If the pasty is a package of tasty foody goodness then the pastry is the wrapping and the crimp is the seal holding the whole lot together. So although the crimp’s job is a simple one, it’s also very important which is probably why nowadays every pasty maker whether amateur or pro has an opinion on how it should be done.
The origins of the crimp are a topic of debate in themselves. Some will tell you that the crimp was originally a handle by which miners would grasp their pasty as they ate it and then throw away – along with the dirt and toxic substances from their hands. But others dispute this: there’s plenty of evidence suggesting miners ate pasties wrapped in muslin or paper bags meaning that they would have got to eat every last bit just as we do today.
While we’re on the subject of crimp controversy, we should also acknowledge that the location of the crimp is still something that folks like to argue about. The Cornish Pasty PGI status rules state that for a pasty to be Cornish, it must have the distinctive ‘D’ shape and be crimped on the side, not on the top. A pasty crimped on the top is considered by many to be a Devon pasty. Nevertheless you’ll still find many people West of The Tamar who maintain that pasties can and should be top crimped though now they can’t technically name or sell one as ‘Cornish pasty’, it’s just a ‘pasty’.
Whatever views we hold, we can all agree that a good hand crimp is usually a sign of a good handmade pasty. That’s why makers will evolve and fiercely protect their own signature crimps, why the number of crimps will vary from pasty to pasty and why you can even tell whether your pasty was crimped by a left-hander (making it a ‘cock pasty’) or a right-hander (making it a ‘hen pasty’).
Read more about crimps and pasties in Emma Mansfield’s Little Book of the Pasty.
Find out how to crimp a Cornish Pasty
Enter or attend the World Pasty Championships at Eden on Saturday 3 March!