My Mom’s French Canadian Tourtière
CHC CANADA 150 FOOD BLOG CHALLENGE SERIES
I am a proud Canadian. When the Culinary Historians of Canada invited food bloggers to participate in the “CHC Canada 150 Food Blog Challenge”, I knew that I wanted in! What a great way to celebrate and honour Canada’s 150th birthday by featuring a different Canadian dish or discussing a topic which reflects on what it means to be Canadian. For the month of May, in honour of Mother’s Day (May 14), CHC invited food bloggers to share recipes relating to mothers, recipes and techniques passed on by our mothers or grandmothers, or from our mother’s culture. I am honoured and proud to share a historical and famous recipe for My Mom’s French Canadian Tourtière.
Food has been such a significant part of my French Canadian heritage and some of my clearest recollections are about food. It is not only the memories of the food that are so clear but the smells, the tastes and the surroundings that are so vivid. Holidays would not be the same without Mom’s tourtiere. In our family, the Christmas Eve menu always included a large tourtiere to enjoy before midnight mass.
There are a number of food traditions that are very important to my family, but my Mom’s famous tourtière is the most requested. I have had many versions of tourtière – from chefs, colleagues, relatives and friends, but none can compare to my “Little Mom’s” French Canadian Tourtière. (More on “Little Mom”).
My Mom’s version of tourtière is more savoury than traditionally prepared tourtière due to the use of sage and poultry seasoning as opposed to the warm spices often used (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice). Mom always insists on a mixture of ground meat: beef, veal and pork. This combination makes a huge difference in the overall taste and texture of the tourtière filling. The aromatic fragrance of the tourtière mixture simmering is magical. Writing about it makes me nostalgic. Although I have adapted the process somewhat, I follow her recipe method and always make enough to share with family and friends, which is her tradition.
My Mom’s French Canadian Tourtière became quite famous in a small village in Ontario. Everyone loved it whenever she made her tourtière pies for church or village social events. As a matter of fact, when the ladies of the village church approached her many years ago for her tourtière recipe to make and sell the pies for fundraising efforts, she not only generously shared it – she taught them how to make it.
My Mom’s French Canadian Tourtière
Yield: approximately 1 kg tourtière filling
Use to Make: 1 large 14 ” double crusted tourtière pie (using 1 kg filling)
or Make 2 smaller 8 ” pies (500 g each)
CHEF TALK: My Mom’s French Canadian Tourtière is more of a ratio than a recipe. This is the recipe that I was raised with. When you consider that the ladies of the church made 700 pies at a time for fundraising efforts, you will understand why the ratio method was more efficient. Ratio: for every pound of lean ground beef, use 1/3 lb. ground pork and 1/3 lb. ground veal. Mom always filled the pie shells to a shallow level because when sliced, the pie will cut cleanly and hold together. This is not a deep-dish type of pie.
Mom always made enough filling for about 30 pies. It was always an assembly line of activity once the filling was cooled. Everyone had a task; such as, rolling the pastry, filling the pie shells; baking, cooling; wrapping and freezing the pies. While I also make enough filling for many pies, my strategy is a little different. Rather than making up the pies in pastry shells, I freeze pouches of tourtière filling (enough for one pie each) in Vacuum Sealer bags, flattening out the filling in order to stack the sealed bags on top of each other. This allows for more efficient freezer storage. The vacuum-sealed bags are airtight, therefore they have a longer shelf life (one year).
The Learning Tip that you will use in this recipe is Tweaking which discusses adjusting the seasonings to your personal taste.
My Mom’s French Canadian Tourtière
For the Tourtière Filling:
- 1 lb (454 g) of lean ground beef
- 1/3 lb (150 g) of ground pork
- 1/3 lb (150 g) of ground veal
- ½ of a medium onion, diced finely
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 1 chicken bouillon cube or 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon paste
- Water or unsalted chicken stock or beef stock to cover meat (approximately 1 Litre)
- 2 teaspoons dried chopped sage leaves or 1 teaspoon ground sage
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning, ground
- ½ teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- Soda Crackers, crushed, as needed (approximately 24 crackers)
- For the Pastry: Follow the instructions for making the pastry from the recipe link above. Chill the dough until required.
