- Tourtiere is one of those things that I never heard of before moving to Nova Scotia. I’m sure it probably has its place in the French regions of Newfoundland, but where I grew up, just outside St. John’s, Christmas Eve (like Good Friday) is a fish holiday. It didn’t matter how the fish ended up on the plate, but it was always cod, and it was always served with some form of decadent fat that would likely seem over the top to any come-from-away who found it on their plate: fish and brewis with pork scrunchions, boiled salt cod and potatoes with slabs of butter melting over the works, fried cod tongues or fish cakes, crisp on the outside and salty on the inside. Not to mention a fresh loaf of oatmeal brown bread, also slathered in butter ( and in some cases, mollasses). The tradition followed me to Nova Scotia, and until this year, salt cod was a Christmas Eve given.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t been tempted by Tourtiere. It’s often crossed my mind, but it seemed inappropriate to make it for any occasion other than Christmas Eve, so it just never happened.
Now things are different
The only salt cod readily available in this neck of the woods is actually labelled “salt fish”. Not sure what kind. I’ve used it in the past and it’s just not right. The freshly ground pork and beef in our freezer just seemed like a better choice. And so It was that I finally set about figuring out how to make Tourtiere.
I’ve heard lots of stories about bland Tourtiere and I was seriously concerned that picking the wrong recipe could mean this would be my first and last meat pie escapade. Because I know lots of great cooks, I turned to Facebook for tried and trusted recipes from my friends. Usually I can spot a good recipe a mile away, but be ause I had no idea what tourtiere was supposed to be like, I didn’t trust myself to figure it out. Lots of great suggestions resulted from querying my friends, along with a few annecdotes, but I still had a problem. All the recipes were different, and making a choice seemed impossible.
I took the only logical course of action. Playing on the fact that Tourtiere appears to be a concept rather than a set-in-stone recipe, I decided to take what intrigued me from each of those recipes and make my own. My friend Jane proposed a recipe using eggs and cream beaten with a little hot sauce. Christa’s recipe used both beef and pork, which is what I wanted, and Heather’s recipe, like Christa’s, used savoury, cloves and cinnamon. Savoury and Christmas are synonymous on The Rock, so I knew my recipe had to have it.
Although I’ve always made my own pie dough ( and I’m pretty good at it, too) I’ve recently discovered a product that may end my pastry-making days. I’ve spent my past year at farmer’s markets selling next to a lovely gal named Donna. Her product called Doe T Go is a ready-made pie dough that knocks my socks off. You can manhandle it ’til you’re blue in the face , thaw it, freeze it, thaw it again,and it still comes out flaky and wonderful. It’s so easy and affordable that it’s just not worth making my own anymore. I stocked up on a few packs of Donna’s dough before the holidays, and that became the shell for my Tourtiere.
The meat pie that resulted from all this research and madness was well worth the trouble. Whether or not it becomes a tradition in our house may very well depend on the availability of real salt cod in years to come, but I guarantee I’ll be making this again, even if Christmas Eve isn’t the instigator. Here’s the recipe, with love from a bunch of my friends and me. Feel free to adapt to your tastes (but remember that the savoury is non-negotiable).
*As a side note: I had to add a tablespoon of olive oil when frying the meats, as ours had no fat whatsoever. I didn’t include the oil in the recipe because I suspect this isn’t a problem most people will encounter.
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1lb ground pork
- 1lb ground beef
- 1 stalk celery,finely chopped
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup whipping cream
- 1 tsp. hot sauce
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp. summer savoury
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- One double crust 9-inch pie shell
Method to the Madness
-In a large skillet combine the pork and beef with the onion, garlic and celery. Sautee until meat is browned and crumbly and onion has softened. Drain excess fat.
-Add savoury, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper, mix well. Remove pan from the heat.
-In a small bowl whisk together the cream, egg and hot sauce. Stir into the
meat mixture. Allow to cool
-Pour meat filling into pie shell and top with second crust. Cut vents into the top crust.
-Refrigerate for at least an hour.
-Preheat oven to 450. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 400 and bake for a further 25 minutes.
I put a pear and apple chutney on the table to go with it, just in case. We didn’t need to use it -this Tourtiere was yummy all on its own.