Happy Cornish Pasty Week!

Cornish pasty. (PHOTO: Rachel Boyne, Flickr CC)

Before I wrote this I worried that I might spend too much time writing about Cornish pasties here at MinnesotaBrown. Perhaps you have heard enough about the buttery, flakey meat and vegetable pies served hot and consumed copiously by underground miners like my ancestors.

Perhaps. But on the other hand, if you want to talk about something that’s flakey and orange-hued, you could do a lot worse than pasties.

And besides, it’s Cornish Pasty Week! They’re celebrating all across the United Kingdom, or at least in the parts that count.

Marking the occasion, Cornwall Live offers a stunning look at the history of the pasty. Cornish people and their relatives around the world might be chagrined to learn that pasties go back farther than the underground mines of Southeast England.

From the story:

According to Wikipedia the English word “pasty” derives from Medieval French paste itself based on Latin for a pie, filled with venison, salmon or other meat, vegetables or cheese, baked without a dish.

Pasties have been mentioned in cookbooks throughout the ages. For example, the earliest version of Le Viandier, a ‘cook book’ dating back to the early 14th century contains several pasty recipes. In 1393, Le Menagier de Paris contains recipes for pasté with venison, veal, beef, or mutton.

Other early references to pasties include a 13th-century charter that was granted by Henry III (1207–1272) to the town of Great Yarmouth.

Pasties and more pasties. If that doesn’t make you hungry…..
The reference says that every year the town is bound to send to the sheriffs of Norwich ‘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.

Also in the 13th century, the chronicler Matthew Paris wrote of the monks of St Albans Abbey “according to their custom, lived upon pasties of flesh-meat”.

Meanwhile 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 (1508–1537) said: “I hope this pasty reaches you in better condition than the last one.”

Cornish miners and their families adopted these early pasties in the 17th Century, creating their now famous unique shape with the crimped crust.

That’s the recipe that was brought from England to North America, and that spread across a new continent as the favored food of miners and their families.

Happy Pasty Week!


  1. I’m told that the crimped part of the crust was a “handle” for the miners with dirty hands to hold it while they ate from the fold in. The crimp was thrown away.

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