Christmas Eve is one of the most important dates on the Christian calendar, as it celebrates the birth of Christ. In Quebec, many people eat tourtière on this important day.
Tourtière is a spiced meat pie, traditionally made with wild meat hunted from Quebec’s thick forests. Today, it’s made with beef, pork or veal.
In the old days, tourtière was the centerpiece of a traditional meal called réveillon de noêl, a feast that started after midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and lasted into the wee hours of Christmas morning.
Kids were put to bed in the early evening on réveillon, then shaken awake just before midnight to trudge through the snow to midnight mass.
After church, the family would go home and feast on a traditional meal of tourtière, ragoût de boulettes (pork meatballs in brown gravy), les pattes de porc (pigs’ feet slow cooked until tender), as well as potatoes, homemade chili sauce, pickled beets, sugar pie, and many other desserts.
Today, many churches in Quebec have their “midnight mass” at 5-6 PM on Christmas Eve, and most people just buy their tourtière at the grocery store. But life does not have to be this dull boring! Why not make your own tourtière? It’s not difficult, it’s tastier than anything you buy, and people will “oohh” and “ahhh” at your cleverness.
Classic French Canadian Tourtière
There are many versions of tourtière in Quebec, but this is my favourite. It’s a simple, fragrant meat pie, thickened with potatoes, and baked until golden brown. This recipe makes two 9″ meat pies.
Prepare 3-4 hours ahead of baking time
- 11/2 pounds ground pork or veal
- 11/2 pounds ground beef
- 2-3 onions, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 6 potatoes, cooked them mashed
- 1-2 cups beef or vegetable broth (or just water)
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- Salt and pepper to taste
Pie Crust Ingredients
Makes 2 covered pies or 4 single pies
- 5 cups flour (635 grams)
- 1½ tsp. salt
- 2 ½ cups shortening (320 grams)
- 1 egg
- ½ cup cold water
- 1 tbsp. white vinegar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon cold milk
Start by making the tourtiere filling. Heat large skillet, add oil, then saute chopped onions for about 10 minutes on medium heat, until onions are soft and golden.
With your hands, mix the ground pork and beef together in a bowl. Add the fried onions. Return the meat and onions to the frypan and cook for another 10 minutes, chopping up the meat as it cooks.
Add the remaining ingredients to the meat (broth, mashed potatoes and spices), and mix together. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed.
Remove from heat. Taste the meat mixture and add more salt, pepper or spices if needed. Cool in the fridge for about 2 hours, until completely chilled.
Making Pie Crusts
Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add room temperature shortening. Cut the shortening into the flour mixture until rough crumbs.
Beat egg, water, and vinegar together, then pour over flour mixture. Stir mixture together with a fork until moistened. Divide dough into four equal size balls, roughly 275 gm each.
Roll out out one of the 275 gram balls of dough, and put it in the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Spoon in half of the meat filling, patting it down lightly to compress it a bit. Brush the pie rim with water and place the second circle of dough on top, pressing the edges together to seal. Trim edges and decorate the top.
Repeat to make the second pie.
The egg wash will give your tourtière a golden glow, so don’t be tempted to skip this step. Beat the egg and milk together and brush the mixture over the top of the crust and around the edges.
Cut steam vents on top of both pies to let moisture escape.
With the rack in the bottom third of the oven, bake at 375F for about 50 minutes or until the pies are golden brown.
Yield: Makes 2 meat pies