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December 13, 2013

Pork Pie: A Christmas tradition for many

The tourtière has become a traditional part of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations in Quebec, but the pie is also enjoyed at other times throughout Canada, as well as in the upper Midwest and eastern parts of the United States, especially in New England.

My internet research states that the tourtière is a French-Canadian meat pie that originated in Quebec as far back as 1600. Most recipes for tourtière include ground pork and occasionally other ground meats. There is a difference of opinion about the origin of the name of the dish. Some believe that the dish is named after the now extinct passenger pigeons, called “tourtes,” that were cooked into the original pies. Another opinion is that the pie is named after the deep ceramic baking dish that families used to create the pies. It is, however, agreed that by 1611, the word tourtière had come to refer to the pastry containing meat or fish that was cooked in this medium-deep, round or rectangular dish.

A while back, Dede Borkush of Hampstead, N.H., sent me her family recipe for French Canadian Pork Pie. She has been reading the Times’ sister paper The Eagle-Tribune for a long time and enjoys the food and recipe pages. I contacted her to find out more about it. She shared with me her childhood memories of Christmas Eve, which included pork pie, and her family’s customs that have evolved in more recent Christmases.

I love hearing about traditions that develop from one’s heritage and past generations, especially when celebrating the bigger holidays. I have learned so much from listening to others tell of their beloved traditions and memories. It is a wonderful way to learn about the world around us. So I thank Dede for her story and her family recipe. She told me she enjoyed taking a stroll down memory lane as she wrote the recipe and its history.

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