On Christmas Eve, we almost always head to a beautiful candlelight service at our church and then drive home through the falling snow (on the years that it snows, obviously) to enjoy a late supper of Tourtière – Québec pork pie. This is a tradition fondly practiced throughout Québec, whether preceded by a religious service or not.
At our home, the tourtière is homemade, and we enjoy it throughout the holidays, not just on Christmas Eve. As I write, six wrapped pies sit in my deep freezer, waiting to be baked to golden perfection.
Essentially, tourtière is a meat pie; lightly spiced ground pork layered between flaky pastry, and served with a chunky green ketchup. It’s total comfort food, loved by all and needs nothing save a tossed salad or bowl of steamed peas to make up a complete meal. It can be enjoyed warm or cold, for brunch, lunch, or dinner – and makes a splendid midnight feast.
The Best Tourtière Recipe
Recipes for tourtière vary from region to region and kitchen to kitchen. It’s been said that the best recipe is the one your grand-mère gave you, but as my Baba is Ukrainian, I’ve sourced my recipe elsewhere!
Friend, Montrealer, and fellow food enthusiast, Ryk Edelstein, did his tourtière homework several years back. He gathered a handful of recommended recipes from various Québec regions -try about eleven- and proceeded to make them all. Twice. Ryk used as many ovens as he could convince his friends and family to allow, and twenty-two meat pies later, he narrowed down the recipes to two or three favorites.
This recipe, passed along to me from Ryk, is straightforward, appealing to all, and lends itself well to large batches. It is from Montreal Gazette food editor Julian Armstrong’s cookbook, A Taste of Québec, and apparently was one of the winners in a tourtière contest put on by the Gazette.
It’s a winning recipe in my books. Both of my boys tuck into it enthusiastically, and not just because I allow them to slather it with ketchup. It also makes scrumptious little hand pies, if you have time for that sort of thing. Wrap one of them, warmed, in a cloth napkin, tuck it into your pocket, and you have the perfect portable snack for a sledding expedition.
|Classic Tourtière or Québec Pork Pie||
- 2 1/2 pounds ground pork, ideally organic & local
- 1 1/2 cups cold water
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 bay leafs
- 1 teaspoon dried savory
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- Pastry for two double-crust, 9-inch pies
- 1 egg, beaten, for glaze
- In a large, heavy frying pan, combine pork with cold water and heat to boiling point. It should be slightly soupy.
- Add onion, celery, pepper, bay leaf, savory, rosemary, nutmeg and cinnamon. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat for 1 1/4 hours; stir often. Add more water if mixture dries out.
- Halfway through cooking time, season with salt to taste.
- Stir in rolled oats and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bay leaf and allow to cool. Setting the entire pot in the snow bank speeds up this process!
- Meanwhile, line two 9-inch pie plates with pastry. When meat mixture is lukewarm, divide it between two pie shells and spread it out evenly.
- Brush around outer edge of pastry with the beaten egg. Place top crust on the tart and press gently around the edge to seal. Trim pastry, crimp edges and cut steam vents in top crust. Decorate as desired.
- Bake in preheated 425°F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375°F and bake another 25 minutes or until crust is golden.
Is there any point in making just one meat pie? Not really. They freeze beautifully; whether pre-cooked or frozen with raw pastry dough, which ensures that you can get a hot, filling meal during the busy days ahead.
I also make a few extra to give away. Friends who are adapting to life with a new baby in the house, or are going through a rough patch, can expect an edible gift of tourtière from my kitchen.
Pies can be frozen directly after assembly, with the dough still raw (this is what I do). Wrap them well in plastic wrap and freeze.
- Remove pie from the freezer and unwrap.
- Brush the top with a little beaten egg and place frozen meat pie in a preheated 375°F oven.
- Bake until golden and heated through, about 50 minutes.
Pies can also be baked and cooled, then wrapped and frozen. This is convenient when you really need an instant supper fix.
- Remove meat pie from the freezer a few hours before serving, if possible.
- Wrap in foil to keep it moist and warm in a low (300°F) oven until heated through.
Whether you speak French or English in the home, celebrate Christmas or not, tourtière is an essential December dish around here.
What is your traditional Christmas Eve fare?