Joyeux Noël, il est temps pour tourtière (Merry Christmas, it’s time for meat pie)

Christmas time, the time of year for one of my favorite foods, meat pie.  If I were a Quebecois I would say tourtière (“TOURT-YAIR“).

When in Quebec City my husband Steve and I eat at our favorite restaurant, Aux Anciens Canadiens (To Former Canadiens) and so far there are only two foods I have ordered from their menu: tourtière and escargots. I could eat the escargot by the bowl full, but enough of that, this post is about meat pie. The last time I ordered their meat pie, Lac St-Jean tourtière, it was about as tall as my hand is wide and it was layered with caribou, deer, elk, beef and pork and served with fruit ketchup. I am not a ketchup fan, but what they call ketchup is really fruit chutney and it is a wonderful accompaniment to the meat pie. Until I had their meat pie I had not given any thought to the variations in meat pie across Quebec. Of course I still favor, and make yearly, the meat pie recipe most of us grew up eating.

Aux Anciens Canadiens in the old walled part of Quebec City

My earliest memory of eating meat pie is after church on Christmas morning at grandma and grandpa Vadnais’ house.  I remember there being so much food and one of those foods was grandma’s meat pie.  I believe the recipe came from the Peltier side of the family.  It is so simple and so tasty!

It doesn’t say in the recipe, but it makes 6 pies.  Each pie uses about 1 pound of pork.  I double the basil, marjoram and sage I use. It’s my personal preference.  In recent years, after all it is a pork pie, I’ve taken up decorating the pies with pink tinted cut out pigs.  The only way to finish the edge of the pie is to crimp it with a fork.  Not a fancy edge, but the edge I’ve always known.

My family eats meat pie on Christmas eve, Christmas morning and often on New Year’s eve (as well as any other time we can fit it into the menu).  We serve it with cranberry relish and often with pear-lime salad.  There is just something about the savory pie paired with the sweet-tart flavor of the cranberries along with the refreshing taste of the lime salad.  I’m salivating!

Every year my mom and dad would work together and make about 20 pies over 2 days.  Mom would tape a paper label, with the date the pie was made, on the foil wrap of each pie and each of us children were given one.  The rest were frozen to be reheated and eaten over the holidays.  I recall one year when I was unable to make it back to Minnesota for Christmas and mom sent me a pie through the mail, Overnight Express.  It was still frozen when it arrived and in great shape.  The best Christmas present ever!    I have tried a number of meat pie and fruit ketchup recipes.  You may not know, but cloves, allspice and cinnamon were often used in meat dishes to hide the fact that the meat being used may not have been the freshest.  Although the other pies are good, they are no replacement for what we grew up eating.

Here’s a few of those recipes : 

Merry Christmas!

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