Cousins Matt Gagne and Kristen Gagne have launched a tourtiere seasoning blend they say produces a pie just like memere used to make,  in a lot less time.  TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

SANFORD – The scent of tourtiere, warm and fragrant from the oven, brings back memories of family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Tourtiere, or pork pie, is a French Canadian dish that evokes memories of memere and pepere, aunts, uncles and cousins gathering around the table on holidays or other special occasions. There is always food and laughter, always camaraderie and always pork pie, among the other tasty treats.

Tourtiere is one symbol of a heritage and culture – and a tasty one at that. Tasty, yes, and time consuming to make from scratch – often three hours from start to finish, said Kristen Gagne – who has made plenty that way. First one must cook the meat, the potatoes must be boiled and incorporated with the meat in just the right proportion and then come the spices. The mixture gets combined and tucked into a homemade pie crust and baked.

Tourtiere, a French Canadian pork pie, can be less time consuming to make with the advent of Tukkay Original Seasoning Blend, offered by KMG Foods, a new company launched by Sanford cousins Kristen Gagne and Matt Gagne. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Kristen, an English as a Second Language teacher who now lives in North Carolina, and her cousin, Matt Gagne, a Sanford Police Department Corporal, are both Sanford natives. With deep French Canadian roots, the cousins grew up eating pork pie and other French-influenced foods.

But, Kristen said, she noticed that while pork pies remain a popular dish, fewer and fewer people in their 30s, like she and Matt are, were making them.

Matt agreed.

“Its always been one of those staples we had during the holidays, but that fades as the generations fade,” he said.

Neither were willing to let that happen.

“I didn’t like the idea of that tradition dying,” Kristen said. She figured there had to be a way to reduce the time-consuming nature of making the pies from scratch.

She began to experiment and mentioned her intentions to Matt, now the company’s community liaison, who said he was in.

“We’re both foodies,” said Matt, explaining they once competed to see who could make the best cheesecake, with their other cousins deciding the winner.

Now, their company, KMG Foods, is about to launch Tukkay Original Blend tourtiere seasoning mix. It is scheduled to be available on Amazon, perhaps as soon as the first of the week, the cousins said, just in time for the holidays. That means if you want pork pie, don’t have memere’s recipe or live in Los Angeles or Nashville, where the pies aren’t available in local markets as they are here,  you’ll be able to make your own – without investing the better part of a morning or afternoon doing so.

The packet contains a mix of dehydrated potato, onion and spices. Pie makers should brown about a pound of ground pork and a half-pound of ground beef, add the seasoning packet, stir for three minutes and then add the recommended amount of water or stock. After simmering for a few more minutes, it all gets spooned into a pie crust and baked. The exercise takes about 45 minutes from start to finish.

The result is a flavorful pie with a moist texture that doesn’t crumble when sliced.

Why is it called Tukkay?

Cousins Kristen Gagne and Matt Gagne have launched a new seasoning blend for tourtiere – helping keep a French Canadian tradition alive. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

“Because that is how my memere pronounced tourtiere,” said Kristen.

The seasoning mix is also versatile enough for the pie baker to use ground turkey – the cousins recommend 15 percent fat content – or with lentils and root vegetables or textured vegetable protein.

The cousins say the seasoning blend can also be used in meatballs, meat loaf, soups, stews, French-Canadian tacos, meat stuffing or in “lasagna,” made with gravy instead of tomato sauce. It is certified gluten-free.

This holiday season,  Tukkay Original Blend will be available only on Amazon, but they hope the product will be on the grocery store shelves next year.

And the cousins are already thinking ahead to other possibilities.

“We’re hoping for another product for the summer, “ Kristen said. “We’re celebrating those flavors, the history and tradition.”

In the meantime, folks can check out the company website at: www.kmgfoods.com, which will have a link to Amazon when the product is available, or their Facebook page.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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