- For the Tourtière Filling: In a Dutch Oven or large saucepan, place the ground meat, breaking it apart with a large fork.
- Cover the meat with water, or chicken stock or beef stock, just barely above the surface of the meat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then, lower the heat to a simmer. Mash the mixture with a potato masher to separate and blend the meat together.
- Add the onion, garlic clove, chicken bouillon cube, sage, poultry seasoning, garlic salt, pepper and seasoned salt to the mixture. Continue to simmer, uncovered, for 1 ½ hours. (You are essentially braising the meat).
- The moisture will evaporate and become absorbed into the meat mixture during the braising process, creating a savoury meat filling. CHEF TIP: Do not drain all of the fat from the mixture as this is what helps bind the tourtière filling.
- Crush the soda crackers and stir into the meat mixture.
- Taste the meat mixture for seasoning and adjust (tweak) as necessary. It should taste quite savoury. Tweaking ingredients could include, according to your taste: 1 -2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce; a drop or two of lemon juice; a grind or two more of pepper; 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard; 1/2 teaspoon celery salt; additional sage, poultry seasoning and or 1/2 teaspoon summer savory.
- Let the meat mixture cool completely before filling the pie shells. The mixture should be quite thick. If you are not ready to make the pies; refrigerate the mixture. CHEF TIP: For longer storage, I measure the amount of filling that I will need to fill a shallow pie shell (about 1 lb of filling/500 g) and seal it using a vacuum sealer system.
- Line two 8 inch pie shells with pastry. Divide the tourtière filling between the two pies and spread evenly. Brush the outer edges of the pie crust with water and place the top crust onto the pie and press the edges gently to seal.
- Trim the edges and crimp the edges with a fork like my Mom did or create your own scalloped edge. Cut a few steam vents in the top of the crust. Decorate the pie, if desired.
- Bake in a preheated 425°F oven (400°F if using a Convection oven) for 10 minutes and then lower the temperature to 375°F (350°F if using a Convection oven) for a further 25 minutes or until the crust is golden.
- To Serve: Cut each 8 ” pie into 6 – 8 pieces. Serve the tourtière warm (or cold the next day). Refrigerate any leftovers. Enjoy!
We are very proud that our Mom’s family recipe for French Canadian Tourtière made it possible for that small town to raise enough money to rebuild the parish hall – a gathering place for the entire village.
My Mom recently celebrated her 90th birthday and those same ladies of the village church attended her celebration. They reminisced about how Mom’s famous recipe for tourtière was distinctive and special with all of the folks in that small village and how it is still being made for special events in the parish hall to this day. Historically famous – My Mom’s French Canadian Tourtière.
For gluten-free tourtière filling: Substitute reconstituted dehydrated vegetable flakes (please see How to Use the Vegetable Flakes in this recipe). To thicken the filling, stir in dehydrated mashed potato flakes into the filling or substitute crushed gluten-free crackers. Use gluten-free Patè Brisée Pie crust.
What Else Can I Do With This Recipe?
Tourtiere Log: For a ladies luncheon, I made a log version of tourtiere and cut it into portions. This is how you do it: On a piece of parchment the size of a baking sheet, roll the pie pastry or Patè Brisée Pie crust into a rectangle instead of a round circle. Place the tourtiere filling down the middle of the rectangle. Brush one lengthwise edge with egg wash. Fold the unbrushed edge of the pastry over the filling and then the other edge of the pastry. Turn the log over, with the seam on the underside of the log. Bake according to instructions or until the pastry is golden brown. Cool slightly before cutting into portions. Serve with a salad and enjoy!
Please CLICK the link above to access my UrbnSpice LEARNING TIPS, which are listed alphabetically on the Learning Tips blog post under the following subheadings:
- Cutting pies and Tarts
- Oven Temperature Accuracy
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