Across the Range, there are three foods known as the “Three “P”s of Iron Range Cuisine”.  Porketta, Pasties and Potica.  Each is rich with history and many are made from family recipes, tried and true, passed down throughout the years.  These foods are not unique to the Iron Range but are actually very present in Iron Range diets.  These foods were brought over from the “old country” and introduced to the United States.  If you are visiting the Iron Range, you will want to sample some of these unique-to-you foods.

Rick Carlson, owner of Carlson’s Pasty & Sausage Kitchen in Biwabik.

Rick Carlson, owner of Carlson Pasty & Sausage Kitchen says, “It’s what we all grew up on, its been generation after generation of passing down these recipes and eating them.”  Carlson comes from a long family history of Porketta, Pasties and Potica.  He sells all three of these must-have Iron Range delicacies from his shop on the Main Street of Biwabik.

Carlson has been in business with his pasty shop for six years, but his family has been in the business in some sort of form for over fifty years.  Many hunters have had their deer processed by Carlson’s for venison.  Sausage and Pasties are the top sellers.

So, what is in a pasty?   They originate from Cornwall. A traditional pasty, according to Carlson is potatoes, carrots, onions, ground beef and pork, which is seasoned, he says, “we offer them with or without rutabaga.  The ones with rutabaga are by far my largest seller.” Pasties are very popular in mining towns across the USA.

Laura Collins, owner of Pep’s Bake Shop and the Italian Bakery in Virginia, expands on the connection to mining and pasties, “It was an Iron Range staple for the miners when they went to work because it was an easy meal for them, it had everything they needed in one package.  It has the meat and potatoes, the vegetables and it was something good to eat when the miners were on the job.”

“It’s why they had a rolled edge, the miners could eat them, they would hold them on the edge, they would eat the insides out and then toss away the crust.” adds Carlson.

Chris Bergum, Co-Owner of Fraboni’s in Hibbing.

In Hibbing, Chris Bergum of Fraboni’s says they have four varieties of pasties.  A standard pasty, a traditional, then a two pack of smaller pasties, Bergum adds, “I just introduced one that is my Grandma’s recipe, so I partnered with Sunrise Deli locally to make the pasties for us. I don’t like onions, I don’t like rutabagas, so I did just potatoes, carrots, sirloin diced up then ground”.

Bergum adds, “It’s kind of a unique, you get in a position like this and I like food, so for me to actually be able to have something like this, with my Grandma’s pasty is pretty cool. They just launched, they are here and they are ready to go”

But what is the best way to eat a pasty?  

CARLSON:  “I eat mine with ketchup, people eat them plain or with a little butter on it,  ketchup seems to be the majority, I’d say at least 25% of people in this area have gravy on them.”

COLLINS “I prefer the gravy, plain is just fine as well.” 

BERGUM: “Butter and ketchup is what I use, that’s how I always got them from my Grandma. There are a lot of gravy people out there, too.”

Another unique option on the Range is the Porketta. (pronounced “pore-KET-tah”).  This meat is a famous Italian dish.  It’s made of stuffed boneless pork shoulder that is wrapped and crisps up and releases delicious juices when the porketta is sliced. The flavor is unique with fennel, onion, and garlic filling.

Bergum says Fraboni’s uses fresh grown on-site fennel.  “We have a fennel garden out back. We do about three or four cuts a summer and we grind up the fennel. As we make make porkettas throughout the year, we pull our big bags to use our fennel.”  He says, “It’s a unique flavor outside of this area, not a lot of people know what Porketta is, and it actually amazes me how many people around the country try it and go, “That’s unique!” explains Bergum.  Fraboni’s sells two styles, raw, which people cook at home and cooked, packaged as a shredded porketta.

The Three P’s of Iron Range Cuisine: Porketta, Pasties and Potica!

Carlson says, “The recipe I’ve been using is my Dad’s and he started making that fifty years ago.  I sell them in the roast or the porketta sausage and I use the exact same seasonings in the sausage as in the roast.”  Carlson continues, “If you aren’t from the area and have never tried one, I highly suggest trying one to see, unless you are opposed to fennel, it’s one of my favorite sandwiches.”

After eating these hardy foods, you may want a little something to sweeten the palette.  This would be the Potica.  Potica is a walnut dessert bread from Slovenia.. They are not easy to make.  Carlson explains, ““The rolling and the filling is hard because you have to grind up all the walnuts and you need to get the dough real thin.”  

Carlson just launched a line of potica, from a recipe passed down from his Grandmother.  

Laura Collins, Owner of Pep’s Bake Shop and Italian Bakery in Virginia.

Pep’s Bake Shop also uses recipes which have been passed down through the generations.  

Collins explains, “The Peplenjack’s recipe came from Maxine Hecimovich’s mother (that one is not as sweet).  The Italian Bakery potica recipe came from Gino Marccacini’s mother-in-law, that one is made with a sweet dough and it’s made with a lot of sugar, it’s a lot sweeter and richer than the other one.”  That one is their best seller. To learn more about potica, go to:

Trey Laster-Ford, Store Manager of the Sunrise Bakery in Hibbing

Trey Laster-Ford, Store Manager of the Sunrise Bakery in Hibbing says the demand is high right now.  “Potica is our top seller.  We sell a lot of it. People who come in here, this time of the year, we are selling out of it everyday.”  

If you are looking to order some of this must have food, there is still time to order:

Carlson Pasty & Sausage KItchen for Porketta, Pasties, Potica and Sausage:

Go to CARLSON PASTY & SAUSAGE KITCHEN’s Facebook page. Carlson says, “They can message me on there or just call me at the shop” (218-404-9960) Although he ships year round, to get things in time for Christmas, how soon should you order?  He answers, ”I would say about a week prior to Christmas to allow for shipping time.”

Pep’s Bake Shop/Italian Bakery for Pasties, Potica and other baked goods: 

If you are looking to order from Pep’s or the Italian Bakery, Collins says, “Just call the store”, 218-741-7218 They plan to mail out as long as they can, but we are starting to run out. We want to have enough for our local customers to come in and get it at the store. We want to have it all the way through Christmas for sure.”

Also in demand, “our rosette’s are very popular, our Finnish Cardamom biscuit and Yule Keke and the Christmas cookies.”  Call for availability or go to their website at: PEP’S BAKE SHOP.

Fraboni’s for Pasties, Porketta and MANY other items:

We ship year round, you can order from our website, FRABONI’S for all of our products. Or call, (218) 263-8991. We now work with Fed Ex and have secured better two-day rates.  “We are still shipping up until the week before.”

“Any local grocery has most of our products, we cover the Range!” says Bergum.

Sunrise Bakery for Potica and other baked goods: 

Laster-Ford says, “Call the shop!” (218) 263-4985 or go to their website at: SUNRISE BAKERY ONLINE ORDERING

Also, very popular are the Banana Flips, Potica coffee cake, and Christmas cookies.”

REMINDER: All of these shops are open in their brick and mortar stores for purchases. Check their websites/Facebook pages for hours of operation. Tell them Joy McJingles sent you!

Joy McJingles writes blogs about Iron Range Tourism and Holidays on the Range.  Blogs are posted on Thursdays and Sundays.