It doesn’t matter where you’re from, when you arrive in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, you know it. And the food is a big part of the reason.
You can thank the French Canadian, Finish, Swedish, Cornish, and Italian immigrants who worked this land for the delicious, distinctive food you find in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. You can find a lot of culturally inspired foods in the restaurants and mom and pop shops. Pasties, cudighis, and cinnamon toast in particular are quintessential examples of unique U.P. cuisine. They’re hard to resist, both because of the taste and because the people who make and serve them treat you with such old-fashioned hospitality. Yoopers are proud of their past and proud of their identity, yet they humbly share their food with others. And yes, you’ll want seconds even if your stomach says otherwise.
Where did these foods come from?
Pasty: A savory meat pie mixed with diced vegetables and folded into a hearty, golden pastry crust. Sounds too good to be true! These meat pies were staples for the working men who went to the mines and forests each day. Many nationalities have their own version of a meat pie, and some of that variance is evident depending on the pasty shop.
Cudighi: Also known as “gudighi” this Italian specialty first made its appearance in Marquette County in the late 1930s. It’s a patty of Italian sausage – of a specific type – on a hard roll with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese (Italy, remember?), and sometimes grilled onions, peppers, and mushrooms. Mustard and onions were a popular combination. The sausage includes cinnamon and clove spices in the mixture, not fennel as is traditionally associated with Italian sausage. That’s because the immigrants who brought this to the States were from the northern region of Italy. A cudighi will taste different at two restaurants only a few miles apart. Yoopers stick to tradition, yet the freshness and amount of the spices used can make a difference. Guess you’ll just need to try more than one.
Trenary Cinnamon Toast: This has been a specialty at one particular bakery in Trenary – located in the middle of state on Route 41 between Rapid River and Marquette – since the 1930s. Now it’s a household name. Trenary Cinnamon Toast is reminiscent of Italian biscotti. It’s made of white bread, freshly baked, which is then painted with a wash and coated with a blend of cinnamon and sugar. Then it’s back to the oven for some extra crunch. It’s perfect for dipping in coffee. You can visit the Trenary Home Bakery website for more of their story and to place an order for this delicious cinnamon toast (as well as many other flavors) so that you have the real deal in your own home.
Make your own!
Don’t want to wait until your next visit to the U.P.? Try one of these recipes at home. The fragrant smells will bring hominess to your kitchen and a smile to the faces of your family.
A marvelous recipe can be found one this website in our article, “Pasties: It’s That Time of Year!” It does take a bit of time to make, so make sure you set aside a chunk and have all your ingredients ready.
Cudighi, Eating with Your Hands
- 6 pounds pork
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 to 1 cup dry red wine
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 clove
- Have the pork coarse ground and don’t trim the fat. (make sure you leave around 25% fat). Mix the following ingredients together: salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Work into ground pork with your hands.
- Combine wine, cinnamon sticks, garlic and cloves. Boil this mixture for 5 minutes and let cool. Strain this mixture, reserving the liquid and work the liquid into the meat.
- Let meat season in refrigerator for 2-3 days.
Trenary Cinnamon Toast, The Gunny Sack
- 7 slices of bread – depends on what you want, we recommend thick bread or a sweet bread
- 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
- ½ cup sugar
- Take the bread and if pre-sliced you can leave the slices whole or cut them in half. If the loaf is not pre-sliced, slice it to your chosen thickness.
- Spritz the bread lightly with water. Don’t saturate it.
- Mix together the cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and lay each piece of toast flat into the mixture, coating the side. Flip to the other side and do the same.
- Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Place the bread on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes. Flip the toasts over and bake for an additional 45-70 minutes.