as desired:
 
 
and then the pasty is ready for the oven. we laid them out on foil-lined cookie sheets, but forgot to grease or spray the sheets. LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKE! it makes it much easier if you grease or spray the cooking surface a little; otherwise, some of them will stick!
 
and then it's into the oven. in spite of the different baking methods above, we elected to go with a temperature of 425 degrees for 45 minutes, and this seemed just about perfect. i suppose a person could also go at 375 for an hour, but no matter. also, some recipes call for adding a tablespoon or so of water into the pasty (via the slit in the top) during the last 15 minutes or so of baking, in order to keep it from drying out inside. we did not do this, but on reflection, it might not be a bad idea at all - it certainly wouldn't hurt.
 
here's how they looked coming out of the oven:
 
 
not bad at all, i think - especially for a very fist attempt. i would have left them in the oven for another 5 minutes or so, in order to develop the golden-brown crust, but the family was hungry and the smell permeating the house was driving us all crazy, so i pulled them out of the oven. brushing a little egg yolk on the top of the pasties before baking would also develop the golden-brown crust, but i decided not to do this on the grounds that, back then, a working-class family might not have eggs to spare for something as "frivolous" as developing a little colour. one other thing i hadn't thought of was that using milk rather than water in the crust might have achieved similar results - being a complete novice at pastry-making, i have no idea, but if anyone with some experience thinks it would work, let me know. browned or not, however, the things looked and smelled wonderful!
 
here's another shot:
 
 
aren't they nice? and the aroma filling the house was really something. very good combinations from the simplest and most humble ingredients - it really must be experienced to be appreciated!
 
you might be thinking that it doesn't look like much when it is sitting there on the plate:
 
 
but boy, oh boy, when you cut into it, you find a treasure that is truly to be treasured:
 
 
the sights, the smells - even the steam coming out all work together to take you back to another time, another place and a whole other life.
 
i served them as shown above, so that people could decide whether to use a fork or to simply pick them up and eat them hand-held, as the miners did a century ago deep in the caverns. i tried mine both ways, and actually found it easier (and simply more AUTHENTIC) to just hold it and eat it.
 
 
the taste really was something that really called to me. beef. onions. potatoes. a little salt and pepper. a hint of butter. that was it and that was all it needed.
 
being an historian, i tried to imagine what it was like, down in the mines, and the words of an old johnny cash song came to my head:
 
Quote O, come all you young fellas, so young and so fine
Seek not your fortune in the dark, dreary mine
 
Where it’s dark as a dungeon, damp as the dew
Danger is double, pleasures are few
Where the rain never falls, and the sun never shines
It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mine
 
 
i tried to imagine that i was eating this still-warm "letter from home" made by the loving hands of a wife i may never see again, should some accident befall me.
 
it really made an impact. we talk about peasant eating here all the time, but as the world transitioned into a modern era and the cities became home to hard-working people powering industry for corporate masters of the universe, it seemed to me that this was right in the same category. perhaps it was because butte is right here in my home state, or perhaps it was because i had just visited there and read about the people who settled, lived, worked and died there, but i found this to be a veritable trip into the past.
 
the beautiful mrs tas, and the younger kids, found this meal to be a little plain, but for myself, and i think the older boys, it was a real pleasure that will hopefully be repeated soon.
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Melissa Mead View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melissa Mead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 April 2011 at 16:14
The mining episode of Edwardian Farm has a bit about pasties, including a bit where one of the archeologists has been warned to make sure to throw some crust down the shaft for the Knockers. Later, when they're having lunch, no one's doing it, and when he asks about it one miner basically says "If you think I'm going to throw perfectly good food down a hole, you're nuts." ;)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 April 2011 at 17:02
aye, melissa - sometimes tradition must give way to things more practical. ;)
 
it should be underscored that any cheap beef is fine for this recipe. aside from the meats mentioned above, sirloin, round steak and even lean burger will work just as well.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melissa Mead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 April 2011 at 17:50
From what I've seen, pasty crusts weren't meant to be light and flaky like piecrust anyway, or even especially tasty. They were durable, meant to be eaten out of hand.  One documentary said they were more of a container for the filling than anything else.

