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Posted on Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 9 a.m.

Share a French Canadian tradition and make pork pie for Christmas Eve

By Mary Bilyeu


Mary Bilyeu  Contributor

I'm a mutt: Austrian and Irish on my father's side, and Scottish, French and Canadian on my mother's.

Sometimes I think I must be related to half of Canada. My maternal grandfather's family can be traced to the late 17th century, when the first ancestor left France and set foot on this side of the Atlantic. For generation after generation, it shows that virtually every surviving male married, fathered perhaps 16 children, remarried after his wife died, and had another 13 or so children with his second wife. I violated the tradition by having only one child!

But I continue the French Canadian tradition of serving pork pie — known as Tourtiere [tohr-tee-AIR] — on Christmas Eve.

Yes, I also eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve like every good Jewish person who's not celebrating the big holiday (even though I do still put up a tree and exchange gifts with loved ones). But everyone knows I'm always here for the food; enjoying two wildly different cuisines just makes things more fun!

This is not a family recipe handed down through the decades but rather one I've cobbled together myself. My mother's version had great flavor; but the meat was very loose and fell out of the crust, which is typical of every other recipe I've seen for this classic dish. So in addition to tweaking the filling by combining both pork and sausage, I've also added egg to bind everything together.

I'm sharing this with you a bit early because you need to make the filling and chill it before placing it into the pie crust and baking it. According to lore, wives' tales, or whatever else you'd like to call it, the pie is also best if made, frozen, and then reheated. I'm not usually efficient enough to do that, and this pork pie is still a family favorite... start your preparations a day ahead, serve it for Christmas Eve, and you'll love it anyway!

Tourtiere (French Canadian Pork Pie)

1 pound bulk breakfast sausage
1 pound ground pork
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Spike Salt-Free All-Purpose Gourmet Natural Seasoning (a lovely marketing gift) or Mrs. Dash
2 large bay leaves
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 pie crusts (for a double-crust pie)
2 eggs
1 egg yolk + 2 tablespoons water

In a large saucepan, combine the sausage and the pork; brown the meat, breaking it up as it cooks. Add the onion, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and seasoning; cook until the onion is translucent, stirring frequently. Add the bay leaves and the chicken stock; bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed. Place filling into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until cold.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out one crust and place it into a 9-inch pie dish.

Stir the 2 eggs into the pork filling, then spoon filling into the pie dish. Cover with the remaining crust, crimp edges, and cut slits into the top.

Beat the egg yolk with the water and brush the egg wash over the pie.

Bake for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 40-45 more minutes until the pie is golden. Let the pie rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

Makes 8 servings.

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Mary Bilyeu has won or placed in more than 60 cooking contests and writes about her adventures in the kitchen. She was thrilled to have her post about Scottish Oatmeal Shortbread named as one of the daily "Best of the Blogs" by the prestigious Food News Journal.

Go visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — on which she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related. Feel free to email her with questions or comments or suggestions:

The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers as they cook along with her ... may you always be happy here.



Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

I love meat pies. This one sounds so tasty!

Mary Bilyeu

Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 6:58 p.m.

Thank you! It's really good - truly, a family favorite ... :)

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 5:22 p.m.

What are the traditional accompaniments?

Mary Bilyeu

Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 6:57 p.m.

There is nothing in particular, from what I can gather, that is essential. Everything from gravy to chutney to - gasp! - ketchup can be served with the pie. I eat it "as is" ....

5c0++ H4d13y

Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 5:22 p.m.


5c0++ H4d13y

Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

This is what you eat Christmas morning when you open gifts.


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

This recipe sounds very good. Actually, much better than our traditional family pork pie recipe which my Grandmother and Mom labored over every holiday (usually served Christmas morning). Our recipe was more traditional English I believe and used suet to make the crust. By today's nutritional standards, it was probably pretty unhealthy. But due to the time involved in making it, it looks like a tradition that will NOT be continued in our family! Your recipe looks like a nice alternative to try however. Thanks for posting this.

Mary Bilyeu

Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 3:53 p.m.

I'm not sure that this version of the pie wins any prizes for health! But it's wonderful, and it's really easy to make - you can even be forgiven for using purchased pie crusts to save time and effort. I do hope you enjoy it ... :)