There’s a new meat pie in town! We’ve all heard of tourtière, the French-Canadian spiced savoury meat pie. But there’s another French-Canadian meat pie that is just as worthy of your love: an Acadian pie traditionally eaten at Christmas that hails from the Maritimes. I first heard of it through my cousin-in-law’s wife when we were sharing holiday eating traditions. When she said the words “traditional Christmas meat pie,” I had to know everything about it.
Not only did I get the recipe, but I also got to make the pie with her parents, Norma and Rufus, who are of Acadian descent and grew up in New Brunswick. We were going to cook her family’s recipe, handed down to her dad by his mother. Rufus has been making this same pie for decades in huge batches for family Christmas gatherings.
When we first began cooking I asked Rufus: “So this is kind of like tourtière, right?” I received a firm lesson from Rufus that it is not. Tourtière is a Quebecois dish, and we were making an Acadian meat pie. The flavours are different and, according to Rufus, better. The meat is flavoured with onion and most importantly, summer savoury (the stuff from New Brunswick is best). Tourtière uses ground meat and has a spiced taste from nutmeg, allspice and cloves that is totally different from an Acadian meat pie. Which one is better? They are both delicious in their own way, but I am a bit more partial to the Acadian meat pie since I learned it from a dad who has been carrying on this long Christmas tradition for his family.
A sincere thank you to Norma and Rufus for sharing their Christmas family recipe and traditions with me and our Food Network Canada readers. Maritimers are so friendly, aren’t they?
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Makes enough filling for 8-10 pies. If you're not making that many, it can be scaled down; but the ratio of meat and potatoes needs to remain at 1:1.
Cut the beef and pork into large chunks, about 2-inches in size.
Place the meat in a large heavy pot and add enough water to cover the meat. Stir in the chopped onions, summer savoury and ground ginger. Bring to a boil and then lower to a sturdy simmer for about 2-3 hours or until the meat is tender and comes easily off the bone. Add water if the cooking liquid evaporates too much; the meat should remain covered with liquid when cooking.
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes and when fork tender, drain and mash. The potatoes should be finely mashed and have no lumps; the texture of the potatoes must be completely smooth for the filling to turn out correctly. Season the mashed potatoes well with salt and pepper.
Once the meat is cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the cooking liquid.
Shred the meat. Remove any bone and large pieces of fat. However, keep some small pieces of fat for flavour and mash it into the shredded meat. Set aside about one cup of the cooking liquid. Place the shredded meat back into the remaining cooking liquid. Season the meat well with salt and pepper. Simmer the meat and liquid for another 30 minutes.
Mix the mashed potatoes into the shredded meat, one large spoonful at a time. Incorporate each spoon of mashed potatoes well before adding the next. Once all of the mashed potatoes are incorporated, taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if needed. The meat and potato filling should be moist – not too dry or too wet. If it seems too dry, add a bit of the reserved cooking liquid. The mixture should not be too wet. If there are pools of liquid in the mixture, it is too wet and the pie crust will be soggy.
Using your favourite pie dough recipe or purchased pie dough, roll out the dough and place in a pie pan. Fill the pie pan with the meat and potato filling. Do not over-stuff and pack down the filling. Cover the pie with a second piece of pie crust and crimp the edges, creating a seal. Cut steam vents into the top and brush the crust with an egg wash.
Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven until the crust is golden brown, about 30-40 minutes.