May 15, 2021

HERITAGE RECIPE: Tourtière (Meat Pie)

As promised, I have a recipe that is a little more adventurous than last week's Pumpkin Bread. I actually followed two recipes to make this--one for the crust and one for the filling. The crust recipe was actually submitted to the Rockwood, Michigan Area Historical Society by my grandma! I wish I had memories of this, but sadly, I do not--most of my memories of my grandma were after she developed Alzheimer's. She passed away in 1999.

My mom said that my grandma used to make Tourtière every year at Christmastime--not just for the family, but also for the priests at church and for close friends. She made it for the family every Christmas Eve. Her filling recipe wasn't in the book, unfortunately but there were three other recipes for the filling. Here is a photo of my grandma ("Gobby") and me:

The recipe I chose for the filling was submitted by Carol Tilly in memory of her great-grandmother Rose (Beaubien) Laura. Carol was born in 1930 and passed away in 2018. The year she graduated high school, she was one of only SIX in her class! She was also the Valedictorian. Later on, she volunteered for veterans' services, crocheting lap blankets for veterans in the VA hospital--how sweet is that?

Carol's great-grandmother, Rose, was born in 1866 and passed away in 1959. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find any info about her, other than what I'll share below. I chose her recipe because tourtière is a French-Canadian dish, and her last name (Beaubien) sounded French to me--and I figured it was my best chance at an authentic recipe! (Hey, whatever works.)

I even found a picture of each of them... Carol is on the left and Rose (her great-grandmother) is on the right.

Sorry if this is boring, but I found it very interesting! I was able to find Rose on, an ancestry site, and I kept digging back generations to see if any of her relatives were born in Quebec, Canada--that's where the Tourtière recipe originated. And sure enough, Rose's great-great-grandfather was Jean-Baptiste Cuillerier Dit Cuillerier dit Beaubien (I had to copy and paste that, haha) from Quebec, born in 1709. He died in Detroit, so I can assume that he is the one who emigrated from Canada to the States, bringing the family name.

If my assumptions are correct, then I like to think that this is an authentic tourtière recipe from Quebec in the 1700's. Fun! Okay, I'll get on with it...

As usual, I am copying this recipe exactly as written, but make sure you read my notes. (If you plan to make the recipe, use the printable copy linked below, because I rewrote it to be easier to follow.) Also, I made this exactly as written--no substitutions or changes.

Here is a printer-friendly version!

First, my grandma's recipe for the crust...

French Pastry for Tourtière

2 cups sifted flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter
3 Tbsp. lard
1 egg
1/4 cup milk

Sift flour and salt. Add butter and lard. Blend with pastry blender. Beat egg and milk together. Stir into flour mixture. Chill 1 hour.

My notes: This is very self-explanatory--it was easy to make, even for me (who is notorious for screwing up baked goods). I prepared this and while it was chilling, I worked on the filling. This makes enough for the bottom- and top- crust for one pie.

Tourtière (Meat Pie)

1-1/2 lbs. ground pork
1-1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 or 4 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
dash nutmeg
1/2 tsp. sage
Pie crust for 3 pies

Combine first 8 ingredients (meat and seasonings) in large pan. Cover with water. Boil, uncovered, 30-45 minutes. Stir often to prevent sticking. Cook potatoes; mash and add to drained meat. Add sage and salt and pepper if needed. Remove bay leaves. Fill pie crusts. Cover with top crust. Bake 45-60 minutes at 400 F. (A traditional Christmas treat.)

My notes:

The first thing I noticed was the potatoes--they aren't listed in the ingredients list. I wasn't sure how many I needed, so I looked at some other recipes for tourtière to get an idea; for this amount of meat, it looked like 3-6 potatoes). I had four large potatoes at home, so I used those. It turned out to be the perfect amount. (I would guess the potatoes were probably 10 oz each? I should have weighed them. But it's not crucial to get the perfect amount of potatoes.)

I'd never cooked ground meat this way before (in water) so it was fun to try something different. I'm not sure why you don't add the sage in with the meat while it's cooking, but I followed the directions.

It says pie crust for three pies, but when I was done making this, the filling was only enough for two pies. This is the texture of the filling:

To assemble: Divide the dough in half. On a floured countertop, roll out one half of the dough in a large circle, big enough to cover the bottom and sides of a pie plate. Spread half of the meat filling into the dough-lined plate. Roll out the other half of the dough and drape it across the top. Pinch the edges of top and bottom crust together. Cut a few slits in the top to release steam while baking.

I only made one pie; I put the other half of the filling in a Ziploc bag and set it in the freezer to make another day.

The verdict: I SO BADLY wanted to love this! And I would have... if it weren't for the cinnamon and nutmeg. My family agreed. The texture was nice, the crust turned out great, but I just wasn't crazy about the cinnamon-nutmeg flavor with the meat and potatoes. I would definitely make this again, but I would change the spices.

This was a fun recipe, even though I spent two hours making it! I can see why this was reserved for Christmas Eve dinner ;)


  1. Yum! My grandmother (from Connecticut) made these often. They were delicious.

    1. I'm so glad I ended up making it--I had no idea that it was a tradition in my mom's family!

  2. This pie looks really good. I think it's so cool that part of the recipe was from your grandmother!!! And I absolutely love the picture of you two! ❤️ Do you still have the recipe book that your aunt put together (I went looking in your recipe posts for Gobby's casserole and re-read the post.)? If so, I'd love to see you cycle through some of those recipes as well.

    1. Yes, I have my Grandma's recipe book--and I'd love to make some more of her recipes! I'll have to see if she has any that were handed down. I really love trying old recipes (the older the better). A lot of the ones in her book are probably from the 1950's era. I'm glad I made this tourtière--I had no idea it was a family tradition for my mom until I asked her about it a few days ago.

  3. Hi Katie . I am French Canadian so grew up eating tourtiere for Christmas! Spices/herbs vary a lot depending on your own family traditions - my husband's family uses savory and no cinnamon , my family uses nutmeg and sage. The potato is used as a binder so the filling is less watery - some have them cubed, some have them mashed but one small potato would be plenty. In my family we use breadcrumbs. As you can see - lots of variation.

    1. Thanks so much for the info! I'd love to know some different spice variations--maybe what savory combination your husband's family uses? When I was digging back into the history of tourtière, I saw that the very early ones were made with wild game: pheasant, rabbit, moose, and pigeon!

    2. Katie - we could talk for ages about tourtiere! There are actually 2 kinds - one is basically the meat pie that you made with ground meat most often a mix of pork/beef/veal and the other is with cubed wild game . My husband's family uses only 2 Tbs summer savory and onions. My family recipe uses 1 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp sage and a pich of ground cloves and nutmeg. All for 1.5 lbs of meat so i was not surprised to see your 3 lbs making 'only' 2 pies.

  4. Hey..just think how much your trivet is worth! Haha!!

  5. This sounds super interesting! But I agree with your thoughts on the cinnamon and nutmeg. That freaks me out a little. But I guess I won't know unless I try it for myself!

  6. Hello from Quebec! You HAVE to try tourtière with ketchup, it's a game changer!


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