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Dec 26, 2013 02:11 PM

Quebecois Tourtiere or First Nations meat pie??

Had a real great meat pie a few years back when visiting the Mohawk reservation near Montreal, Quebec. It was fairly similar to a tourtiere but different, only seemed to have a meat (probably pork) and potatoes filling. I can't find an exact recipe and Christmas time has got me craving it bad! Anyone have any ideas or recipes that sound similar?

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  1. What you are describing sounds rather like a tourtière du Saguenay or Lac St-Jean, but up there people (whether of French or Innu descent) use game for the meat if they can source it. The meat is in small chunks, as are the potatoes. I haven't visited Kanawake at Christmastime, or really eaten much of anything there when I was visiting (for cultural events).

    1 Reply
    1. re: lagatta

      Searched into those types of tourtieres and you hit the nail on the head! Thanks a ton.

    2. My first girlfriend's father was from a village in Saguenay and used to cook for us his version of the tourtiere du lac-st-jean that he learned from his grand mother. He called it Cipaille.

      He had 3 kind of meats in it and it was never the same kind everytime we had it. It also had potatoes and other veggies. It was a deep dish and quite impressive in size.

      It's amazing how the evolution of a recipe changes from area to area.

      16 Replies
      1. re: maj54us

        Wow never heard the term Cipaille before! Must've been nice with the different meats every time. Did he ever use game meats?

        It truly is fascinating!

        1. re: HulkGreen

          Yes he used rabbit, partridge, elk and moose but also did it with pork, chicken and beef when game meats weren't available.

        2. re: maj54us

          Alright, so for this Lac-St-Jean guy (who happens to have a girlfriend from Charlevoix), here's what I know about the nomenclature.

          Tourtiere is cubed potatoes and meat (pork, beef and chicken or preferably game like wild hen, rabbit or hare). It rests in a thick crust and in a fairly large pan (a large Creuset or cast-iron dutch oven). It has dough on all sides. Only has salt and pepper. Yes, us 'bleuets' are fairly defensive on what it's supposed to be! :D

          Cipaille is a Charlevoix and Bas-du-Fleuve (Gaspesie) specialty. It is also cubed meat and potatoes, but has either only a crust (the sides/bottom don't have dough) or has a few layers of dough (a mid layer and a top one). It is also spiced with traditional meat pie spices such as clove, Allspice, cinnamon and savory (that obviously varies, but plays to those flavors). Cooks in the same type of dish as a tourtiere, so they're supposed to be large.

          Meat pies are ground beef or pork and may have spice or just salt+pepper. They are either pie shaped or small individual mini pies. No potatoes. For us, calling meat pies tourtieres is akin to blasphemy, but a lot of city folks (especially Montreal) call them tourtieres.

          Hope it helps!

          1. re: Voidsinger

            According to _La bonne cuisine canadienne_ a cookbook published in 1927

            Tourtiere is made with chopped (haché) pork, onions, water, salt and pepper. Then put in a pâte brisée and cooked in a hot oven.

            1. re: EaterBob

              Again, fully agree that the 'tourtiere' term is attached to what is more commonly called a meat pie. As an example, Martin Picard in his original Au Pied de Cochon book has a 'tourtiere' recipe and does explicitly mention that it is not akin to a Lac-St-Jean Tourtiere and thus may offend some. The cookbook series from the 'Cercle des Fermieres' in Quebec also has two recipes, one for a typical tourtiere and one for a 'Tourtiere du Lac', which is the one I described.

              Ultimately, it's a lighthearted point of pride but simply that. Let's call it whatever, as long as its good!

              1. re: EaterBob

                I understand that the original "tourtiere" include meat from a type of pigeon, now extinct, called a "tourt'.

                1. re: williej

                  I also read that it's not but history is told by those interviewed I guess. lol

                  I found this archive video where they mention the same thing in the text area and yet other site says the word come from a bread called torta.


                  1. re: williej

                    I read this on another thread and snooped around. This from the definitive, all-knowing Wikipedia:
                    "In the 18th century, the Passenger Pigeon in Europe was known to the French as tourtre; but, in New France, it was called tourte.[19] In today's Canadian province of Quebec, the traditional meat pied (sic) called "tourtière" was once cooked with the bird. In modern French, the bird is known as the pigeon migrateur.[19]"

                    So it was likely the passenger pigeon.
                    True origin or not? I buy it as true (hell its in Wikipedia!).

