Saint Piran is the patron saint of tin-miners and reportedly also, the Patron Saint of Cornwall …
Most people know the pasty originates from Cornwall in the most south westerly corner of England, but do you know how they are connected to the tin-mining communities, and more importantly, what makes a pasty “Cornish”?
Even though the Salt family hails from the beautiful fishing town of Polruan, Cornwall (where Grandpa Salt grew up), and our head taster spent his childhood eating the best west country pasties, why does the Salt Pot Kitchen still not qualify to call our pasties “Cornish”…….
First, a few facts about Cornish Pasties:
· Pasties have been documented as far back as the 13th century, and even mentioned in one of William Shakespeare’s plays (The Merry Wives of Windsor), but it wasn’t until the 17th or 18th century that the pasty took the shape and taste of what we know and love today.
· In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was commonplace for tin-miners and farm workers of Cornwall to take a home-baked pasty for lunch. It provided a hearty, savoury meal all wrapped in a delicious pastry casing. The pasty is shaped in a crescent, and the crust thick and crimped.
· The miner’s hands were often covered with a layer of arsenic dust, and without means to wash their hands before eating, they would hold the thick crust, eat the filling, and discard the crust afterwards, therefore not contaminating their meal.
· A miner’s wife would mark the initials of her husband in one corner of the pie so it could be easily identified.
· It was commonplace to add a sweet filling to the bottom half of the pasty, making it a full meal all wrapped up in one pastry crescent.
But what makes a Pasty a Genuine Cornish Pasty?
In 2011, the European Union gave the Cornish Pasty “protected status”. This means, for a pasty to be called a Cornish Pasty, at least one stage of the production, processing or preparation must take place in Cornwall.
Other characteristics required to be called a genuine Cornish Pasty include:
o No meat other than beef
o A minimum of 12.5%.
o No vegetables other than potatoes, swede (rutabaga) and onion
o A minimum of 25% vegetables.
o All contents must be uncooked when the pasty is assembled.
o The pastry must be savoury and crimped into a D shape
o The crimp must be on the side (if you come from the neighbouring county of Devonshire, you crimp on the top of the pasty)
o The pasty should have about 20 crimps.
Wait - what does Oggy, oggy, oggy …oi, oi, oi! have to do with pasties?
An “oggy” is Cornish slang for a Cornish Pasty, derived from its Cornish name “hoggan”.
It is thought tin-miners’ wives or pasty sellers would shout “oggy, oggy, oggy” when the pasties were ready, and the hungry miners or labourers would respond “oi, oi, oi!”
The expression was further popularized at sporting events as a regular chant during football and rugby matches in the post-war era, then again in the 1970’s by Welsh comedian Max Boyce who used it as a chant to excite his audiences.
We are obsessed with our pasties, and although we describe them as “made in the Cornish style” we’ll wager our traditional pasties have as authentic a flavour as you’ll find anywhere on the west coast of England.
We can’t wait for them to be available for everyone to try, and hopefully become as hooked on them as we are!