Clay Mining and the Famous Cornish Pasty

Here at Wheal Martyn one of the most favoured places for people to visit on site is our crib hut, which would have housed the Kettle Boy.

A Kettle Boy would have been the youngest male on the site but had an extremely important job; to collect and boil water for the clay worker’s tea, heating their pasties and running errands. The starting wage in the 1880s was about 6 pence a day and most boys would start work once they had left school, at the tender age of only 14, although many started younger.

wheal martyn museum, cornwall. Educational days out with the family

Crib for the miners was what we now call a lunch break. It was a little place where the miners could go every day after a long morning to warm up and eat their delicious Cornish pasties. Working 6 days a week for 52 years, the average miner would have eaten an astonishing 16,224 pasties in his lifetime!

Cornish miners must have enjoyed their daily pasty though because they also introduced the Cornish pasty to Mexico! Versions of the dish, made with chilli peppers, are known as pastes and are considered a local specialty which are celebrated in the Cornish Pasty Museum in Real del Monte, Hidago, Mexico!

The good old pasty has been mentioned in cookbooks across the centuries, the earliest being 1393, and we’re certain most people will have tried a pasty at some point in their lifetime. If you haven’t yet then don’t delay! Why not pop in and see us and treat yourself to a Cornish pasty from our popular cafe. You won’t be disappointed!

Here are some interesting facts from the Cornish Pasty Association about the famous Cornish pasty:

– At least 120 million Cornish pasties are made each year

– Cornish Pasty producers generate around £300m worth of trade for the Cornish economy. (This is around 20% of the total turnover of Cornwall’s food and drink sector).

– Pasties are the mainstay of the bakers’ shops found in virtually every village and every high street in Cornwall.

– The familiar ‘Oggy, oggy, oggy’ chant is said to have originated from pasty sellers or tin miners’ wives announcing the arrival of their freshly baked wares. The traditional acknowledgment was ‘Oi, oi, oi’.

Crib and croust are Cornish words for a snack or a bite to eat – traditionally, and still today, the pasty is the favourite choice for crib or croust

– At least 2000 people work in pasty production. Many of these jobs are year-round, full time, permanent jobs – a bonus in a seasonal economy like Cornwall’s

– The popular cut of beef used in a Cornish pasty is skirt – a long, flat, boneless piece from the diaphragm muscle, prized for its flavour.

– Pasty makers spend at least 25% of their turnover within the local economy; as much as £15m is paid to Cornish farmers for ingredients for pasties, equivalent to over 5% of the total farmgate value of Cornwall’s farm produce.

– Pasties made in Cornwall are transported every day, chilled or frozen, to destinations all over Britain and across the world.

Pasty production also sustains other local service industries such as engineers and transport.

Crimping is the technique of sealing the pasty and is still done by hand in the vast majority of pasty bakeries.

– A skilled crimper will crimp on average 3 or 4 pasties a minute, although 7 pasties a minute has been known.

– If a pasty is crimped by a left-hander it is called a cock pasty. Right-handed crimpers make hen pasties.

St Piran’s Day Crib and Cream Teas

If all that pasty talk has got your taste buds tingling, come along to our St Piran’s Day Celebration on Saturday 3 March to learn more about Crib and enjoy an afternoon of “Cornishness”.

Bring along your Cornish baking specialities to be judged in our baking competition, enjoy Cornish Crib Teas and Cream Teas in the café as well as some traditional Cornish Music. Click here to find out more.

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