                    As a nod to questionable history, I wanted to make a true tourtiere last year. As much as I tried, could not find a source for passenger pigeon. I substituted duck and the canardiere was a delicious addition to our xmas meal...

                    1. re: porker

                      I usually make mine with duck. Also friendly for any Jewish or Muslim guests.

                      1. re: porker

                        If you were not jesting, I would add that passenger pigeos are extinct.

                        1. re: williej

                          yeah, I was jesting.
                          as you mention above "type of pigeon, now extinct", I just wanted to point out that its the passenger pigeon.

                          " As much as I tried, could not find a source for passenger pigeon." was just my weak attempt at humour.

                          1. re: porker

                            So many version which makes them all plausible.

                            On the french version of this wiki article they say although it was cooked with the bird, the name of the pie is not related to the bird

                            but to the latin word torta. They also say that the dish was common in France.

                            1. re: maj54us

                              Cool thread. I've never heard of Cipaille. I agree with Voidsinger, after spending a couple months in the Saguenay, I realized I'd been calling meat pie by a false name all my life.

                              Btw it makes sense that it was originally made from a type of pigeon or other common bird, and later adapted to game meats in the new world, since pork and beef would've been aristocratic foods back in the day.

                              1. re: maj54us

                                From what I heard the tourtière was the dish in which the pie was prepared (the similarity of the name with the bird being a coincidence).

                                For the Cipaille, it can also be called Cipate. The interesting story about it is that it might originally be a corruption of the term "sea pie" which denoted a meat pie made from stuff catched in the sea.

                2. In Kahnawake, its simply called "meatpie".
                  Its ground pork cooked in water with chopped potato, salt, and pepper (a few folks add garlic, but not many. In leaner times, there was more potato than pork).
                  Pie dough is rolled out and placed in a tin pie plate, the meat/potato mix is ladled in and a pie dough top covers it and into the oven.
                  The pie dough (crust) is as important as the filling. Its usually cooked ahead of time and warmed for the meal. Also eaten cold.
                  Some like it covered in ketchup, others in cranberries or turkey gravy. Me, I like it plain, hot or cold.
                  Mrs porker makes 15-20 pies for the holidays. Sometimes I'll shanghai some filling and add cayenne (hot pie) or cretons seasoning (cretons pie) for one or two pies.
                  If'n you want, I can get the exact (well it'll be a verbal account) recipe from the missus when she gets back from the hairdresser. Let me know.

                  21 Replies
                  1. re: porker

                    Wow 15-20, that's pretty incredible. What you've mentioned seems to be what I remember about the pie I had. No veggies or notable tastes of spices like cinnamon or clove as I've seen in other recipes online. Does the Mrs or other folks usually make the dough from scratch or is it store bought?

                    I would love a copy of that recipe if it isn't too much of a hassle! And that cretons seasoning sounds pretty interesting, gonna have to try that out.

                    1. re: HulkGreen

                      The dough is made from scratch.
                      Mrs porker uses the recipe found on the Tenderflake box (tenderflake is pure lard and is key to the crust - don't fool around with butter or margarine, or Crisco - you gotta use Tenderflake). Besides the recipe on the box, you can find instruction here

                      Now the filling...
                      The wife learned to make meatpie at her mother's side as a child. No measurements are made, just a basic rule of thumb that 1lb of pork hash will make 3 pies. The rest is by eye, consistency, and to taste.

                      I once quantified her method and I think I wrote it in my cookbook. However, the book is at work (a co-worker wanted my gravlax recipe) and I'm on vay-kay. If I get it, I will re-post.

                      She puts ground pork in a pot and adds water to cover and brings to a simmer, stirring occasionally to break up the meat.
                      At the same time, she peels, halves, and boils white table potatoes until very soft. Once done, drain and mash using a potato masher, add to meat mix and stir.
                      Add salt and pepper to taste.

