GRANDMA RICHARDS'S CORNISH PASTIES
Steamin' Down the Tracks with Viola Hockenberry
by Janette Blackwell
• 4 cups flour
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 generous cup lard or Crisco
• 1 scant cup cold water
• 2 cups of thinly sliced and diced potato (waxy variety is best)*
• 2 cups rutabaga, thinly sliced and diced* (some substitute finely diced carrot)
• 2½ cups onion, chopped
• 2 Lb. raw ground beef (round steak or chuck) or chopped steak
• 1/4 Lb. beef suet,** diced, OR butter or margarine
To make pastry, sift flour and salt together. Cut 1/2 the lard into the flour, using 2 knives or a pastry cutter
Keep cutting in the bits of lard until the flour is the texture of coarse cornmeal. Now coarsely cut in the other half of the lard until the pieces are pea size. Sprinkle cold water onto the mixture until the dough is the right texture for pie dough — that is, use just enough water to make the dough hold together, which should be a little less than one cup of water.
Divide the dough into 8 portions. You can make all the portions equal, but a Cornish mother would make the portions for hungry boys bigger than the portions for picky little girls. Cover the portions of dough you are not working with so they will not dry out.
Take 1 portion dough. Roll it out on a floured board to roughly the size of a pie plate. (Obviously larger portions of dough will be rolled into larger pieces than the smaller ones.)
Dip your fingers into a bowl of water and lightly moisten the edge of the rolled dough all the way around.
Place a THIN layer (about 1/4 cup or less) of very finely sliced and diced potato in the center of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border of bare pastry all around.
Place a thin layer (about 1/4 cup or less) of finely sliced and diced rutabaga on top of the potatoes, then a generous layer of onions (about 1/4 cup). Salt and pepper the vegetables.
Now spread a layer of meat (about 1/8 of the total meat) over the vegetables. Sprinkle just a few onions over the meat, then dab on 2 or 3 teaspoons of butter or suet cut in pieces. Salt and pepper the meat.
Fold the pastry over into a fat half-moon, and press the edges together well. Trim the edges with scissors, leaving a 1/2 to 3/4 inch tightly sealed crimped edge.
Place the pasties on a cooky sheet, making sure the pasties do not touch. Cut a 1/2-inch slit in the top of each to allow steam to escape.
Bake the pasties at 400 degrees for the first 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375 degrees for the remaining 45 minutes.
That's assuming you're baking just one panful of pasties at a time. If you want to put more than one pan of them in the oven, things get complicated. In that case, keep the heat at 400 all the way. Place one pan on the bottom shelf for 1/2 hour, then move it to the top shelf for its remaining 1/2 hour of cooking, making room below for a second pan of pasties on the bottom shelf.
Or you can do what Aunt Pearl and Jennie used to do: make a big batch, distribute the raw pasties among family members, and let each family member take her batch home to bake it.
* "Thinly sliced and diced" means pieces that are not only thin but rather small, as you do not want hardedged vegetables poking holes through the dough.
** Cornish mothers were picky about that suet. They insisted on soft suet, the kind that surrounds a kidney, rather than the hard kind you might cut from a steak.