One show, I forget which, said that for a special treat some wives would fill a corner with jam as "dessert."
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 April 2011 at 19:04
you're exactly right about the function and durability of the pasty crusts, melissa ~ hardy food for hard-working people.
 
as for the "dual filling" pasties, my reading indicates that this was something that came along later after the original pasty got more well-known; i am sure that somewhere in butte's history, a loving wife put a little sweet surprise in her husband's lunch. in fact, some information i have found from a butte native that does establish this practice! and i am willing to bet that it indeed happend, because the idea would have had to come from somewhere, right?
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 April 2011 at 02:02
That was a wonderful history lesson Ron.
Go ahead...play with your food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 April 2011 at 17:44
Pasties are a very common thing in the upper peninsula of Michigan too. All the good ones have rutabaga in them, and made with suet in the crust. Lots of mining up there too. Maybe that's the connection. Anyway, they're good eats. I could eat one right now!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 April 2011 at 23:39
hey, rod - when i was staying in butte, the gal at the motel desk mentioned that quite a few of the folks who came to work in the mines there, had previously lived and worked in the upper michigan peninsula, so it does make sense. and you're right, they sure are good eats!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote got14u Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 April 2011 at 07:21
Oh my goodness Ron, you nailed this one. I will read the whole post later but I am SOOOOO making these little devils. Way to go
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 April 2011 at 11:38
jerod - if you make these, i promise you will be one happy camper, and your kids will be impressed! i've inserted quite a few tips and suggestions in my preparition post, so read through it and let me know if you have any questions.
 
like many new projects, i was intimidated by this one, literally for years, becuase i didn't want to "screw it up." i was a fool! this is very user-friendly and it's about as easy as it gets - give it a shot!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MomInAnApron Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 April 2011 at 09:30
RON, AWESOME post! Thumbs Up

It is widely known here in Montana (even to those of us not raised here), that Butte is THE place to go for St. Patrick's Day. Now I know WHY. I thoroughly ENJOYED reading the history in this post. And the PASTYS....YUM. I most definitely will be trying this. I think my 12 year old might enjoy making these with me.

Thank you for the wonderful post.
~ Good Friends, Good Food, Good Times ~

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 April 2011 at 09:45
hey, debbie ~ i'm glad you like the look of these! they were indeed fun to make and it was good getting the kids involved. #3 son billy became an expert at making the pastry shell and they tasted very, very good, considering the simple and humble ingredients.
 
as i told jerod, you're going to love these, for sure. in the post where i actually made them and posted pictures, keep in mind some of the notes i've made. one thing you might want to try is ladelting a tablespoon or two of water in through the slit in the top duing the finaly 15 or 20 minutes of baking. this will help keep everything moist and tender, especially the meat, and it might also make a little bit of a gravy in there.
 
on the subject of gravy, pasties that are served in modern times at homes and in restaurants ften have a rich gravy inside or ladled on top of them; this is perfectly acceptable for "table setting" dining, but the miners themselves would most likely not have had this luxury, due to both economics and the fact that it is hard to eat a hand-held pastry that has gravy running out of it or down the sides.
 
i would urge anyone to forego the gravy, at least for their first preparation of this, in order to get the authentic experience. after that, or when company is coming over, give it a try!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 December 2011 at 14:42
here are some other recipes for butte pasties, all originating in butte and from people whose familes go back to the old days.
 
This one, contributed by Congressman Williams, is fairly typical, although i would consider the parsley something that was probably not normally used:
 
Quote The Butte Pasty
 
Pastry:
 
3 cups flour
1/2 -1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups lard or shortening
3/4 cup very cold water
 
Measure flour and salt. Cut in lard until dough resembles small peas. Add water and divide into 6 equal parts.
 
Filling:
 
5 or 6 medium potatoes (red are best)
3 medium or 2 large yellow onions
parsley for flavoring
2 pounds of meat (loin tip, skirting or flank steak)
butter
salt and pepper
 
Roll dough slightly oblong. Slice in layers on dough, first the potatoes, then the onions and last the meat (sliced or diced in thin strips). Bring pasty dough up from ends and crimp across the top. Making the pasty oblong eliminates the lump of dough on each end. Bake at 375° for about one hour. Brush a little milk on top while baking.
 
