Canadian Pork Pie - Tourtière

Posted by Biggles on December 27, 2003

For this holiday's meal my wife was kind enough to offer a few of these tourtières. As you can see, it's a bit of work. She did the pie dough cause she knows how. I supplied the LARD and fresh ground pork meat, cause I know how. (Thank you to Jan for dropping off the remaining needed LARD). If you haven't had or made a tourtière in the last ten years, you haven't lived. Print out this recipe and swear to yourself, DAMMIT TO HELL MAN, THIS TIME I AM GOING TO MAKE THIS WORK !!!

At this point I'd been smelling the filling simmer, cook and twitterpate for hours. It was almost too much to bear. I was only able to make it until dinner time cause I had a grill filled with smokey pork treats that I could play with. If I was forced to muck about without my porktoys ... well, I just don't know what I would have done.

Here you go. This was it. Sure there are some other pork yummies such as the smoked pork leg, but on the left there is the tourtière. It was very easily the talk of the evening and will be remembered for years to come. I would eat it every second if I could. It's that good.
Now for you recipe hounds. My wife was also kind enough to put together the recipe for not only the tourtière, but one for the pie crust! Yay.

Here we go, and I can't stress enough, if you have questions/comments ... ASK FOO !!!

Let's start with the dough.


"This pastry is as flaky as the all-lard recipe, but it has more flavor because of the addition of butter.  The dough is very easy to handle and can be used for any sweet or savory pie.

Quantity: One 2-crust 9-inch pie.
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup lard, cut up
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut up
5 to 6 tablespoons ice water

Read Basice Preparation Technique (page 36).  Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.  Add the lard and butter and work them into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly, with bits the size of rice.  Sprinkle on 5 tablespoons water and mix lightly, just until the dough holds together in clumps.  Add extra water only if the dough looks too dry.  Turn out onto wax paper, form a ball, wrap, and chill at least 30 minutes, or until needed."

How I do it:

I don't sift the flour, 'cause it isn't really necessary for pie dough.  Cakes and
cookies, yes; but pie dough, get serious!!!
I only use chilled lard and chilled butter. I cut the lard and butter into the flour
using a pastry blender.
The dough should be kinda lumpy.  Sure... some bits should be the size of rice,
but most of the bits should be the size of a petit garden pea. After sprinkling on the water, I lightly pinch the dough together. 
If the dough does not hold together in one mass, I sprinkle on another tablespoon of ice water and lightly pinch the dough together again.  I keep adding water and pinching the dough until I get a solid, yet lumpy (like a brain) ball of dough.  This dough should notlook uniform and smooth.
I usually have to add 1-2 tablespoons of water more than what the recipe suggests. Before I roll out the dough for my pie, I usually give the dough 4 turns.  That is, I flatten out the chilled dough and then fold it over in half four times.  Flatten, fold, flatten, fold, flatten, fold, flatten, fold, flatten fold; then I'm ready to roll!

Lard is your friend.


What a kind way to end a thought. And here is the recipe for the Canadian Pork Pie.

This recipe is from As Easy As Pie by Susan G. Purdy (good book, buy it if you can find it):

"In France, the traditional Christmas Eve after-mas supper known as Le Rèveillon features tourtière, a savory, spice-scented pork pie as versatile as it is delicious.  Wherever in the world are French cooks, there are personal interpretations of this recipe.  In the predominantly French Canadian province of Québec, the tourtière is practically the national dish, and though featured at Christmas, it is served year-round, either as an entrée or baked into individual tartlets as an hors d'oeuvre.

The dish takes its name from the earthenware or metal tourtière, or pie dish, used in France to make tourtes.  Purists declare a true tourtière must contain only pork, or perhaps pork and veal; but in my research, and that of my friend Frances Sheper, a professional cook and a resident of Montreal, proves otherwise. 
Tourtière always contains some pork but, orthodox or not, it is often combined with beef, veal, poultry, or even game.  This is essentiall a peasant pie, and thus you can be fairly creative about the contents, using leftover cooked meat if you have it, or cooking the meat specially if you don't.  In addition to the meat, a tourtièrewil always contain onions, cubed or chopped potatoes or bread crumbs to absorb the pork fat and mellow the flavor, and a touch of clove and/or cinnamon and allspice, to give its characteristic flavor.  In Québec, the most common pastry is one shortened with lard or lard-butter, though in France a basice pâte brisée is usually used.  The pastry shell is moisture-proofed with egg glaze before the filling is added, to keep the lower crust crisp.  For convenient serving at holiday time, you can prepare the unbaked tourtière and freeze it ahead, then when needed bake it unthawed.

Advanced preparation:  The pastry can be prepared ahead and frozen; the prepared pie can be frozen and baked unthawed.

Special equipment:  10-inch pie plate; pastry brush; 12-inch frying pan with lid; slotted spoon; paring knife and/or food processor fitted with a steel blade; aluminum foil strips or frame (page 25). Baking time:  425° for 15 minutes; 375° for 45 to 55 minutes.

Quantity: One 10-inch pie; serves 4 to 5.

