By Reporter Zeak Rice
My Grandma’s Authentic Tourtière Meat Pie Recipe
My grandma was a French-Canadian from Quebec. This was my favorite food I looked forward to during the holiday season. I copied this recipe, “letter for letter,” with her spelling and notes from a 3×5 card she gave to my mother (both now deceased).
The history of Tourtière Meat Pie:
Meat pies are not exclusive to Canada, by any means. They are referenced throughout history, with versions as early as Mesopotamia. Roman kings added their own twists and then spread the concept throughout Europe. The Middle Ages also saw a great love for meat pies.
You’ll find meat pies of all sorts across the globe. Empanadas in Latin America, Samosas in India, and traditional mincemeat pies for the British Christmas table. (Traditionally, those were made with meat, unlike the more common mince pies made with fruit that you find today.)
Meat pies in Canada date back to when Quebec was a French settlement. While it is thought tourtière goes all the way back to the early 1600s, the first written recipe appears in an 1840 cookbook, La cuisinière Canadienne.
Why is it called tourtière?
Some believe the pie’s name comes from now-extinct passenger pigeons, called ‘tourtès,’ used in the original pies. Others prefer to believe that the name comes from the deep baking dish that families would traditionally use to cook their pies, also called a ‘tourte.’
What is tourtière made of?
Also known as pork pie or meat pie, tourtière is made with ground meat, onions, and spices, all baked in a double pie crust.
The particular spicing mixture makes this pork pie special to those who call it a Christmas tradition and is enjoyed by everyone who is introduced to it.
What meat is used in tourtière?
Traditionally tourtières were made with many different types of wild game, including the previously mentioned pigeon.
Nowadays, pork, beef, and veal are commonly used. Many families call these ‘pork pies’ because pork is what many French-Canadian grandmas used (and still use) every year when making them for family and friends.
While the meat would have been chopped finely with a knife in the early versions, most cooks today use ground meat, which is much easier. This does result in a different texture than the original tourtières would have had. (But if these original ones used pigeons, I’m perfectly ok with how this recipe has evolved through the centuries.)
When do you eat tourtière?
It is a much-loved tradition to serve this meat pie on Christmas Eve. Traditionally, no meat was eaten on Christmas Eve until after midnight Mass. French Canadians would come home after midnight Mass (called the Reveillon) and start their Christmas celebration by sitting down with family and enjoying tourtière. Many families also eat tourtière on Christmas Day and New Year’s day.
What is traditionally served with tourtière?
It was common to serve Christmas Eve pork pie with a large spread of dill and sweet pickles. Other popular condiments are pickled beets, pickled onions, and even pickled eggs have shown up over the years.
If pickles aren’t “your thing,” it has also been served with mashed potatoes and gravy. (But there are mashed potatoes in the pie itself.) Some have also served a salad or steamed broccoli as an accompaniment in an effort to include more vegetables in the meal.
You can eat tourtière hot, warm, or cold, but either way, be sure to serve it with ketchup and mustard!
Recipe For One Meat Pie:
One lb. of hamburger
1/2 lb of ground pork
1 medium-sized onion chopped; add salt and pepper to taste
*1 tsp of fresh thyme
For the pie crust, you can use store-bought pie crust or make your own; our family used a double pie crust with holes in the top.
Add meat, onion, and spices to a pan, and mix all ingredients well. Cover with water and cook until the meat is no longer red.
Meanwhile, add the crust to the bottom of a 9″ pie pan.
After the meat mixture has finished cooking, add it to the pie pan and smooth out the mixture. Add the top crust and press lightly around the edges to seal. Trim excess dough and crimp the edges. Cut small slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Brush the entire surface of the pie with an egg wash by whisking together an egg and water in a small bowl
Cook at 375 degrees until the crust is well browned, about 1 hour. Top with additional fresh rosemary.
Variations: In later years, our family added mashed potatoes to the pie. Diced potatoes are also popular.
*The thyme I use is “rosemary thyme,” the kind which I call “pine needles” (rosemary). Fresh is best; it’s not recommended to substitute with powdered.