The Origins of a Pasty

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Nobody seems to know the origins of the pasty, but it is mentioned as early as 1300AD in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” The pasty first arrived on the scene in Butte, Montana with the tin and copper miners from Cornwall, England in the late 1800’s. Because this meat and vegetable pocket was both hardy and hearty, it quickly became the mainstay meal of Butte’s miners.

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Illustration by Mark Reavis

The Cornish do like to claim the pasty as their own. The Cornish miners referred to the pasty as a “letter from ‘ome,” as they would be flooded with the smells of their past life in Cornwall when they unwrapped their pasty at mealtime.

Photo by Nicole Reavis

Photo by Nicole Reavis

Immigrants to Butte were diverse and they brought the food of their homeland with them. Yet every nationality embraced the pasty, for their men worked in the mines and this “pie made without a dish” was a “hot, tasty and cheap meal.”

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Miners with wives at home set out for their shift with their lunch bucket and pasty. Bachelor miners lived in boarding houses and relied on “bucket girls” to deliver their pasties to the mines during their shifts.

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Most of Butte’s underground mines were closed by 1975, but the pasty lives on. Butte currently has three eateries that specialize in this delicacy, and each has its own special recipe.

Visitors who come to Butte in search of a pasty need to be forewarned: They are gigantic and meant to fuel a working man’s body. We would encourage some form of physical exertion before attempting to consume one, as well as a place to nap afterwards.

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Pasties are also made in many homes in Butte and various recipes can be found in Butte’s Heritage Cookbook. This basic recipe comes from “The Pasty Book” by Hettie Merrick, published in 1995 in Cornwall, England.

R E C I P E :

Pasty Pastry (four 8” pasties)
1 lb. (3 1/3 C) strong white flour 4oz lard
4oz margarine 1/3 pint (7oz) water
Mix fats into flour. Pour in water and stir until absorbed. Knead lightly then place in fridge for 30 min.
Pasty Filling
8oz onion, shallot or leek 16oz beef skirt or chuck steak
8-12oz turnip 24oz sliced potatoes
Constructing the Pasty
Flour your rolling surface. Split dough into 4 pieces. Roll out into 8”-9” circles.
Lay most of turnip and onion across the center of the round, then add salt and pepper to taste.
Lay meat over the top of this, salt lightly, and top the meat with most of the potato slices and remainder of turnip. Salt lightly and cover with remaining potatoes.
Press pastry edges together, one side moistened. The seam can go over the top of the pasty or on the side. Crimp well as you go, then tuck end under to seal.
Make a small slit in top, brush with milk or egg wash, and place on greased and floured tray.
Bake at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes. When brown, lower oven temp to 325 degrees and bake for 20 more minutes. Turn off oven and let sit inside for 15 more minutes.

Pasty Restaurants:

Joe’s Pasty Shop
1641 Grand Avenue
Butte, MT 59701
406-723-9071
Noon hour sit down location. Traditional pasties.

Nancy’s Pasty Shop
2810 Pine St
Butte, MT 59701
406-782-7410
These pasties weigh in at 1.25 lbs!! Ground beef pasties.

Park Street Pasties
800 W. Park St
Butte, MT 59701
406-782-6400
Skirt steak pasty.

Pasties on a bigger menu:

Gamer’s Cafe
15 W. Park St
Butte, MT 59701
406-723-5453

Town Talk bakery
611 E. Front St
Butte, MT 59701
406-782-4985

Truzzolino Tamales (Gluten Free!)
1921 Harrison Avenue
Butte, MT 59701
406-782-0374

Hanging 5 Family Restaurant
2110 Harvard Avenue
Butte, MT 59701
406-494-4309

7 Comments

  • hammat@wcta.net' Jane says:

    Leave out the turnips, mix it all together before putting in the crust, add butter, salt and pepper before putting meat mixture in and after, then seal it up. MMMMM perfect.

  • conchiregidor@gmail.com' conchi says:

    Hello Lynn
    I am a 51-year-old Spanish housewife who quite by chance saw and episode of “Man vs Food” when they were eating pasties in Butte and I decided that maybe I could learn how to cook them. That`s how I came accross your blog and I just wanted to thank you because I have made them AND ALL MY FAMILY HAVE LOVED THEM. So Greetings and best wishes from Madrid Spain.

    • Lynn Donaldson Vermillion says:

      Very sorry it has taken me so long to reply to your very kind post. Wow, SPAIN!! I am so thrilled you found my blog and to hear you made them for your family…and that they are now pasty fans, too. We will have to stay in touch. My husband’s family spent a year in Barcelona when he was 14. They threw him and his two little brothers in school, and they had to learn Spanish via emersion. To this day, all are fluent (the later studied Spanish in high school & college.) We will be taking our kids to Spain when they are a little older. You can bet I’ll be picking your brain on places to eat in Madrid! Again, many thanks and all the best.

  • joloell@gmail.com' Lori says:

    Thank you for posting the recipe. My grandpa was a miner in Butte in the 40’s and my grandma made him these pasties. Growing up in Butte my dad shares great stories of the town & the food. Thank you!

  • You are very welcome! Thank you for your very nice comment. There is nowhere like Butte!

  • Thank you for your kind comment. We at TLBP ❤ Butte! There’s no place like it on earth.

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