Before We Start
Cornish pasties are PGI protected and the name can only be used where a product has been assessed and certified as meeting all the necessary criteria. To ensure that a pasty is indeed a certified authentic Cornish pasty, you should look out for the PGI certification logos whenever purchasing.
For more information on PGI protection, please visit our What is PGI Certification? information page
The Humble Origins of The Cornish Pasty...
There is a wealth of historical evidence confirming the importance of the Cornish pasty as part of the county’s culinary heritage. The pasty became commonplace in the 16th and 17th centuries and really attained its true Cornish identity during the last 200 years. By the 18th century the pasty was firmly established as a Cornish food.
The familiar Cornish pasty was made and eaten by poorer working families who could only afford cheap ingredients – potatoes, turnip (swede) and onion. Meat was added later. By the end of the 18th century the Cornish pasty had become the staple diet of working men across Cornwall, and their families too. Miners and farm workers took this portable, easy-to-eat convenience food to work with them because it was so well suited to the purpose. Its size and shape made it easy to carry (usually in a pocket), its pastry case insulated the contents and was durable enough to survive while its wholesome, nourishing ingredients provided enough sustenance to see the workers through their long and arduous days.
At one time it was even common place for a pasty to contain a savoury filling in one end and a sweet filling at the other, usually fruit, jam or treacle to provide a full meal with dessert. The pasty owner's initials were marked on one end of the pasty and was to be consumed from the opposite end of the initials to avoid any confusion.
There are many stories about the shape of the pasty, with the most popular being that the D shape enabled men working in tin mines to reheat them underground, as well as eat them safely. The crust (crimped edge) was used as a handle which was then discarded due to the high levels of arsenic in many of the tin mines.
Another less practical but more superstitious theory, was that miners often wanted to save a 'corner' of the pasty for the 'Knockers'. The Knockers were believed to be mischievous imps of the mines, who unless they were left sustenance from the miners, they'd be liable cause all sorts of trouble should they go hungry.
But what's so special about a 'Cornish Pasty'?
Given Product of Geographic Interest (PGI) status back in 2011, the term 'Cornish pasty' is closely protected to preserve authenticity and identify to customers when they are buying a true traditional Cornish pasty. Producers are unable to call their product a Cornish pasty until it has been verified and certified as meeting the strict guidelines necessary to claim authenticity.
To be considered eligible for PGI status, a producers pasty must not only be produced in Cornwall but also follow strict production guidelines and standards. To be considered a Cornish pasty the product must satisfy the following minimum criteria: