This is my mother in law’s, Muriel, recipe. She is renowned all over Lewiston, ME for her “meat pies” which is the local colloquialism for tourtière. Dan (my husband and her son) tells me, they were usually served between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The pies freeze well, which is great for entertaining because you can pop them in the oven for an hour, and spend time with your guests. Typically pickles or piccalilli are served as the pies are very rich.

Anyone who cooks will find it no surprise that family recipes to be vague in the details of measurements- it’s “a shake of this”, “a handful of that”, but hardly ever 1/4 cup of something.  Learning from watching and helping  your grandmother cook often made specific measurements for ingredients unnecessary, I think. In Muriel’s case, my father in law was her “taster” and she’d add the spices and he’d taste, they’d repeat the process until he gave the ok, then it was properly spiced. Since I don’t have Larry here to guide me, I have to use my own wits and rely on Dan’s tastebuds to make sure that the meat pies taste just so. Ground cloves is one of the spices and if you add too much, it all goes down in flames.

I’ve done my best to try and approximate measurements. Try to use ground pork that is decently marbled. Pork that is too lean will be too dry. I get my pork from a local farm. You can grind it yourself, or ask the butcher at the grocery store, from a pork shoulder, which has a moderate amount of fat.

TOURTIÈRE
(French Canadian Pork Pie, Muriel Nadeau’s recipe)
Makes 4 pies

Need:
4 double pastry crusts
(This recipe is for a top and bottom crust, so make this 4 times. I make them separately because I like to control the portions)
2 cups sifted flour
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 cup ice water

In a food processor or by hand, cut butter into flour and salt. When the butter/flour blend looks like peas, add water 1/4 cup at a time until the dough just comes together. Form into a ball, flatten into a disc and refrigerator until needed.

*Some recipes for pastry crusts call for 2 sticks of butter and less water. I find that the pastry gets too greasy. If you want to up the fat, then you can go with 1-1/2 sticks of butter and cut back the water by half or so, depending on the humidity in your house.

**You can also use vegetable shortening or lard for your crust

Filling:
4 lbs ground pork
4 medium onions, finely chopped
4 medium potatoes, diced
1 cup water
10 saltine crackers, finely crushed
2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper
Spice blend:
2 T cinnamon
3 tsp allspice
3/4 tsp ground cloves

Cook pork with onions, salt, pepper and water. Stir frequently to break up the meat, you can use a potato masher. Cover and allow to simmer for about 3 hours.

After 3 hours, add 1-1/2 T of the spice blend. Mix in well and allow to cook, partially covered, for another 1 hours or so, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Cook the potatoes and run through a ricer or mash well. Add to the pork mixture, along with the crushed saltines. Taste and add salt, if you feel it needs it.

Put the pork mixture into a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight.

Day 2:

Divide pork mixture into 4 equal portions. I used a food scale and it works out to about 1-1/2 pounds of pork per pie.

Roll out 4 bottom crusts. (I tend to do this one pie at a time to keep the dough as cold as possible because, you know, butter. If you use vegetable shortening, this isn’t much as an issue as it doesn’t need refrigeration.)

Fill each crust with its portion of pork. I use a graduated spatula to smooth out the mixture.

Roll out your top crust. I brush a little water along the edge of the bottom crust to ensure a seal. Trim the crusts, roll under and then crimp the edges.

Brush the top with a beaten egg or cream (milk in a pinch).

Bake at 350 for an hour.

Alternatively, you can freeze the pies before baking. I put them in the freezer until frozen, then wrap in plastic wrap and foil. I find them easier to handle when frozen. Brush with cream or milk and then bake at 350 for an hour and ten minutes.

Enjoy!

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