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Inside the Kitchen: Cousin Jenny’s Cornish Pasties

Serving up hearty eats like these is what made this place famous.

From traditional handmade pasties to a breakfast brainstorm, Cousin Jenny’s Cornish Pasties in downtown Traverse City doesn’t miss a detail and this week, we’re showing you how it’s done Inside the Kitchen.

“The science of ‘pastieology’, that’s our ‘speciality’,” said Cousin Jenny’s Chef/Owner Jerilyn Deboer. “(‘Pastieology’?) That’s our ‘speciality’!”

Deboer should know. She was practically raised on the pasty growing up in the UP.

“Where I grew up, that’s what you had,” recalled Deboer. “My parents had a little pasty shop… that’s how I got into the business.”

The wives of Cornish miners cooked up the first pasties centuries ago… using whatever they had to make their on-the-go husbands something they could take with them.

They were called the Cousin Jenny’s.

“It’s all self-contained and it’s shaped a particular way so they could eat it in a particular way,” she explained. “They’re called love letters from home, actually.”

And today, just like every day for the last 27 years, her quest to share the love begins at two o’clock in the morning with a big ball of fresh dough…

“Just trying to dust them a little bit so they’re not sticky,” said Deboer, pressing dough through a rolling machine.

All to get ready for the main event.

“We always have the traditional pasty,” said Deboer. “That has the… potatoes, rudabagas, onions, salt and pepper.”

Then comes the protein–chicken, or their savory house-cut steak. 

“We always cut meat maybe two or three times a week so we always have fresh meat and then every day the potatoes are diced,” she explained. “The potatoes are brought in every Saturday fresh from Cotton Farms… This is how you do it. Just make sure it’s mixed up well and everybody gets a good bite.”

Everything comes together in a boulder-sized, full pound ball, tucked neatly into the dough and…

“Into the oven!”

45 minutes later, they come out golden brown, piping hot and totally irresistible.

But, Jerilyn cranks out more than just the traditional pasty, she features seven different kinds, including a mean German Reuben, French potato and a hearty Italian for the pizza lover.

“You have different tastes,” said Deboer. “You want people in here more than once a month, maybe twice a month. Hey, I’ll get this, I’ll get that… It’s good to have variety. “

And that variety wouldn’t be complete without the most important meal of the day.

“When you bite into this it’s going to have a little crunch,” said Deboer matter-of-factly, tossing a heaping pile of hash browns into her ‘Breakfast Bobby’ mix.

The bobby packs a punch–bursting with flavor and your choice of bacon, sausage or ham.

“You’re going to start going this way, like this,” explained Deboer as she showed us the ropes. “Just a little tuck. (I’m no good at wrapping presents either)… and then you have your little bobby.”

And the finished product…


Jerilyn makes at least 300 pasties a day… the same thought goes into every single one-what she wants every customer to walk away with.

“Hopefully, they’re always served an authentic, quality pasty… the atmosphere is nice, it’s unique, it’s fresh-made, it’s hand-made and you just don’t get that anymore.”