December is a food fest for my family. We have a host of traditions that involve gathering, cooking and eating together. The holidays are not holidays without them.
My mother, Florence, and I delight in the time we spend in the kitchen creating our culinary feasts. We have been doing this for many years. Unfortunately, my mom can’t travel to be with us for Christmas this year, so I’m off now to join her in her warm condo in the freezing cold of Manitoba to cook the recipes we love. Travel over 3500 miles to cook together, you ask? Absolutely. It’s our tradition!
Of the many recipes, we recreate every holiday season, I want to share a very special one, passed down by my mom’s family. Tourtière, a wonderful, savory meat pie, has been a Christmas favorite for generations. I devoted an entire chapter in The Work of Her Hands, my book about my maternal grandmother, Marie Anne Lacaille, to the making of this delicious dish. On the farm, she always served it on Christmas Eve to relatives and neighbors who dropped by for hello and holiday cheer.
My grandmother made fresh pie crusts, of course. But I resort to Pillsbury frozen for mine as, sadly, I’ve never mastered the art of crust making. If you can make a good one, I applaud you!
3 lbs. “not too lean” ground beef (or 2 lbs. ground beef, 1 lb. ground pork)
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
6 large potatoes, peeled
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon each nutmeg and ground cloves
3 unbaked double pie crusts
Brown meat and onion in a large frying pan; add salt and pepper to taste and cook slowly for about an hour, stirring often so the meat doesn’t stick to the pan. Add a little water, if necessary, so the meat remains very moist.
In the meantime, boil peeled potatoes. When potatoes are cooked, rice them into the meat mixture and add cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and more salt and pepper to taste. Mix and cook for approximately 15 minutes on low heat, stirring often.
Divide evenly into pie crusts, cover with top crusts, which have been vented, and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 45 minutes, or until crusts are nicely browned. Serve immediately. (Extra pies can be cooled and frozen for later use: reheat at 300 degrees for about 1 hour.)
At our home, my mom and I have often made it as part of our French Christmas Cuisine night ~ homemade yellow pea soup to start, followed by the meat pie along with a big bowl of dill pickles, cold slaw, and batch of well-fried chicken wings ~ all dishes I remember my sweet grandma making with such deftness and love.
I invite you to give Tourtière a try. Your taste buds will thank you and, who knows, maybe you’ll add this delicious meat pie to your list of holiday food traditions!
Happy Holidays and Many Blessings,