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Aug 15, 2007 06:58 PM

help improve my tourtiere!

After a trip to Quebec, I came home and made tourtiere - but it turned out dry and crumbly. The filling didn't hold together. What's going wrong?

I simmered ground pork with various spices for about an hour. The recipe didn't call for any fat or binder. I added an egg white anyhow before pouring the filling into a pie crust, hoping the filling would hold together better. I baked the pie shell filled with meat at 350 for about 40 minutes.

Everything tasted good, but the tourtiere fell apart like any ground meat would.

Help me make my next one stick together better!
Anybody have experience making great French-Canadian tourtieres?

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  1. Did you add any mashed potato, potato flakes or dry bread crumbs to the meat mixture? Did you drain the meat, or cook it until the liquid was all gone? Did you use a lean meat?

    I've made tourtiere every year for new years for about 30 years. I've never had it fall apart the way you describe. The meat is cooked, starting with enough water to see it, through the meat in the pot. Do not drain it all off, nor cook it until the liquid is all gone. I don't recall ever cooking the meat any longer than about 20 minutes, unless it was a stew meat. (In Texas a couple of years ago, I couldn't find ground pork, so I used what seemed to be a stew pork. It worked fine.) By choice, I have always used ground meat. For me, that's part of what binds the meat pie together, WITH some breadcrumbs or potato. Some years ago, I saw the prep of tourtiere on some program, that described adding dry breadcrumbs, a tablespoon at a time, to the cooked meat, and let it sit a few minutes, between additions, until it has absorbed all the liquid. It tends to take a couple of minutes to soak up more of the lovely juices. (Who? Me? Patient? I tend to start with 1/4 cup and then a tablespoon at a time, but that's from experience. It probably would not have worked if I'd done that the first time.) If the meat is too lean, you may have some problems getting it to bind, but I've not come across that, myself. (I remember that as a comment in the program. I wonder if it was Jeanne Benoit...)

    I came across a tip somewhere. (I'm a fiend for tweeking recipes) A little summer savory in the crust adds just a little added dimension to the dish. I've tried it and it's a nice thing to do, for any meat pie that uses a pastry crust.

    Good Luck with your next attempt!


    7 Replies
    1. re: violabratsche

      Hmm - breadcrumbs! Good idea, and strange that it wasn't in any of the recipes I saw. I used 1/4 cup water for 1 pound (450g) of ground pork. I DID drain off the water and fat. Probably a bad idea - but I didn't want the pie to be "swimming". Next time I'll try not draining it, and adding a bit of breadcrumb.

      BTW, I also got the idea of adding savory to the crust! Yum!

      1. re: bellywizard

        bw - I don't know if you've seen the recipe I posted, it's here:
        It does call for some bread crumbs. Also, I find the allspice is very nice (I grind it fresh). Adding stock, not water, will give it more flavor too. (I've gotten excellent reviews for this recipe from my Quebecois friends!)

        1. re: morebubbles

          Oh, I love that recipe that you posted, morebubbles! I don't care for celery, but I like the flavour of celery leaves or celery powder/salt in the meat mixture. I have a LOT more breadcrumbs available than 2 tablespoons, but don't always use it, and what a GOOD idea to make the flavour richer, by using stock. I'd forgotten about that. It seems to me that I use more liquid than that, but I do tend to do it all by touch, now.

          If you can find a homemade fruit chili/fruit relish, there's nothing in the world like it to have with the tourtiere.


          1. re: violabratsche

            Hi AnniG! Agreed on your points - I do intend to make a fruit relish of some type-cranberry? fruit ketchup? rhubarb? don't know yet (or simply buy one at one of the markets here) for using with tourtiere. And I do use celery leaves as well as the stalks, I like the leaves for cooking. Homemade stock makes a lot of difference! I do use heaping tablespoons of the breadcrumbs, and I do not drain any liquid.

            1. re: morebubbles

              The New York Times ran a tourtiere recipe on 19 December 2001 (adapted from a cookbook by Julian Armstrong) that I like a lot, and it includes a quarter-cup of rolled oats. The oats disappear completely in the cooking but help to hold the whole thing together. Of course, many tourtiere recipes (and they are countless--approximately one per household) include potatoes, but I personally don't like that taste and texture. As for relish, some Quebeckers make a rhubarb ketchup, spicy and sweet, that I think makes a nice accompaniment.

