He learned it at his dad's knee.
|Jerry McNamee of Bowling Green with his meat pasties, a family recipe and winner during the 2013 Farm Fresh Recipe Contest series. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Jerry McNamee knows what goes into a great meat pastie - one of the linchpins of traditional Irish cooking.
"I had a lot of fun making these with my dad," said McNamee, a Montana native who moved to Bowling Green 14 months ago. His father, Bob McNamee, is a professional baker and taught Jerry how to create this oh-so-Irish recipe when Jerry was about 14.
In fact, it was the first food he ever learned to make.
"My Grandmother Helen was the inspiration" for the pasties, he adds.
McNamee's parents were high school sweethearts in Anaconda, Montana, a part of the state known for its copper mining.
"Pasties are synonymous with copper mining. They're miners' food, easy to take to work."
McNamee, who boasts 90 percent Irish descent, said most Americans credit pasties to the Irish, although "some say to Cornish."
The dish's origin relates to the fact that the Irish historically had to make do with very little.
"It was the scraps from food" that went into the ingenious pies - making them a tasty way to mix frugal with gourmet.
"Out in Montana every family kind of had their own family recipe for pasties. Our family went with ground beef versus sirloin tips, chicken or venison. Any kind of meat that you had on hand, and had an abundance of," said McNamee. "Lamb especially, if you want to go traditional."
McNamee enjoyed learning from an expert.
His dad was a bakery manager for Buttrey's, "a supermarket chain out West, that was bought by Albertson's about 15 years ago."
That was in an era when supermarkets still made all their own bread fresh.
Dad was also known for the traditional candies he made, especially at Christmas time.
"With this turn to cooler weather we're having, this is the day we'd start in on making divinity" fudge, McNamee recalls. "That and caramel rolls."
Once a baker, always a baker accurately describes his father. "To this day he still makes the cinnamon rolls for after mass every Sunday."
As a boy, McNamee recalls, "I got to leave church after communion to help get the hot cinnamon rolls ready" for the parishioners who came rolling into the church hall once the service was over.
Dad also made a Tom and Jerry batter for the alcoholic beverage by that name. "We used to have to make that for the neighborhood."
The devotion to homemade goodies is something McNamee has adopted.
"I have my own starter dough at my house. I make bread; I cook a lot," he said. "My wife's an excellent cook but she'll say I'm better, so why would she cook?"
He and wife Susan have lived in four states in the last six years. She's now on the faculty of Bowling Green State University, which is what brought the couple to Ohio.
"BG feels like home; we love it here," said McNamee,
Prior to the latest move, the couple lived in Texas for a short period. That magnified McNamee's love for barbecuing, "especially Southern food, anything with pork. I like smoking meats."
He's currently the teen programmer for the city of Bowling Green. "We offer free programming for middle school kids at least once a month" as a safe, fun way to "get them active."
During the summer he also doubled as "Zucchini Bob," serving as emcee of the Downtown Farmers' Market's zucchini races.
"I make pasties about once a month, especially now that it's time to start eating these more filling meals. My wife loves 'em. She'd never tasted pasties until she got involved with our family. She'll ask me to make them" on a frequent basis.
His pasties wowed the judges at last week's farmers' market, where they won the final Farm Fresh Recipe Contest of the inaugural 2013 season.
McNamee describes himself as a "purist - kind of a snob and not too afraid to admit it," when it comes to the meat pies.
Cutesy or over-Americanized variations don't impress him. "Especially putting French fries in it; that makes me crazy."
The version McNamee made for public consumption is very close to his father's, with a couple differences.
"Dad's exact "formula" has to remain a secret. "If I gave out those little bits of information, my dad would come out and kill me."
His most crucial preparation hint has to do with making sure the water is really cold before mixing the pastie dough.
"It should have a thin layer of ice on top of it."
McNamee ensures that by popping the water into the freezer about a half hour before he needs it.
"And be gentle with it. People aren't gentle enough with their pie dough."
If you're worried about the calories and fat in the recipe, since it calls for ground beef, McNamee says bison pasties are really tasty too, and you just need to add an egg to bind the filling ingredients.
Much of the fat comes from the shortening, which also gives the crust its texture. You can make smaller portions and adjust the cooking time to compensate.
Baker Bob's Pasties
31⁄2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
11⁄2 teaspoons salt
1 cup shortening
1 cup cold water (almost frozen)
In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water until mixture forms a ball. Shape into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate.
1 lb. ground beef
5-6 small to medium red potatoes (do not peel), small diced
1 large white onion, small diced
5-6 carrots peeled, small diced
Salt, Pepper, Worcestershire sauce to taste, about 2 Tbsp of each.
In a large bowl, combine meat, potatoes, onion, and chopped carrots. Season with salt and pepper and Worcestershire.
Divide dough into six pieces, and shape into balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a 6 inch round. Place approximately a handful of filling on one half of each. Roll over dough and tuck under. Brush on egg wash. (one egg beaten with some water added) Bake for 45-60 minutes at 400 degrees.
Nutritional analysis per pastie:
Calories 969; Carbohydrate 91g; Protein 23; Fat 56g