Due to popular demand, I am posting this recent column that I wrote for The Chronicle Herald.
What is tourtière? That is a question that was asked to me before the holidays by a group of lovely ladies at “Our Thyme Cafe” in Dartmouth. I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with these ladies, cooking and talking and showing them how to make my “famous” tourtière. Many of the women had never heard of such a thing. A pie made of meat? With spices? One woman in particular almost fell over in shock when she saw me add my mix of ultra-secret spices. Her disdain was quite apparent, and she kept repeating over and over again how crazy my recipe sounded. Guess what? In the end, she was the first to try it, and the one who took most of the tourtière home.
But is tourtière all about the meat mix and spices? Hardly. Those are but two components that make up such a perfect pie. To me, the most important part, is that of the crust. Yes, good ‘ol crust. Flaky and light. What makes the perfect pastry? Nimble little hands and love.
Some people use butter, which I think is great, but for my flaky pastry I like to use lard. What is lard you might ask? Well, it’s the fat from my favorite animal, the pig. Not only do I use lard in my pastry, but the fatty goodness also makes my baked beans with salt pork outta this world. Not feeling the love for the lard? Shortening would probably work almost as well.
Pastry aside, the meat component is pretty important too. Some people swear by just beef or pork. But I like to use a mix of pork and veal; equal parts of each. Lamb works well in the land of meat pies, and I have even seen it done with chicken. Whatever your preference may be, the most important thing is that you are actually making it from scratch.
Oh the spices; I feel like this is my biggest secret. Should I divulge? Nah. How about just using a blend that you can buy? Despite the fact that I do have my own personal blend, I picked up a small container of the “Tourtière De Charlevoix” spice mix from the ever dappper, Costas Halavrezos at the Brewery Market to use in a batch of tourtière. The mix that he sells, courtesy of Montreal based company, Epices De Cru, contains mace, cloves, sage, bay leaves and a few other gems.
If you want your house to smell extra holiday-ish this year, I suggest whipping up a batch of tourtière. Your stomach will thank you for it!
Makes enough for 2 pies
2lbs (900g) ground pork
2lbs (900g) ground veal
1 onion; small dice
2 cloves garlic; minced
Salt and pepper
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp (15ml) ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp (15ml) ground cloves
1 Tbsp (15ml) ground allspice
1 Tbsp (15ml) savory
½ Tbsp (7ml) ground mace
2 potatoes; scrubbed and grated (skin on)
In a thick bottom pot, brown the onion and garlic in a little bit of oil; cook for 2 minutes and add the meat. Brown and add the spices and salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning. You may need to add more depending on your personal preference. Cover the meat with boiling water and let simmer for 2 hours; stirring occasionally. After the 2 hours, add the grated potato and cook another 5 minutes. Cool down and skim off any excess fat before using. This mix also makes a great Sheppard’s Pie too.
- 1 C lard
- 2 C AP flour
- 1/3 C cold water
Mix the flour, lard and salt together by hand; rubbing and breaking the lard into the flour until pea size. Gradually add in the water and mix very gently until it comes together: DO NOT OVERWORK. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. This makes 2 double crusts.