Meat pies are all the rage these days; Jamaican meat patties are sold in just about every corner store in the city core, and franchises of Australian meat pies are popping up all over the place. But Canada has it’s own famous meat pie, and no discussion of distinctly Canadian foods would be complete without a mention of tourtière, the classic French Canadian pork pie that has been synonymous with comfort food for generations. Recently we discovered a secret ingredient that will make all your future tourtières the best you’ve ever had.
You want the filling to be moist, with a fine texture that holds it shape when the pie is cut. For this reason water (or stock-but that seems redundant considering the filling is already 98% meat) is added to the cooking meat with a binder like a mashed potato. But who has mashed potato lying around all the time just ready to become a binder in a meat pie. See, tourtière can be a dish that is crumbly and difficult to cut into neat slices. But we’ve discovered the best way to remedy that – potato flakes! ¼ cup of instant mashed potatoes come to life when added to the pot and create a uniform and consistent filling, from first bite to last, and cutting into this pie is a dream.
Instant mashed spuds, something like this, are a great cooking ingredient to have in your pantry. They have come a long way since the instant mashed potato horrors of our childhood and are great to bring along on camping trips.
This savoury and fragrant meat pie is usually made with finely ground pork, and variations include mixing the pork with ground veal, beef or rabbit or venison; usually the meat ingredients depended on what was available regionally. Sometimes carrot and celery or mushrooms are added as well, though many would consider this sacrilege.
Tourtière is typically spiced with cinnamon and clove – the amount being usually left to the cook’s discretion, be warned a little goes a long way – and is most often served with ketchup, though serving it with maple syrup, or a chutney or other sweet tomato based relish are also not unheard of.
In making the pastry for the double crust pie, use your favourite recipe, although in keeping with the pork theme, it is best to use lard, or a fifty-fifty mix of lard and butter. Hydrogenated fats like Crisco not only contain trans-fats, but are devoid of flavour and nutrients and from a nutrition and taste perspective, it has nothing to add, so these type of shortenings are not recommended.
Below is the recipe we cobbled together recently for a toutière. A friend had given us some ground venison so we used a mix of that with pork. If you are able to, get your butcher to grind the pork really fine. Ask for medium to fatty ground pork, especially if you are adding a lean meat to the mix like rabbit or venison; nobody likes a dry pie!
Makes one 9 inch pie
1 ½ lbs medium fatty finely ground pork
1 onion, chopped fine
1 glove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 teaspoon clove
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
1 cup water
1 cup mashed potato (or ¼ cup instant potato flakes)
1 egg, beaten.
Over medium heat sauté meat in saucepan with onion and garlic, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt, pepper, clove, cinnamon, allspice and herbs. Add water and stir. Add mashed potato or potato flakes and stir to combine. Stirring occasionally, cook about five minutes or until mixture thickens, water is absorbed and mixture looks uniform.
Remove from heat and cool-you can use the Canadian Fridge for this, i.e., just put it outside. Meanwhile preheat oven to 400 F and prepare pie shell. Fill pie shell, cover with pastry, crimp edges and brush with egg wash. Slice up to six slashes in top of pie to allow steam to escape during baking, and place pie in oven. Bake for around 50-60 minutes or until crust is golden. Remove from oven and let it sit, set and cool for 15 minutes before serving witha simple side salad and of course, ketchup. And for an authentic French-Canadian experience, try this homemade Habitant ketchup
Homemade Habitante Ketchup
- 4 whole cloves garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp celery seeds
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp whole allspice
- 2 pounds tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 5 tbsp maple sugar (this is what makes it habitante!)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 anaheim chile, chopped
- 1 clove garlic
- Wrap cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon, celery seeds, red pepper flakes, and allspice in a layer of cheesecloth; tie into a bundle and put into a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat along with tomatoes, salt, vinegar, maple sugar, onion, and chile; smash and add the garlic.
- Cook, stirring, until onions and chiles are very soft, 40 minutes.
- Remove spice bundle; purée sauce in a blender until smooth.
- Strain sauce through a mesh strainer into a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 30 minutes. Add more salt, sugar, or vinegar, if you like.
- Transfer ketchup to a glass jar. Set aside; let cool. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.