Around this time of year, special dishes resurface from the kitchen and are meant to be shared around the table. For me, there are 3 quintessential Christmas foods that I look forward to eating copious amounts of: couronnes (gooey cinnamon buns in the shape of a wreath), ginger snaps and, my very favourite, tourtières. What makes these recipes so special is that they have been handed down by generations of strong, French Canadian Pinault women. Unfortunately, this is the first year I won’t be spending the holidays with my grandmother Ninie, who by the way, is turning 89 and is as sharp as a whip! So, in honour of her and her homemade delicious foods that won’t make it to my plate, I have chosen to try my hand at making my own. You should have heard how proud she was to share her recipe with me over the phone. Merry Christmas grand-maman!
I should also note that the classic French Canadian tourtière from Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, where my family is from, is actually made with layers of game, such as moose, venison, pork and pheasant.
Yield: Makes 12 mini tourtières
Pie Crust (Made in advance)
2 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup unsalted butter, cubed and kept very cold
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 to 8 tbsp. ice water
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar.
- Incorporate butter cubes and, using a large whisk, break down the butter into the flour until you have a coarse mixture.
- Stir in the cold water one tbsp. at a time, picking up any loose flour. The dough is ready to be formed with your hands once it begins to hold together.
- Dump dough on a clean and floured surface and knead dough a few times. Do not over work the dough as that will make for a tougher, denser texture after baking.
- Split dough into two balls, cover in saran wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
1 tbsp. butter
2 large onions, finely diced, fried in butter
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1.5 lbs. ground pork
2 cups water
1 medium potato, cubed
2 tsp. all spice
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pan, brown the onions and garlic in a tbsp. of butter.
- Once onions have sufficiently browned, add ground pork, stirring well to break up any clusters.
- Before meat begins to brown, add enough water, roughly two cups, in order to just cover the meat.
- Add all your seasonings and stir well.
- Cook for an hour over medium heat, then add small potato cubes.
- Cook for another 30 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated.
Assembly and Cooking
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Butter and flour a muffin tin.
- Remove one ball of dough from fridge and roll out into a thin crust over a floured surface.
- Using a large glass or a round cookie cutter, cut 12 circles into the crust. The circles should be large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the muffin moulds, with a little extra sticking out for sealing.
- Remove second ball of dough from fridge and roll out into a second thin crust.
- Using a smaller glass or round cookie cutter (large enough to cover the tourtières with a little extra for pinching), cut 12 circles into dough.
- Fill each muffin mould with your meat mixture.
- Cover each mini tourtière with a circle, pinching the top and sides together sealing each one.
- Using a sharp knife, cut a little shape into the top of each tourtière.
- Using a little melted butter or egg wash, lacquer each tourtière.
- Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes or until crust is very golden.
- Remove from oven and cool in muffin tin until ready to serve. Serve with homemade green tomato ketchup.
Green Tomato Ketchup
Yield: Makes 6 small mason jars
2 dozen green tomatoes, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 red peppers, diced
2 cups white wine vinegar
1.5 cups sugar
4 ground cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot, sautée onions.
- Add diced tomatoes, red pepper, vinegar, sugar, cloves, nutmeg, salt, pepper and cook down, over medium heat, until you reach the right jam-like consistency.