My mother-in-law’s Christmas Eve tourtière recipe

Since my husband will miss two Christmases in a row with his family in Winnipeg, I decided to surprise him at dinner tonight with the meal that his mother serves the family every Christmas Eve: greek salad and tourtière.

slice of tourtière (by Karen Hamilton)

I had to call my mother-in-law for the recipe this week. It was one of those family recipes that hasn’t really been documented. Technically, she does have her notes jotted down somewhere, and I’m sure it was based on someone else’s recipe once upon a time, but my MIL does this savoury pie with her eyes closed nowadays. I hope I can do it justice and transport my husband if only briefly to his mother’s dinner table tonight.

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For the pastry

You could always buy pastry shells from your local grocer, but for me and my family, Christmas is about making everything from scratch!

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 lb of (Tenderflake) lard, very cold
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 cups ice cold water

Mix first 4 ingredients above in a large bowl. Integrate the lard using a pastry cutter.

Using a cup measure, break in 1 whole egg and add in 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Add enough ice cold water to make 3/4 cup liquid. Sprinkle this liquid over the lard mixture and toss together.

Divide into 5 equal pieces. For each pie you’ll make, roll out 2 pieces large enough for your pie plate. Shape remaining pieces into flattened discs and wrap in wax paper. You can freeze these in a large freezer bag for 3-6 months.

For the filling

  • 2 lbs lean ground pork
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper (generous grind)
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of thyme, savoury, sage (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (1/3 teaspoon adding optional spices)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic (optional)
  • 1 cup boiling water (kettle)
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

On medium to high heat, crumble pork into frying pan. Add water, garlic, onion, and spices. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes.

Cover and simmer for another 20 minutes. If there’s more than a 1/2 cup of fat in the pan, take out all but a 1/4 cup.

Mix in 1/4 cup of fresh bread crumbs and let cool completely.

Final Assembly

Lay one piece of your rolled out dough into pie pan. Fill to the brim with the meat mixture.

Lay the second piece of rolled dough over the pie. Press edges down with tines of a fork and cut excess off with a knife. Make Christmasy shapes to top pie with the excess dough. My mother-in-law does holly berries and leaves.

Brush top of pie with heavy cream or egg mixture (1 egg and 1 tablespoon water, beaten together). Lay down pasty dough decorations. Brush decorations very lightly with the cream or egg mixture.

Bake in oven at 375F for 30-40 minutes . You know it’s ready when dough is golden brown and sticking a knife into the very centre of the pie comes out piping hot.

Making ahead

If all you want to do on Christmas Eve is pop a pie into the oven, you can prepare everything in advance. As mentioned above, the pastry dough will keep 3-6 months in the freezer. You can make the filling up to a week in advance and assemble the final pie for the freezer.

To do so, wrap your uncooked pie in 2 layers of saran wrap and a layer of foil and place in your freezer. Thaw in the fridge the morning that you plan to serve your tourtière at dinner.

tortiere (by Karen Hamilton)

Bon appétit and have a wonderful Christmas Eve!

6 Replies to “My mother-in-law’s Christmas Eve tourtière recipe”

  1. Tortiere was originally made from plentiful small wild pigeons called Tortiere. I make mine with ground and browned moose meat, onion, grated carrot and spices. My pastry is right off the lard box. mmmmmm good

  2. Lovely! My Tourtiere recipe is quite identical to your Mother in laws, save for my use of icing sugar instead of brown sugar in the pastry, & mashed potatoes instead of breadcrumbs in the filling. I’ll have to try your MILs version next time around. I’m especially intrigued by the brown sugar in the pastry. A complete different flavour I’m sure.

    Thank you!

  3. Mary-Eileen: sorry for the year-late reply…but just so that there is an answer for you…

    My mother-in-law and I have both made pies a month in advance (filling inside the crust) and it turned out decent–not optimal, but alright. I find the bottom of the crust gets soggy from too many weeks of contact with the filling, which can be quite moist. I suppose you could shape the bottom crust, freeze it, add the very cold filling, lay the top on, and freeze everything. Haven’t tried this personally, though.

    I use this dough for more than just tourtiere, so I often have a batch of frozen dough sitting in my fridge. That’s why I do the filling closer to the date that I need it.

    Teapotter: so happy to hear you had success with this recipe.

    PS: we recently tried a shift in the pie dough from 100% butter to 50-50% butter/leaf lard. So much better!

  4. My husband is from a French Canadian background and I have a few times made tourtière for him but had lost the cookbook I previously used. I found quite a few recipes on the internet but was happy to come across your posting since it sounded so similar to the recipe I had lost. I used a tsp of savoury and didn’t use the thyme or sage. It turned out perfectly and made our Christmas Eve dinner delightful!

  5. Is there a reason why you say the filling can be made a week in advance and frozen, but the crust can be made 3 months in advance? It’s one month before Christmas and I’d like to make and freeze the tourtiere now. Does the filling lose its flavour if it is frozen for more than a week? Change texture?

  6. omg, that looks yummy! give savary pie co. a run for their money! merry xmas to you guys and i’ll have to try this recipe sometime!!

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