Any Franco who grew up in Southern Maine has probably had this discussion. What is the secret to a good pork pie and, more importantly, how is tourtière pronounced? My aunt brought tourtière to Christmas dinner this year and conversational mayhem ensued. There are many variations on the classic dish, not only the recipe, but the name of the pie.

In the 1970s, to my young and untrained ear, my Grandmother and Mother would call tourtière, “toots-yay”. Fortunately, I have a professional French language consultant, a long time friend and French teacher; she confirmed that there is a dialect of Canadian French that adds an “S” sound near the second “T”. There is another version that adds a “K” that makes it sound something like “tort-kay”. For further confirmation, I asked a French Canadian staff member who pronounced it “tourrrrrtyai.” The delightfully rolling R’s were beautiful.

The great Christmas debate continued to the creation of pork pie. My Mom’s recipe is very straightforward: ground pork, some ground beef, onion, salt, pepper, a tiny bit of water and cracker crumbs. Simmer it all for an hour, or maybe more than an hour, there isn’t actually a written recipe. If fatty grease remains on the surface, you can sop it up with bread and apparently feed it to the dog, if one is handy.

Other versions of tourtière have cloves, all spice, poultry seasoning and plain mashed potatoes in lieu of saltine cracker crumbs. The problem is that each maker of pork pie is the expert and got the recipe from Grandmere or Great-Great Tante Lydia. When the aprons come off and the oven mitts are tossed aside, please step in to stop the argument. Can’t we all just get along?

So, to settle the dispute, I have consulted the Biddeford Historical and Archives Society Cookbook from 1976. According to Muriel Cantara’s entry in the book, the recipe:

Pork Pie Muriel Cantara

After midnight mass on Christmas Eve, it is traditional for families of French Canadian descent to get together for a reunion. Pork Pie is a must on the menu.

Filling for 9” double-crust pie:

2 lbs. ground lean pork

1 lg. onion

salt and pepper, to taste

dash of all-spice

Cook pork on low heat for several hours. Add onion, chopped fine, and seasonings to pork. Cook over low heat for several hours. After it is cooked, you may add more seasonings to taste.

Set aside pork mixture to cool — skim off excess fat and add 2 lg. potatoes (cooked and mashed). Put on top pie crust and bake at 400° for 1 hour.

Pork pie is probably not the healthiest meal, especially when accompanied by holiday cookies, egg nog and all the other food indulgences. We are here to help! Maine Snap-Ed will be hosting a four-week program at McArthur Library, Eating Healthy on a Budget. Sessions will be Jan. 8, 15, 22 and 29 from noon to 1 p.m. The program is free and open to the public. There will be healthy food and a free cookbook for participants. Let’s aim to get over our dietary excess and eat healthy in 2020.

And if you have the ultimate tourtière recipe, please let me know. I can be reached at [email protected]

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