Recipe contributed by: Mrs. Robert (Philips) Walsh

NOTE: Butte residents still remember when Mrs. Walsh, her sister and sister's daughter, Mollie, made pasties for sale in their home, then later opened a shop on Amherst street. This recipe has been handed down through their English ancestry (not for commercial baking). A true Cornish home-baked pasty.
 
Bringing the dough up into the middle, rather than folding it over on one side, is also a little unusual, but as i said, individual households did differ and so of course there were many "right" ways to do it.
 

Quote The family tradition of making fresh pasties spans generations. At 930 Hornet (an address in Butte) they became a Saturday ritual.

(makes four pasties)

2 lb. stew meat, cut in bite-size chunks
4 large potatoes, cut into 1/4" thick slices
2 large onions, diced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt & 1/4 teaspoon pepper
butter

prepared pastry for four 8" crusts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out pastry into four 8" rounds on a floured surface.  In a large bowl, combine meat, potatoes, onions, chopped parsley, onion, salt and pepper. Mix ingredients well. Place about a quarter of the mixed ingredients on a rolled crust at about one inch from one side of the pastry. Place 1or 2 tablespoons of butter --- sectioned into small dallops --- on top of the pile of filling evenly. Bring the remaining portion of the pastry round over the top of the filling to form a large turnover. Be careful no sharp edges of potato or onion puncture the folded side of the pastry dough. The folded-over pastry should meet the bottom part of the pastry just within the outside edge. 

Crimp the lower pastry up around edge of the top to form the turnover making a tight envelope for the filling. Make three or four small slits in the top of the pasty to allow the steam to escape during cooking. Carefully transfer the pasties to a very lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for ten minutes. Then turn oven down to 325 degrees and bake 50 minutes to an hour longer. Remove pasties from baking sheet onto the plate with a long spatula.

***

The condensed recipe: "Use a big handful of sliced (not diced) potatoes, add salt and pepper; then add another somewhat smaller handful of meat. Add more salt and pepper, and a handful of chopped onions. More salt and pepper. Top with several big globs of butter. Seal in a pastry crust and bake at 425 degrees for ten minutes, then at 325 for about an hour."
 
 
Quote PASTIES

Filling: skirt or flank steak, or loin tip
potatoes, onions, salt and pepper

Pastry: 3 cups of flour, 1 cup lard, water or milk; 1 teaspoon salt (added to flour).

Cut lard into flour. Add only enough water to make pastry stick together. Roll out rounds to size desired for each pasty.

Begin by layering sliced potatoes on half the round, the sliced onion, salt and pepper to taste; next a layer of meat (sliced or diced) and more salt and peooper; another layer of potatoes, then onions, more salt and pepper and top with a pat of butter. Pull dough over and up, gathering and crimping across the top and dampening the dough to seal. Make a vent in the top. Brush pasties with a mixture of 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water before baking. This seals in the juice and give the pasties a golden brown color. Pasties made with lard might otherwise be white after baking. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Melt 1 teaspoon butter with 1 tablespoon water and pour twice in vent during the last 15 minutes of baking.
 
This recipe donated by Mrs. John (Betty) Aultmann.
 
from the same link above:
 
Quote GAMER'S CONFECTIONERY, Butte Montana - Founded in 1905, this restaurant in Butte is one of the oldest business concerns in the young state of Montana. A favorite with Gamer's customers for half a century is Cornish pasties, an Old World meat pie introduced to the area by early settlers--Cornish, Welsh, and Irish miners. A retail shop for baked goods and candy is operated next to the dining room at 15 West Park Street." The owner of Gamer's, Carl G. Rowan, sold "souvenir" menus for $1.00, and if signed, charged $1.25.

