Winter in Québec is by far my favorite season. I often tell people that winter is the best time to visit Québec. Yes, it’s cold, but Old Québec turns simply magical. Lights, decorations, and a whole German Christmas market become part of downtown Quebec. It’s no wonder that CNN is ranks the city among the world’s top ten destinations for celebrating the holidays!
If you happen to spend the holidays, particularly Christmas Eve in Quebec you might be lucky enough to be invited to a traditional Christmas feast after midnight Mass. The feast is an old tradition from France called reveillon. And celebrating the holidays the traditional way in Québec would not be done right without having a tourtière at the table. Tourtière a pie made with potatoes and various meats, including finely diced pork veal or beef, and four spices – cinnamon, clove, allspice and nutmeg. A traditional Christmas réveillon or New Year’s Eve meal in Québec would not be complete without it.
You could buy tourtière at most grocery stores, but what I certainly recommend is making it at home. Better yet, do it the slow food way – invite some friends or family over to share it, or even — you can make a little tourtière competition, where everyone brings their own.
There are different variations of tourtière around Canada, and even within Québec. The biggest difference is in the meats that get put in it, though the condiment or sauce that the tourtiere is served with at the end can also vary. Whatever the difference is, they are all delicious! Below is my favorite traditional version, but whatever your version is, it always makes for a very memorable dish, that’s for sure!
The Best Tourtière Recipe
Makes 6 to 8 Servings. Uses a 9-inch pie pan.
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cups butter, cubed (just cooler than room temperature, but still firm)
¾ tsp salt
½ cup cold lard or vegetable shortening, cubed
1/4 cup water (room temperature)
3 tbsp sour cream
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 pound ground pork
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried savory
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 bay leave
Salt to taste
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 egg, beaten, for glaze
Pastry (make the day before)
In a food processor, mix flour, butter and salt. Using pastry blender, cut in butter and lard until you get pieces the size of small beads. In a separate bowl, mix egg, water and thyme leaves. Add to the food processor, pulse until dough just comes to together. Remove from the processor and form a ball, trying not to work the dough. Cover or wrap with plastic film and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
In a large skillet, heat over medium heat, combine pork with cold water, and heat to boiling point. Let it remain slightly soupy.
Add onion, celery, pepper, savory, rosemary, nutmeg, cinnamon and bay leave. Cook, covered, over low heat for one and a half hours, stirring often. If the mixture dries out, add more water. When the mixture is ready, season with salt to taste.
Stir in rolled oats and cook, stirring, for one to two minutes.
Remove bay leaf and allow to cool.
Preparing the Tourtière
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Line a 9-inch pie plate with the pastry. When the meat mixture is lukewarm, spoon it into the pie shell.
Brush around outer edge of pastry with the beaten egg and cover it with the remaining pastry. Trim pastry, crimp edges and cut steam vents in top crust. Decorate with pastry cutouts as desired.
Bake in the preheated oven at 425 F for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 F, and bake another 25 minutes or until crust is golden.
Optional: Apply egg wash five minutes before removing from oven.