                      I like this filling and enjoy it straight out of a bowl (but I have to sneak it from Mrs porker).

                      Roll out your dough and place in pie tin with overlap. Ladle filling in, roll out more dough and cover pie, pinch edges to join, cut off excess overlap, make hole in center to allow steam to escape, plop in 350F oven until crust is browned.
                      I posted some picts of the wife's pie just outta the oven here
                      'bout halfway down the thread.

                      I like it to cool a bit, cut and eat when warm, not piping hot. You can make ahead, cool to room temp, put in ziplock in fridge. Warm in oven later on, or eat cold.
                      You can also freeze it, but the filling gets watery when warmed.

                      About the cretons seasonings...don't tell anyone, but I cheat with El Ma Mia cretons spice mix
                      just add to taste (careful its salty - you don't need much).

                      1. re: porker

                        Oh man this is perfect. Thanks so much. Going to get all the ingredients I need soon.

                        Helpful tip on the Tenderflake! Knowing myself I probably would have used butter instead, but it's gonna be all lard for this meat pie.

                        1. re: HulkGreen

                          If you have, you can certainly use "real" pie tins. The wife, making 20 at a time buys 3 for a dollar tin, pie plates. Note that all tin pie plates are not created equally - some are deeper, some are smaller, etc etc. This doesn't matter so much, but can affect your yield.
                          She occasionally makes smaller, individual pies in the tiny 3-4" tins, but thats more work.
                          You can pick up everything you need in one stop: pork hash, potatoes, tenderflake, flour, egg, and pie tins at the grocery.

                          Note that a 1-pound package of Tenderflake is good for 3 nine-inch "double crust" (crust under and over) pies.
                          For these 3 pies, 1lb of pork hash (454g) is the rule of thumb.
                          I'd suggest getting a bit more, maybe 1.5lb (~600g). Better to have a bit too much than not enough.
                          Also the ratio of meat to potato is up to you. Like I said, in lean times, households would make more of a "potato" pie than a meat pie.
                          Lets see....
                          The wife just used two "big packs" of pork hash along with a 10lb bag of potatoes (4.54kg weight before peeling)). Theres a big pack of pork in my freezer now thats anbout 1.3kg. So lets say she used 2.6kg of pork hash with 4.54kg of potatoes.
                          thats 1:1.7 meat to potato ratio, or about 1 to 2.
                          If you wanna make 3 pies (1 box of tenderflake)
                          use about 500g (~1.25lb) pork hash and 1kg (~2.25lb) potatoes (before peeling).
                          But its really up to you - want more meat, put more meat, want more or less potato, put more or less.

                          Just one request: report back on your results, hehe.

                          1. re: porker

                            This recipe is perfect. We had some very fresh organic white potatoes delivered recently from Lufa farms, and the Tenderflake recipe helped me overcome my fear of making my own pastry. I couldn't find creton spice today so I added a dash of clove, nutmeg and cinnamon but otherwise, just followed the instructions. The kids are very happy to have some small pies for school lunch. Next project, creton! Thanks for inspiring me.

                        2. re: porker

                          Do you buy that cretons seasoning in-store or online? Looks pretty great

                          1. re: HulkGreen

                            I buy them in a grocery store like IGA or Metro. Their website includes Maxi, Loblaws, Provigo, and Super-C.

                            Me thinks El Ma Mia changed their packaging some years back and perhaps encouraged stores to clear their shelves of old stock. I bought 8 jars at half price, gave away 2 hars and am now down to my last 1/2 price jar. Likely need more next year or so.

                            It makes pretty good cretons, but thats another thread.

                          2. re: porker

                            Thanks for the recipe :) My mom and I also make about 15-18 pies each years, but we cheat and use store bought pie dough (the one we roll ourselves). Since we make it on a week end when I'm visiting her in Outaouais, we never seem to have enough time to do the dough ourselves. Altough this year we did do some gluten free pie dough for my sister (interesting experiment...). As for the meat, we usually calculate .5 lb of meat per pie, we get the deepest tin dishes we can find and pile them up.
                            We do ours not with pork (my mom is not fond of pork) but with a mixture of veal, bison and beef. It does make for a leaner pie, and we need to do some experimenting on that to avoid it being to dry, Last year I braised some beef shanks and shredded them in the filling, it worked well and helped make it a bit more fatty...