Hot Cornish Pasty:

1 pound sirloin tip
3 raw potatoes, but fine
3 green onions, cut fine
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut steak in small cubes, add vegetables and seasonings. Mix well

Pastry:

4 cups flour
1 cup lard
1 ounch butter
2 teaspoons salt
Pinch of baking powder

Cut shortenings into the flour and add enough cold water to make a stiff dough. Roll out about 1/8 inch thick and cut 6 circles about 6 inches in diameter. A saucer is a good guide. Into the center of each circle put a mound of filing ingredients. Moisten around the edge of the pasty and press halves together at the edges with a fork. Brush each with a miture of 1 egg and 1 tablespoon cream beaten together. Make a hole in each to let steam escape. Bake at 425 degrees for 1 hour. Serves 6.
 
from the butte heritage cookbook:
 
Quote BUTTE PASTIES (Irish)

1/2 pound raw beef steak, diced
1 cup chopped onion
1 large tablespoon butter
salt & pepper
1 cup diced rutabagas (if desired)
1 medium-sized potato, diced

For dough:

1 1/2 cups flour (pastry)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup shortening (butter or other fat)
1/4 cup cold water (about)

Sift flour, salt, and baking powder together; then mix, shape, roll as in directions . (This recipe makes two pasties).

For 1 pasty, take 1/2 the dough. Roll thin to shape and size of pie plate. Pile half the potato, onion, meat, and if desired, the rutabaga, on only 1/2 round of pie dough, and to within 1 inch from edge. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and dot with butter. Fold other half of this dough over this filling, press edges together well. Place 2 pasties in pie plate. Cut slit in top of each, into which a teaspoon of hot water should be poured occasionally to keep from drying out. Bake 3/4 hour in hot oven (400 degrees) or until well browned, then reduce to 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Recipe contributed by Mrs. Mike (Maureen) Mansfield
Wife of United States Senator, State of Montana
 
finally, there this is from my wife's "cooking with friends of the gulch" cookbook. the relevance here is that the slovak, czech and italian settlers in "the gulch" came to america in order to work coal mines, and lived in tight-knit close communities clinging to their catholic traditions, much as the irish did in butte:
 
Quote Butte Pasties
 
Dough:
 
1 cup flour for each pasty
1 Tablespoon lard or shortening
Dash of salt
Ice-cold water
 
Filling:
 
3 Potatoes, diced
8 ounces round steak, diced
1/2 onion
Butter
Pepper
 
Mix dough ingredients together with water as needed, then roll out into a round piece
 
Mix the potatoes, steak and onions together and put on dough. Add a slice of butter on top and salt and pepper. Fold the dough around and bake for 45 minutes at 425 degrees. After it is done, put 1 tablespoon of water in each.
 
from the sources above, here are some assorted tips and variations:
 
Quote Tips:
 
Make the pastry with lard and lots of salt. Don't try to make a flaky pie crust; the pasties that I love had a tough crust and they held together when you held them in your hand.

In the old days, the meat was loin tips, but you do not see them in supermarkets now. You can use round steak, flank steak, or chuck steak. The expensive, tender cuts don't add any extra flavor and they lose their integrity in the cooking.

In the old depression days, the potatoes were the most plentiful ingredient but when times got better, we had pasties made with about equal amounts of meat and spuds. Maybe about a half pound of each to a pasty.

Known variations

Use vegetable shortening instead of lard.
Add powdered milk to the flour (1/2 cup to 3 cups of flour).
Dice and mix all the ingredients together instead of slicing in layers.
Use pasty meat (coarsely gound), left-over roast, ground round or chicken for filling.
Use ground elk or venison, adding suet to filling.
Add parsley, diced or shredded carrot, turnip or rutabaga for flavor.
 
Before baking you can dab milk around the crimped edges of the pie crust dough if you like a browner crust; or brushing the top of the crust with egg yolk gives it a nice golden glow.

Egg Pasty: Old-timers tell of making a well in the ceneter of the pasty filling and cracking an egg into the well. Care must be taken to fold the dough over without breaking the egg---thus, giving the miner a baked egg and meat pasty for lunch. Sometimes, even chopped ham was added, along with the egg, to stretch the meat content.
 
