Tourtieres for the Christmas holidays

Mais oui! Our family served Tourtiere, the French-Canadian meat pie, along with the Thanksgiving dinner! Ours is made with the tradition of mixing ground pork with ground beef and adding our family favorite spices, as per the recipe, included in this blog. There are many ways to create Tourtieres traditions.

Tourtieres with side relishes

We serve Tourtieres with an assortment of side condiments including diced beets and pickled cucumbers and even seasonal fruits. Pictured here with a Butternut Squash soup in the chaffing dish.

We will be preparing to serve it again during les fêtes de noël A link to recipes includes a collection of Tourtieres, as sent to me by readers.

There are probably as many different ways to prepare and season the pie’s meat filling in Tourtieres as there are Franco-American families who eat them.

Although I have written about Franco-Americans, the French heritage and customs for over 30 years, the single subject that brings the diverse elements of the culture together are definitely the memories shared about preparing and eating Tourtieres.

Truth be told, Tourtiere is not just a recipe for how to make meat pies. Rather, Tourtieres are collective Franco-American memories. Regardless of where French-Canadians and Franco-Americans grew up, or where their descendants settled, they pretty much all remember eating Tourtieres with their families during  les fêtes de noël (Christmas Holidays). In out home, this period of time has expanded to include Thanksgiving.

Moreover, letters and messages about Tourtieres are not exclusive to any particular Franco American community.  Honestly, Franco-Americans and non Francos have sent their stories to me over the years.  Recently, I was with a group of Franco-American veterans, when Mr. Ron Vincent, a Navy veteran,, from Sanford, told me that he uses my mother-in-law’s recipe, clipped from past articles I’ve written on this subject. (Merci, Mr. Vincent!) Throughout the years, I’ve received many hundreds, (maybe over a thousand!) queries, letters and email messages about Tourtieres.

Here is our family recipe for Tourtiere, as adapted from my mother in law, Rose Morin L’Heureux. Rose was a French-Canadian who grew up with her family in Biddeford. She lived in Sanford.

Recipe:  L’Heureux Tourtiere (learned from Rose Anne Morin L’Heureux)

½ pound of ground pork

½ pound ground beef

one medium onion

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

one medium potato, cooked and mashed without milk or butter

one teaspoon cinnamon

one teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon allspice

pastry for one double crust nine inch pie

Mix ground pork, beef, chopped onion and garlic together (use hands if necessary).  Place in a saucepan and add about ½ cup water, salt and pepper to taste.  Add all the remaining spices, leave out the mashed potato until the very end of cooking.  Cook over low heat, simmering for about 3-4 hours. Drain off the excess fat.  Combine the meat mixture with the mashed potato. Pour into a pie plate, cover with the top crust, make knife inserts in the top crust, to allow for the steam to escape.  Bake in a 375-400 degree oven until the top of the pie is light brown. Serve warm or at room temperature with a variety of sweet and tangy relishes.

Secrets to preparing excellent Tourtieres:  simmer the filling ingredients for at least 3-4 hours.  (This hint was taught to me by Sister Viola Lousier, scim.)  We add a mashed potato at the very end and blend it into the meat mixture, before pouring it into the pie shell. Also, dot the top of the Tourtiere’s filling with shaved butter before adding the top crust. As for the meat filling, frankly, any combination is fine because it’s the selected seasonings that creates the flavor. Some recipes call for using ground venison.

Tourtiere boquet garni

Wrap combination spices in cheese cloth packets to attach to the family’s recipe.

Try creating Tourtiere “boquet garni” sample packets to give to friends along with recopies attached to the sachets. Some blends can be the mixture of cinnamon and cloves; but other combinations can also be created using sage and poultry seasonings.

Bon appetit!

Juliana L'Heureux

About Juliana L'Heureux

Juliana L’Heureux is a free lance writer who publishes news, blogs and articles about Franco-Americans and the French culture. She has written about the culture in weekly and bi-weekly articles, for the past 27 years.