Unbaked pastry for a 10-inch 2-crust pie made with Lard Pastry (page 62) or Butter-Lard Pastry (page63) or Hot Water Pastry (page 61) or Potato Pastry (page 68) Egg glaze:  1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 or 3 tablespoons oil or margarine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds raw pork, trimmed of fat and minced or ground, or use 1 pound pork plus 1/2 pound veal
1 cup pork gravy or stock or rich boullion (chicken or beef)
1 pound (3 medium) potatoes, boiled, peeled, and chopped coarse
Optional:  1 tablespoon chopped celery leaves.
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon each thyme, and either rosemary or savory
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon each ground allspice and pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
A dash of cinnamon

    1.  Prepare the pastry according to the recipe directions.  Chill as directed, thendivide the dough in half.  Chill one part, and roll the other out (page 38) on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness.  Fold in quarters, lift, and position in the pie plate.  Trim a 1/2-inch overhang, brush with egg glaze, then refrigerate the pastry-lined pan while you prepare the filling.
    2.  In a frying pan, sauté the onion in the oil until transparent. Add garlic,
sauté 1 minute, then add the minced pork.  Sauté about 3 minutes, then add the
veal if you are using it and sauté until the meats are browned.  Break up any
clumps with a wooden spoon.  Add about 1/2 cup stock, cover the pan, and simmer about 15 minutes to cook the meat through.  Preheat the oven to 425°F.
    3.  Uncover the frying pan and check the liquid.  Remove all but 2 or 3 tablespoons of meat juice and stock.  Add the potatoes, celery leaves, parsley, herbs and spices, and stir to blend.  Add salt, taste and adjust the seasoning. 
Add, if necessary, just enough additional gravy or stock to moisten mixture well
without making it watery.
    4.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared pastry shell.  Brush egg glaze on the overhang of the lower crust.  Roll out the top crust on a lightly floured surface, fold in quarters, lift and position it over the pie.  Trim a 3/4-inch overhang, then fold the top edge under the bottom crust overhang and pinch the two together to seal, making a raised rim all around.  Flute the edge as desired (page 44).
At this point, you can foil-wrap and freeze the pie. Or bake it immediately.  To bake, cut vent holes in the top crust.  Brush on milk or egg glaze, and if you wish, sprinkle the top with a little coarse salt.
    5.  Bake in the lower third of the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F, raise the pie to the center of the oven, and continue baking about 45 to 55 minutes longer, until golden brown.  Check halfway through the baking time and add a foil edging to protect the crust from overbrowning if necessary. 
Cool slightly on a wire rack, then serve hot or warm. Leftovers are also good cold."

Liberties I've taken with this recipe:

I cook the onions only until they are translucent 'cause they finish cooking just fine in the oven. I only use pork!!! I always add mushrooms 'cause they deepen the flavor.  Also, pigs like truffles... so, why not mushrooms, too?  I use jarred (in a jar; not upset) gravy 'cause I'm laaaaazy... and I don't usually have pork gravy on hand.  Mushroom gravy is my favorite, but when in a pinch, I'll use chicken gravy. After steaming the pork meat, I drain off the juices, reduce them and use that to replace part of the gravy. I only fill my pies when the filling has cooled to at least room temperature 'cause I like my pies to cook from the outside to the inside; not the other way around. I never trim the excess off my crust!!!  I just incorporate it all into the rest of rim of the pie.  Why cut off perflectly yummy crust? I don't brush the bottom shell with egg glaze 'cause I always forget about it and, more importantly, good pie NEVER lasts more than two days. I bake the pie until golden and the center is bubbly.  Make sure you cut a vent hole in the center of the pie so you can check out what is going on in the center of pie. I never use foil thingies on my crust 'cause I'm of the belief that the crust only overbrowns when the oven temperature is too high. My pies usually take 20 minutes longer than the suggested baking time.


Posted by Biggles at December 27, 2003 04:51 PM


And it was damn fine pork pie, too. I've already put in my request for birthday pork pie. Who needs cake when you can have pork?

Posted by: RibGirl at December 29, 2003 08:35 AM

Looks mighty tasty. Ever tried it with the stock instead of gravy?

Posted by: Robert at December 30, 2003 10:01 AM

Hey Robert,

Nah, she's only made it twice now. Doesn't the stock make it a tad runnier? The gravy really held it together, especially when you sliced it. Oh man, it was so good. I'd eat it pretty much any way you made it.

Posted by: Dr. Biggles at December 30, 2003 12:53 PM

The pie crust recipe is from Susan G. Purdy's book, too. If anyone ever is lucky enough to meet this author of As Easy As Pie, give her a big hug and squeeze for me. Her recipes are AWESOME!

Posted by: Mama at December 30, 2003 10:13 PM

Indeed, this recipe really appeals to me. My mother was Canadian from Montreal. I bet she would have known about this wonderful meal. This is the kind of kitchen activity that takes a whole day for non-cooking types like me. Maybe two whole days. One day for gathering all the ingredients and then, "voila" - "prepare'" !

These are the pork pies famous in all the British stories. Boys and girls running home from school on a bitterly cold afternoon, breathing in the wind of the savory aroma from delicious pork pies baking!

People! If you had these for your Christmas dinner, you dined like royalty!

Posted by: BB at December 31, 2003 08:25 AM

Thanks for the recipe. My Grandmother used to make a pie simmilar to this. I remember going to her house as a small boy and eating it at her kitchen counter just as my Dad did as a boy also. We have been trying to duplicate it for 35 years as she took the recipe with her. This is very close and the texture of the potatoes is exact, however hers did not have cinnamon.Its amazing how you can remember the taste exactly even though you havent tasted it in over 25 years. I guess thats why some of us live to eat instead of eating to live. I will keep working it until I get it exact.....maybe. Also try it with Heinz Chili Sauce. It may sound odd but it is the way i like it. Thanks again Tim

Posted by: Tim at October 13, 2005 07:10 AM

Hey Tim,

Thanks for stopping by. We've made this one several times, even grinding our own pork. I can believe you'd remember the taste after all those years, it IS that good and savory.
Keep up the good work, we're in this together.


Posted by: Dr. Biggles at October 13, 2005 08:07 AM

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