                            We cook it like your wife, with the water, but we strain the ground meat at the end a little to avoir too watery tourtières (specially since they all go in the freezer for the winter months and the holidays).
                            We also spice it with a mix of cloves, cinnamon, savory, all spice, garlic, salt and pepper, and put small cubed potatoes in.
                            I like the mashed potatoes idea, It might help making the filling a bit more moist.
                            Ill have to try to make some with pork one of theses days, and find time to make my own pie dough.How does your wife go around making it for a big quantity like 20 pies? She makes a couple of batches in advance and keep in freezer? Let me know, I'd like to try it next year.
                            For us we always have the pie with ketchup, ideally homemade. Its also tasty on the xmas plate mixed with the turkey gravy and the cranberries.
                            Below some of this years pies, and also the 2 gluten free ones .

                            1. re: sophie.brunet

                              Nice batch!
                              I think like most family recipes, its all about what you grew up eating. At our house (and pretty much everyone in our town), its pork and basically the recipe I gave.
                              Once in a while, my mom would get a store-bought beef tourtiere. Not that it was bad, just not what we were used to.
                              I think the reverse is true too;
                              My brother's wife first tried our meat pie when they were dating. She grew up in Montreal and her family's tourtiere was beef - she didn't care for ours (took her YEARS to come around, hehe).

                              Mrs porker usually sets aside a full day for baking. If she's gonna do it all at once, she'll start with the dough then put it in the fridge to chill before beginning other tasks (cooking the meat, peeling/cooking the potatoes, etc). The dough has to be cold before using.
                              Sometimes she'll make the dough the day before and put it in the fridge. This'll save her time the next day.
                              Its also a versatile dough - she uses it for apple pies and chicken pot pie.

                              1. re: porker

                                I feel that we need a Chowhound Tourtiere Taste Test now, porker vs sophie.brunet!
                                Your posts, descriptions and pictures are seriously making my mouth water - your families are very lucky that you take the time to make such big batches! Enjoy the feasts on your labour :)

                                1. re: unlaced

                                  haha our tourtières are not ready for a taste test! each year we tweak the recipe a little, but since we have been doing them for only 3-4 years now (before it was my great-aunt doing them for us) we still have a way to go before perfecting the recipe, and since they get done only once a year, progress is slow! But when we finaly get to a perfect recipe, ill share it and then maybee we can do a test :p (in 15 years?) lol

                                2. re: porker

                                  Wow all in one day! She's a trooper! Us we are two doing it and we are exhausted after one day of it (and with store bought dough)! Next year Ill try doing the dough the day before and leave it to chill. Thanks for the tips :)

                                  1. re: sophie.brunet

                                    It used to be Mrs porker and her mom doing everything. Alas, my MIL is 85 years old now and is happy to contribute by peeling the potatoes while sitting at the table.

                                    I looked through my pitifully archived photos in my computer (which, if this was 20 years ago, would have been a pitifully archived box of prints...) but could not find the one I was looking for.
                                    It was some years back and the wife was making meat pies for Easter.
                                    Her mom was on the porch being visited by her sister (my wife's aunt, a year younger than her mother).
                                    Anyway, the wife had cranked out 27 pies (she gives quite a few away) and the women were astonished. I asked to take a picture of the three of them (mother-in-law, aunt-in-law, and wife) while the women held a piece of paper each.
                                    I wrote a "2" on one paper and a "7" on the other and "pies" on the third....I snapped the picture.
                                    Looking at the screen, I realized the the old ladies mixed up their papers: apparently my wife had made 72 pies...

                                    1. re: porker

                                      That must be a funny/cute photo :) I hope I will still be making tourtiere with my mom when she is 85!

                                      1. re: porker

                                        Amazing. I'm ready for the creton thread, btw!

                                        1. re: Plateaumaman

                                          Plateuamaman (I almost wrote Plateauman...again),
                                          Its easy as pie (actually easier, hehe).

