Foods You Should Know: Tourtiere

On the night before Christmas, all through the house all you could smell is the fact I can’t rhyme and this fantastic Quebecois meat pie called tourtiere.*

Tourtiere is a traditional Quebecois** meat pie made around the Christmas season. Depending on where in Quebec you reside in the filling for this pie can vary. It is believe to have been created in the 1600’s during the early colonization of the area by the french.

The name tourtiere comes from the traditional cooking vessel that the pie is made in, a tourte. A tourte is a medium depth, usually cast iron, basking pan. The word tourte also refers to the passenger pigeon, which was one of the common fillings for French-Canadian meat pies before their extinction. Am I blaming the extinction of passenger pigeons on the people of Quebec? Yes, your forebears were monsters.

The tourtiere that most known to Canadians is one made from finely minced pork meat, with spices such as cinnamon, clove and black pepper. This particular style of tourtiere is native to Montreal. As your travel to some of the more remote french speaking regions of Quebec you see more wild game used in tourtiere. Caribou, venison, moose, and duck are  all common as well as beef and veal(which you should never shoot for game).

Not all recipes for tourtiere use only minced meat in the pie. Many times you will see potato and/or other root vegetables added into the filling usually to provide some extra moisture and texture. It’s also common to use Ketchup as a condiment as the meat inside the pie can be a little bit dry. I like using maple syrup but I may get shot with a compound bow for saying that.

Without a doubt the most important part of the tourtiere is the crust. If there is thing people from Quebec do well it’s protest. But if there is something else people from quebec do well, making beautiful golden brown flakey crust. Any tourtiere worth it’s salt has a fuck off good crust both flakey light and rich.

Now thus far I have made it sound like tourtiere is a quebec only phenomenon but that is not true. You can pretty much find a regional variation of tourtiere all over Canada and in the North Eastern United States. On the west coast of Canada we see a smoked salmon tourtiere. In Alberta we see the use of Bison, pork and potato to give the pie a very rustic prairie feel. In the North East United States we see a more classic tourtiere but with the sweetness of maple syrup or honey added.

Now during the Christmas season you have a new mission. Find a great tourtiere recipe or one pre made from your local bakery or butcher shop. They are a crowd pleaser.

*Easily the worst thing I’ve written in this blog. And that is the extent of my Christmasiness. Soak it all in.

**For my international readers(Yes I have international readers), Quebec is a central Canadian province which has a large french speaking population. It’s cuisine is an interesting off shoot of classic French cuisine blended with a love of wild game and a cold climate sensibility.