      2. re: violabratsche

        Tourtière in many french canadian families is unique. Some vary the meats used, the spices, potatoes or flakes even the pie crusts. The one identifying ingredient that's never to be left out however is the clove spice without it you would not have tourtière. The recipe I use is my families and has been passed down for at least 6 generations. My family settled in Montreal in the 1600 and later moved to Upper Canada (Ottawa area). The recipe changed due to non availability of different meats. Here is my recipe:

        Equal portions of ground pork, beef, veal or 1 lb minced pork
        1 small onion, chopped
        1/2 tsp salt
        1/2 tsp savory
        1/2 tsp dry mustard
        1/4 tsp ground cloves
        1/2 cup water (or chicken broth)
        1/4 - 1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
        1. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan except the bread crumbs. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring often to break up the meat. Remove from heat.
        2. Add a few spoonfuls bread crumbs, let stand 10 minutes. If the fat is sufficiently absorbed by the bread crumbs, do not add more. If not, continue in the same manner. Cool and pour into a pastry-lined pie pan. Cover with pastry. Bake in a 375F oven for 30 minutes. Serve hot.

        My family makes a green or red tomato relish to top it with but if you don't want to bother making some you can buy Habitant green or red chow chow, although not the same close enough. We have also been known to serve it with pickled beets (my mom used to can them).

        1. re: Suds46

          Suds, I recognize that recipe as exactly the original that I had, used, and still use as a base. I haven't used veal as it's been so expensive, however, I may check and see if I can find a package that's small enough and not too dear. Thanks for posting it, as I am pretty sure I lost the original along the way. (Long story, not worth the telling)


      3. The recipe i have used for years calls for 1 lb. groound pork, 1 med. onion chopped, S&P, savory, some ground cloves, 1 bay leaf, 1/4 C. boiling water. Cook all 20 mins skimming fat. remove from heat and pour filling into a prepared pie crust, preferably one made with lard. Top with another and bake 375 F. 30 minutes until browned. We like a bit of pork gravy with ours.

        I usually make it for Christmas Eve supper. A couple of years ago I prepared it early in the day and since it was pretty cold outside I put it on my screened porch on the table to await baking. My youngest dog was very insistent on going out side but from a different door (poods are pretty smart dogs). We did not figure out what was going on until my DH brought the pie in and looked very puzzled. He asked if the pie had looked as it now did when i put it out on the porch table. The Loulu had found a hole in the screen that needed mending and each time she went out she let herself into the porch and had been systematically eatiing the top crust off. I baked it anyway. It was still good.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Candy

          Candy, your recipe looks like a lot of the ones I've seen. Yours doesn't use any breadcrumbs or oats, or other binders. Have you ever had trouble with your filling falling apart & not sticking together? Do you have any other helpful tips? Does your filling have much liquid (water, fat) when you pour it into the crust, or is it pretty dry at that point?

          1. re: bellywizard

            It is always firm and slices well. I do let it stand a bit. Now I am very careful where i let it srand and keep an eye on it. Oh I'd say it is a bit moist going into the crust and it does pick up some fat from the lard in the crust

        2. Nothing improves tourtiere than ketchup. Not that nasty sweet stuff Heinz makes but good, sharp spicy homemade ketchup. I'd comment more directly but I think everyone else has the basics covered. Although, just for a comparison, here is Madame Benoit's recipe:

          1. I add mashed potatoes to my DH is from Quebec and he doesn't object!! I'm not sure that it's an authentic part of tourtiere but will help bind the meat so give it a try!

            1. Ingredients roughly translated from Quebecois. Chapelure is breadcrumbs.

              500 G of chopped fresh pig taken in the buttock
              1 large onion thin slice
              125 ml of chapelure
              salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg

              Here's a great piece from CBC--the great Toutiere debate:

              Most telling comment from the French guy--his mother changed her recipe around 15 years ago because pork has become so lean. She adds veal!