Sometimes, the pasty would have an X on one side to mark where to start eating it --- the latter end had a little partition inside which was filled with apples, or peaches, cinnamon and sugar to add dessert to the meal. A thin but larger slice of potato was used to separate the ingredients of the pasty.
 
also from the sources above, some tips on eating pasties:
 
Quote Uncle Howard used to dip his crust into his hot tea to soften it. Everyone seems to have their favorite way of "doing a pasty".

Ketchup? Yes....although this was never my thing. I used to drench my hot pasty with butter. Some like to smother them with gravy, but that's a sacrilege! Grandma Bysho would never approve such desecration. My favorite is still the second-day "fried pasties".

Using Chow Chow is pretty rare around here now; you can't find it except in specialty stores.... and at $4 for a tiny jar, my conscience won't let me enjoy it.

Some folks prefer to cut the pasty in half and mix the crust into the filling; others prefer to run a knife parallel to the plate and flip over the top half. You can also cut the pasty into halves and eat it like a sandwich.

finally, a bit more history compiled from the sources above:
 
Quote ...Butte is inclined to claim the pasty as its very own for the Irish, the Cornish, the Welsh or the Italian miners...one with important variation: the American form of pasty calls for diced meat; at home in Cornwall...it is always sliced.
 
Housewives in Butte used loin tips, flank steak or skirting, slicing the meat lengthwise into narrow ribbons. They were also known to grate a bit of suet into the flour for added flavor. As time passed the pasty became a household word, cooks began to adapt the pasty to suit their own tastes, adding parsley, carrots, rutabaga or tunip for flavor. Today, pasties are often served with gravy or catsup, accompanied by coleslaw. However, a true pasty is never served with gravy since it was originally created for miners' lunch pails. It was washed down with ale in the old country. With Butte miners, it could be milk, tea, coffee or even "dago red" stored in the lower level of the bucket.
 
The old-timers' lunch pail had a graniteware finish with a ceramic lining for hot or cold beverages. An inner container for food occupied the upper portion of the pail. Pail dimensions were approximately 8 & 1/2 inches deep by 7 inches in diameter. These old lunch pails were much different than the black metal buckets we were familiar with, where the thermos was held in the top.
 
The pasty [was] favored in the miner's lunch bucket. The pastry-wrapped meal was wrapped into an airtight waterproof oilcloth package and placed in a small steel churn which was then filled with hot tea. Down in the mines, the churns were placed next to the fires at the vent shafts which forced the air upwards to circulate fresh air around the mine. These fires kept the churn and all its contents hot for mealtime.
 
Today, you may be able to find prepared pasties in a local bakery, or frozen food counter, or a deli. The popularity of them has grown over the years. But like a good bit of gossip, the further it gets from its source the less true it will be.
 
looking at the above recipes, tips and anecdotes, it is easy to see that there were many slight variations and no "one" way to do this. such variation is another trait that the butte pasty shares with "peasant" cooking, and supports the supposition that as the world became urbanized and industrialized, the same humble, common-sense and thrifty wisdom that applied in the peasant cottages also served well for the working-class families living in butte and other cities.
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Rod Franklin View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 December 2011 at 17:04
Here's a link to a video showing crimping technique.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9NkKQY-Qvg&feature=related
Note that this won't work with a crumbly short pastry. It needs to have the ability to stretch without tearing. Crumbly pastry can be remedied pretty easily by shearing the dough on the work surface with the heel of the hand a couple of times. There's a french word for this but I don't recall what it is. Anyway, it will make it smooth and stretchy enough to do the referenced crimp.

Just roll the dough into the ball you would make it into just before you would put it in the fridge to rest. Then set the heel of your hand onto the top of the dough towards the edge furthest from you. Press down and away, smearing a good bit of dough on the work surface. scape the smear up into a separate pile with a pastry scraper. Repeat till you've smeared the whole ball, gather it up into a ball again and do it one more time.

 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 August 2012 at 10:19
Tas,
 
These are absolutely gorgeous; I have to try your Butte Historical recipe ... It is now on the LIST !!!
 
Simple instructions and recipe as well ... Steak ...  I shall also pass  this on to the Gals for their hubbies and kids. THANKS  AGAIN.  
 
Truly enjoy all your Historical features ... You have a flair for Journalism ...
 
All my kindest.
Margi.
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