Celebrating tourtieres by sharing traditions

There are probably as many recipes for the traditional preparation of French Canadian tourtieres as there are families who grew up feasting on the meat pies during Les  Fêtes (the Christmas Holidays including the New Year).

Noel and Hanakkah candles

After reading about tourtiere in a Montreal Jewish newspaper, I recommend we include the tradition in celebrations with both Noel and Hanukkah.

Nevertheless, even knowing about the varieties of recipes, I was pleasantly surprised to find a fairly new contribution to this family tradition.  A Jewish tourtiere recipe, also called a holiday “meat pie”, was published on a Montreal news page. This nice coincidence gave me the idea of creating an opportunity whereby Franco-Americans, with our Jewish friends and neighbors together, can celebrate Les Fêtes, while keeping close to our special religious heritages.

It so happens, the dates for the 2019, Judeo-Christian celebrations of Les Fêtes and the tradition of Hanukkah (the Jewish festival of lights commemorating the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem) more or less, coincide. In fact, my family will be lighting our Menorah on Christmas Day, to honor our good friends who gave us a candelabra and Yamaka as gifts, at their son’s Bar Mitzvah.

Hanukkah candelabra

Our family will light our Hanukkah candelabra on Christmas Eve.

Réveillon (Christmas Eve after Midnight Mass) begins the Franco-American Les Fêtes celebrations, extending into Christmas day and lasting through New Year’s Day, 2020.  During this time, families host home parties and reunions, sometimes these parties include a surprise Santa Clause visits (an honor passed along and shared among family members). Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, begins December 22, and continues through the evening of December 30.  In other words, in 2019,  both of the week long traditions will nearly be concurrent celebrations.

Tourtieres are typically featured on the menus at Franco-American gatherings, especially during Les  Fêtes. In fact, our family even gives fully cooked tourtieres to some relatives who are too busy to bake. Many recipes for preparing tourtieres are available on the Maine Writer website, at the link here. Now, I will gladly add the Canadian Jewish recipe to this growing collection.  A recipe link here  provides another on line example for preparing a traditional tourtiere.

The following recipe was Published in the Canadian Jewish News

MEAT PIE – FRENCH CANADIAN TOURTIERE (Joannie Tansky) – I added a few of my own suggestions, based on experience.

Perhaps this particular recipe is not familiar to the ones I collected from readers, but the original ingredients are evidence about how tourtieres can be whatever a family declares to be their favorite! This recipe does not require a round pie plate.

Published in The Big Jewish Mama’s Cookbook

900 g (2 lbs) finely ground meat

1 398 ml (14 oz) can sliced mushrooms

1 640 ml (2½) cup jar tomato sauce, seasoned is OK

1 large Spanish onion or 2 small onions, finely diced

5 ml (1 tsp) salt

5 ml (1 tsp) granulated garlic (Maine Writer – I recommend 2 cloves of diced fresh garlic)

5 ml (1 tsp) oregano

3 bay leaves (be sure to remove bay leaves after simmering)

45 ml (3 tbsp) oil (or butter)

1 450 g (1 lb) package puff dough

1 egg to brush the dough

optional: sesame seeds

Sauté the mushrooms and onions until softened for 8 minutes. Season well with salt, the garlic and oregano (this is in addition to the seasonings above).

Add the meat. Before beginning to crumble it, season with the salt, garlic and oregano. Chop the meat with a fork until crumbled and mixed very well with the onion and mushroom mixture.

Add the entire jar of tomato sauce and mix until fully blended. Add the bay leaves.

Cook uncovered on a low (simmer) flame for 10-15 minutes. Turn off the burner and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Pour the entire mixture into a colander to drain most of the liquid.

Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and spray with oil.

Flour the counter and roll out the puff dough so it is big enough to be cut in half equally, with each half fitting the cookie sheet.

Cut the puff dough in half lengthwise. Fold one half gently and place the dough on the cookie sheet. It should overlap the edges a bit.

Place the meat on the dough (remove the bay leaves) and spread evenly.

Cover the meat with the remaining dough. Pinch the edges together. If there is too much dough, cut off the excess with a scissors or knife.

Using a fork, make air holes in over the top of the dough.

Brush with egg, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake at 200°C (400°F) for 20-25 minutes or until the dough is a beautiful, dark golden brown. This freezes well.

If you are not eating immediately and want to freeze it, wait until the tourtiere cools before moving it. Holding the edges of the parchment paper, slide it onto a large pice of aluminum foil. Cover well. To transport to the freezer, use the cookie sheet and slide it onto the shelf.

Before defrosting, cut it into squares. It’s much easier to cut when frozen (Maine Writer: or partially frozen) than hot.

My family’s recipe for tourtiere is among those in the collection found on the Maine Writer website. Our preferred spices are cinnamon and cloves. https://www.mainewriter.com/recipes/

Et à tous Joyeux Noel et Bonne Hanoukka!


Juliana L'Heureux

About Juliana L'Heureux

Juliana L’Heureux is a free lance writer who publishes news, blogs and articles about Franco-Americans and the French culture. She has written about the culture in weekly and bi-weekly articles, for the past 30 years.