                                          Get some El Ma Mia cretons spice (its a kind of "cheat", but it works well) from a supermarket.
                                          You *can* follow the included recipe which contains "side pork" (the French version describes it as "panne de porc"). Its said that "This ingredient is essential". I used fresh pork belly chopped in cubes the first time I made cretons, but basically did away with it after that (I found it not to be "essential")
                                          -theres a recipe hard copy in the spice jar.

                                          So you get the spice, get some pork hash, and an onion. Place the pork hash in a pot and add just enough water to cover. Add *finely* chopped onion, bring to boil, lower and simmer.
                                          Stir often to break up meat (I use a masher as well).

                                          At first, the texture will be watery, but as the liquid evaporates, it gradually becomes more cohesive (if you shake the pot, it'll jiggle more than splosh about - this is what you're looking for).

                                          Add the spice.
                                          The recipe calls for 2.5TBL per 5 lbs of meat. Use this as a general starting point: if you have 2lb of meat, use about 1 TBL spice to start, etc.
                                          Taste. Adjust.
                                          Start with less than you think as you can add more (I sometimes made the cretons too salty by adding too much spice right off the bat).

                                          Add more water to make soupy again, and simmer down again. Repeat this adding water/simmering down for about 2 hours.
                                          When, after cooking two hours, its cohesive again (evaporated liquid), ladle into containers of your choice. I like smallish plastic containers like the Ziplock brand
                                          leave 1/4" space at top. Let cool on counter. When room temp, cover and put in fridge.
                                          It'll set up nicely and enjoy the next day!

                                          Lemme know if you try it.

                                          1. re: porker

                                            Excellent, that sounds like a recipe I have lost somewhere and all I could remember was that the onion and pork cook together for a long time, no bread crumbs. The creton spice sounds smart, will look for it. Otherwise, I gather it is primarily nutmeg, clove and a hint of cinnamon? Or sage? Will let you know how it goes!

                                            1. re: Plateaumaman

                                              In the recipes I see on-line, its always salt, pepper, clove, and cinnamon. Sometimes with, sometimes without nutmeg, allspice, savoury.
                                              I'd suggest the El Ma Mia to start to get a kind of base line. Maybe after that add other spices to personalize it, or strike out completely on your own with spices and amounts of your choice.

                                              Its pretty easy to do, so experimentation is simple.

                                              Me? I like the El MA Mia and just go with that.

                                              1. re: porker

                                                After our success with the tourtière recipe I decided to try the creton one. Really good, kids are very happy, spicing is just how I like it with a bit of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, a dash of marjoram, salt and pepper. Still haven't found El Ma Mia spice but as we're trying to recreate the flavour from a butcher from a village near Quebec City so I think this could be it. I did buy especially fatty ground pork which is important for texture. Thanks again!

                                                1. re: Plateaumaman

                                                  Glad you liked it.
                                                  I don't remember if I mentioned this in the thread or not; sometimes I'll add cayenne for heat and/or paprika for color. Sometimes I'll add ground veal and use an immersion blender at the end to make a very smooth, creamy cretons.
                                                  You can experiment and personalize very easily

                                                  1. re: porker

                                                    Good idea. I've already got some pork for the second batch!

                          3. Welcome to Chowhound...
                            Just curious, why were you visiting Kahnawake?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: porker

                              A friend at the time was invited to a Christmas party and brought me along. Only been once but I had a great time.

                            2. As an hommage to Quebec terroir (and -28C temps), I made a ragout des pattes de cochon avec boullettes de viande (pigs feet stew with meatballs). I strayed from the traditional and added red wine, carrots, celery, and potato (I wish I had me some peas...). I was kind of shooting for a cross between Cordon Bleu meatballs&gravy/with Vegetables of my youth (picture below) and ragout des pattes of my brasserie days. It was delicious.

                              I was thinking it would make a pretty good pie filling as well.
                              Its on the list for mrs. porker's next pie making session.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: porker

                                I know Cordon Bleu is awful but I sometimes crave this thing randomly, especially the so-called Irish Stew!

                                1. re: NanaMoussecurry

                                  My mother heated a can about once every two weeks as I walked home for lunch from grade school (I ate it while watching the Flintstones, but thats another thread).
                                  I ocassionally have a penchant for it, usually when hungover...