back porch picnic – tourtière with onion confit

With apologies to my vegan/vegetarian friends and the promise of more vegan posts to come, there’s been a sudden spate of pork pies popping up in my life. I’ve had two in quick succession. But this classic French Canadian tourtière served by my friend, Kingston writer, David More was the Perfect Pork Pie.

David was the first person to volunteer to write a guest piece for my blog. He also offered to cook for me. And what’s more he offered me wine – nice wine. I said yes before he could change his mind and went straight over. We had a late lunch on the back porch of his beautiful 1850s limestone house, overlooking the charmingly overgrown garden, eating tourtière with a caramelized onion confit, and drinking a 2008 Pinot Noir produced by local Prince Edward County winery Trumpour’s Mill.  Pinot Noir, sometimes said to be made from the heartbreak grape, and fondly referred to as “sex in a glass”, is traditionally served with game, lamb, pork, and charcuterie. It was the perfect foil for the pie and light-bodied enough to be a great afternoon wine.

David’s wife thought we might be a little mad – cooking pies in the heat of summer. But the truth is, tourtière is actually an ideal summer dish – in fact – a perfect picnic dish. It’s time it was rescued from Christmas Eve.

Tourtière can be made entirely in advance and served hot or cold with a simple chutney and side salad. It’s hearty enough to be filling and best of all it’s so tasty. It lends itself to a backyard picnic. Think France… a backyard table set with a proper tablecloth, wineglasses, pottery vases full of garden flowers, and a large shade umbrella.

Find more about David More – including information on his meticulously researched historical novels set locally at:

Or read my article on David More in the Queen’s Alumni Review at:

And here’s David More’s post and tourtière recipe…. thank you David!

  Les Canadiens sont là!!  By David More

Those of you who enjoy eating the wonderful traditional French–Canadian meat pies called tourtières may not know that their main ingredient originally came from fast-flying, plump and tasty hordes of wild Passenger Pigeons, known in French as les tourtes.

Passenger Pigeons have been extinct since 1914, but up until the mid-1800s they darkened the sky in teeming billions. During a mid-18th century trip to the Susquehanna River from his home in the Mohawk River Valley, William Johnson (Johnson Street in Kingston is named for his illustrious son, and William Street for himself) noted that he had seen millions of the handsome birds in just a single forest nesting site. Some authorities have since calculated that when Europeans arrived in North America, there were likely more Passenger Pigeons alive than any other species of bird, anywhere in the world.

Now, of course, tourtières are usually cooked using pork, beef or veal. Some variants use fish, venison, duck or other locally appreciated ingredients. Wild turkey tourtière may the closest ‘living’ relative to the original, metaphorically speaking.

Most Quebec families have their own treasured recipe – many of which are remarkably similar. The recipe here is a classic example. Serve with a caramelized onion chutney or similarly tangy condiment, a green salad, and a hearty ale or a pinot noir.

 David More’s Classic Canadian Tourtière

Pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie

1 pound lean ground pork
1/2 pound regular ground beef
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped or 1 tsp dried thyme, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

Roll out pastry and place bottom crust in pie plate.

In a frypan sauté pork, beef, onion, and garlic. When meat is lightly browned, add water, salt, thyme, sage, black pepper and nutmeg. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils; stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer until meat is cooked, about 5 minutes.

Spoon the meat mixture into the pie crust and top with remaining rolled prepared pastry.  Pinch pastry edges to seal. Cut several vents in top crust so steam can escape. Cover edges of pie with strips of aluminum foil to prevent over-cooking.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, remove foil and return to oven. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until pie is golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.



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