It’s Saturday, but we’re not talking sweets today – if you need a sweet fix, check out the recent Chocolate Pomegranate Bark or less recent Forget Me Cookies – both are close to my sweet-loving heart :)
Today’s savoury recipe is a part of the Canadian Food Experience Project, a movement spearheaded by the most charming Valerie, aka A Canadian Foodie. As we (participants) share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity – maybe it won’t ever be as iconic and delineated as we view Mexican or Thai or Indian food, but it’s bound to be delicious, especially when there’s meat pie involved.
Tourtière is my family’s traditional Christmas Eve meal. It is also a traditional French Canadian Christmas Eve dinner. Let me clarify: I am not French Canadian. Like many Canadians, I have immigrant roots, in my case equal parts Dutch and British. However, my Mom loved the idea of this French Canadian tradition and adopted it for our family, a tradition I’m trying to carry on now that I have a family of my own. It’s not always easy because a) I have to remember, and b) I have to start at least a day early so the filling mixture has time for the flavours to blend.
When she was here last year, I let her carry on the tradition in my home – how generous of me, right? ;)
Tourtière is simply a fabulous savoury meat pie. My husband loves meat pie, and somehow Christmas Eve is the only time of year I make it. The list of ingredients looks long, but it’s very simple and the flavour is distinctive and well worth any amount of effort. It’s hearty and meat-packed, with a flaky, buttery pie crust on the top and bottom. The recipe can easily be multiplied to feed a crowd. These two pies fed about a dozen of us last year.
The smell of this mixture cooking is the essence of tradition – the distinctive comforting warmth of the smell is pork cooking with mushrooms, thyme, cinnamon, and cloves. I think it’s the cinnamon and cloves that do it – as soon as I smell this mixture it takes me back to many a Christmas Eve tourtière in my past.
While the smell and flavour are unique and, for me, full of reminiscence and associations, they aren’t difficult to love. The flavours are ultimately simple and comforting, and you probably have most of the ingredients on hand often. This is perfect in my favourite basic sour cream pie crust, or you can buy crusts to make it even easier. The filling mixture can be made up to 3 days in advance, as can the pie crust dough, which makes it really convenient for a busy week when you want to have an easy prep dinner on Christmas Eve – it’s just that matter of remembering, which is why I’ve written the recipe prep time as 24 hours. You’re actually going to spend about an hour of hands-on time on this, but you need to give yourself some time. If you’re a list maker like me, put it on your list for Dec. 22nd-ish and you’ll be set :)
What is the recipe you most associate with a Canadian Christmas? Or do you have a non-Canadian family recipe you only enjoy at Christmas? On the sweet side for me is my favourite Nanaimo Bars, which have also been added to the Canadian Food Experience Project – they are the first food I think of when someone mentions Canadian food, and they are a Christmas must in my home. What are some of your favourite non-food traditions? I love hearing what other people do to make memories and build traditions.
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 lbs ground pork
- 1½ cups beef stock
- 3 onions, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½ tsp summer savory or thyme
- ¼ tsp cloves
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- ½ cup fresh chopped parsley
- Pastry for a double-crust 9” or 10” pie, homemade or store bought
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp water
- In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook pork, breaking up, for 7-10 minutes or until no longer pink. Drain fat.
- Stir in stock, onions, garlic, mushrooms, celery, salt, cinnamon, pepper, summer savory and cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 35-45 minutes or until about 2 tbsp. of liquid remains. Stir in breadcrumbs and parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Cover and refrigerate until cold or for up to 2 days.
- When ready to assemble, on lightly floured surface roll out bottom pastry and fit into deep pie plate. Spoon filling into pie shell, smoothing top. Roll out top pastry. Cover meat with top pastry and press edges together to seal. Trim and flute pastry edge. Combine egg with water and brush over pastry. Cut steam vents in top of pie.
- Bake at 375 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
*Source: My mom, as adapted from Canadian Living.