Venison Pasty – The perfect camp meal

Originally a Cornish coal miner's meal, pasties are a hearty anytime meal, lunch or dinner, camp or home - freeze a bunch up and you are good to go.
Originally a Cornish coal miner’s meal, pasties are a hearty anytime meal, lunch or dinner, camp or home – freeze a bunch up and you are good to go.

Let’s start with pronunciation. It’s “past” with the short a, not “paste” with the long a. If you got here on a search for the other “pasty”, you’ll be sadly disappointed. Pasties originated in the UK, Cornwall specifically, as a common meal for coal miners. Today, they seem to have a central home in the UP of Michigan, and seem to be spreading across the states from there. Similar to a pot pie, a pasty has a meat cooked with some basic vegetables like potato, carrot, and onions. The big difference is that in the pasty, the filling is folded in the crust, so it’s like a turnover. Pasties are great because you can make a whole batch of them and freeze them. Now you have instant personal meals. Need a quick lunch to take to work? Got it. Need to feed a bunch of guys (and or girls!) at deer camp? Handled.

The Cut:

A traditional pasty is filled with all raw ingredients, which are then cooked in the crust. Venison was also a traditional filling, and what we’re going to use is cubed up chuck – specifically, I like to use a neck roast. Now, if you’ve cooked enough venison, you know that a neck roast isn’t something something you cook for a short time. In this case, I think the tradition of cooking all raw ingredients in the crust was more about convenience. Convenient doesn’t always mean good. So, with this recipe, we’ll braise the meat for a while before we stuff it in the crust for a final cooking.

The Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1½ teaspoons of salt
  • ¾ teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 cup of lard or shortening (I used beef tallow because I happened to have it. And I recommend it if you can get it!)
  • ¾ cup of ice water

Pasty:

  • 2½-3 lbs of venison chuck – cubed to ½”
  • 1 large onion – diced
  • 3 medium carrots – diced
  • 2 medium potatoes – diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1½ cups of red wine
  • 1½ cups of stock (I used venison stock, but any will do)
  • 1 tablespoon of rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon of thyme
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil
  • milk

The Process:

Salt and pepper your cubed venison to taste. Preheat the oven to 250°. Brown the venison in a dutch oven or similar vessel in oil on the stovetop. Add the red wine and stock. Transfer to the oven and let it braise for about 4 hours.

Chop your vegetables up. Place them in a bowl, and mix in the rosemary, thyme, and a little olive oil, and mix it all together. Toss it in the fridge.

Make your crust. If you want, just buy some pre-made. I won’t judge you. I do it. But it IS easy to make – and this recipe is heavier and more durable than a typical pastry crust, yet still light and flaky. In other words, perfect for a pasty.

Mix your dry ingredients together. Cut in the lard/shortening with a pastry blender. If you don’t have one, get one! They are cheap and make this job incredibly easier.

Once the mixture starts to resemble coarse crumbles, add ice water till it gets doughy. If it won’t hold together, add a little more water, but try to keep it to a minimum. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and toss it in the fridge too.

Cook the venison for about 4 hours, or till it’s nice and tender, then shred it with a fork. Cook the vegetables in a skillet till they are tender, and mix them with the venison. Pop it back in the oven for a bit while you get your dough rolled out.

Split the dough into about 6 equal portions. Roll them out into 8-9″ circles. You can make them up one at a time.

Bump the oven up to 400º.

Spoon the pasty filling into the middle – make sure to add in some of the liquid. Moisten the edge of the crust with water and fold it in half and crimp the edges. I like to then fold the edges over AGAIN and re-crimp – may be overkill, but it helps to keep them sealed while they cook.

Brush the tops with milk, then bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, or until the crust is a nice golden brown. Your filling is cooked, so focus on the crust here.

If you have any juice left from the filling mix, serve it on the side – it makes an excellent dipping gravy. As does some sour cream. Freeze what you don’t eat, and reheat them in the microwave or oven for an easy meal any time.

One last thing: I always have some filling left over. The pasty filling from this recipe makes one of the best roast meat sandwiches I’ve ever had – you may want to set some aside just to try it…

The pasty filling is amazing. I had extra.. and you know what happens to leftovers...
The pasty filling is amazing. I had extra.. and you know what happens to leftovers…