MT. IRON — This column is normally about a farm or a grower or food business on the Range. But this time it’s about a particular food with a long Iron Range tradition and a new twist: the pasty. Pasties came to the Iron Range with miners from Cornwall, England and caught on quickly. They stayed warm in a miner’s lunchbox until noon and satisfied their hunger after a long morning’s hard work. They represent the Range much like sarmas, potica, and porketta do. These days one can find breakfast pasties, dessert pasties, vegetarian pasties, and probably some I haven’t yet heard of. Served warm with ketchup, butter, or gravy, they make a perfect autumn dinner.
Last year the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability (IRPS) held the first annual Iron Range Pasty Festival. We hand made each of the 834 pasties with all locally grown ingredients, and they were delicious! Hundreds gathered to eat pasties and slaw at the Mt. Iron Community Center. Some tried rutabaga bowling, some designed winning Mrs. Rutabaga Heads, children made Play-Doh pasties, and everyone tried their hand at some Iron Range trivia.
This year, the second annual Iron Range Pasty Festival will look a bit different in order to comply with COVID-19 guidelines. The festival will be virtual and drive-through, with trivia and Rutabaga Head contests happening on the IRPS Facebook page all day Oct. 10. Pre-ordered frozen pasties can be picked up at Messiah Lutheran Church from 12 – 3 p.m. from your car in the parking lot where Sara Softich and Friends will be playing live.
The pasty mascot (we have a great pasty costume) and her ketchup bottle companion will be greeting folks in their cars. IRPS will be livestreaming some of the music to
Facebook too. Stay safely in your car and IRPS board members will bring your frozen pasty order to you.
So, what’s in these pasties and who are the local growers and producers who supply the ingredients? Rutabagas are a signature ingredient, of course, and they come from
Sherry Erickson’s Elm
Creek Farm near Orr
(www.elmcreekfarmsmn.com), she also supplies some of the carrots and onions. Janna
Goerdt of Fat Chicken Farm near
Embarrass grows some of the onions too, in addition to being our head chef (www.fatchickenfarm.com). Craig
Turnboom grows the potatoes, carrots and onions on his Skunk Creek Farm near Meadowlands (www.skunkcreekfarm.net). The fresh thyme that gives the pasties their superb taste is grown by the students at the Mesabi East Environmental Education Center in Aurora (find them on Facebook).
The meat for our pasties is grass-fed pastured beef from Jane Jewett’s Willow Sedge Farm outside of Palisade, MN, (www.janesfarm.com). The pork comes from Fox Farm near Browerville, MN, where pigs are housed in open-air hoop barns with lots of fresh air, sunshine and are fed non-GMO grains grown right there on the farm. Lard for the tender crust comes from Shannon and Mary Ann Wycoff’s Bear Creek Acres Farm near Embarrass where animals have plenty of outside space to root, romp and roam (www.bearcreekacres.com). No antibiotics or animal byproduct feed at these farms!
The pat of State Fair prize winning butter that goes into each pasty just before it is baked comes from Dahl’s Sunrise Dairy in Babbitt (www.dahlssunrisedairy.com) and the flour comes from Homestead Mills in Cook (www.homesteadmills.com). The secret to the excellent flavor of these pasties is more than just local ingredients. It comes from the energy of the IRPS board members who volunteer for eight-hour shifts to chop, peel, and mix the hundreds of pounds of ingredients and roll out the dough as they talk, laugh, and dream about the Iron Range of the future. This year, everyone will be masked and distanced, of course, but it will still be fun! We will have a temporary food stand license from the Minnesota Department of Health for preparation and plenty of hair nets, gloves, and aprons to go around. When the pasties finish baking and cooling, they’re bagged and taken to F&D Meats’ walk-in cooler for storage until the day of the festival. Thank you, F&D, for your generosity!
Why go to all the trouble to source these ingredients locally? First, because buying local food supports our local economy. Every dollar IRPS spends on the ingredients goes into the pocket of a farmer or producer in Orr, Embarrass, Meadowlands, Palisade, Babbitt, Aurora and Cook. Second, it makes these pasties unique, and a pasty festival deserves unique pasties. Third, because this is the only fundraiser for the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability and IRPS wants to use this fundraiser to illustrate their values—we believe in local! IRPS doesn’t have an office or a phone, we have only one very part time paid staff person and depend on this fundraiser to do the work we carry out. Learn more about IRPS at www.irpsmn.org.
Marlise Riffel lives in Virginia, MN. She grew up in Illinois with farming relatives, and is a board member of the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability.what fun to go and pick your own!