I grew up in a home where my Mom was cooking from scratch all the time. We were the lucky consumers of homegrown veggies, where we all had a part to play in the planting and harvesting. Our meals were all home-made, courtesy of my awesome Mom. And this love of real food she and my father have shared with me is at the core of everything that I do. It informs all of my days.
To the right here is a photo of my Grand-Maman Lena, my sister Kelly and me. My grand-parents lived next door, so it was a regular thing to go over after school to help my Grand-Maman make cookies. She never followed a recipe! She was amazing!
I distinctly remember her Tarte au Sucre, or my Grand-Papa's favourite, Tarte aux Raisins. I could never agree with my Grand Papa on that one. But I sure appreciate what that pie signifies.
You knew Christmas was upon us when you could smell my mom and Grand-Maman making Tourtière, the traditional meat pie served at French-Canadian Christmas feasts and Réveillons since the dawn of time, I'd say.
The Ancestral connection
My sister has been diving deep lately to trace back the history of our ancestors to the 1600s, tracking voyages across the ocean, and the migrating ways of our ancestors. The joining of families and cultures along the way, as well. I keep thinking of these people before me, and how many of them would have taken part in making tourtière at this time of year.
One thing that has remained a strong piece of our culture throughout all of this history is Le Réveillon. In French-Canadian and Acadian circles, le Réveillon is a late night celebratory feast that everyone in the family joins in on the 24th of December, and sometimes too on New Year's Eve.
It's meant to be a big meal, with loads of different foods on which the family will feast after the Christmas Eve Church service. The idea is that all the cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents gather around this massive table of good food, chatting, laughing and visiting. We would all celebrate in to the wee hours. The late night would usually end with the opening of presents, and tuckered out children weeping and exhausted, collapsing on the basement couches.
A key centrepiece in this celebration? The traditional Tourtière, or meat pie. But in my case, I'm not just talking any meat pie. I'm talking the Acadian version of the meat pie.
My Acadian roots
The Tourtière that most people will think of is one made with ground meats. It was originally made with whatever game meat you could find, or what you had on hand. (Tourtière literally comes from the word 'tourte', which means pigeon.)
My Grand-maman's version was from the Acadian tradition, made with stewed meats that were cooked low and slow for six hours plus. Simple seasonings, but deeply nourishing. Stewed meat? Well that works out in our favour, honey pies! They're lower in histamine than ground meats, and are a-ok on stages 1&2 of the Histamine Haven protocol.
As I was preparing these mini-tourtières yesterday for this blog post, the scent reminded me of those days when I was young, chasing cousins around the house, with the waft of all of the big feast prep tended to by all the moms and matantes and Grand-Mamans. And I imagine that feeling was something that was common amongst all those who came before me.
Those scent memories still live in me, witnessed by my gut reaction when preparing this pie last night for this blog post. I was misty-eyed, as the flood of memories came; I immediately thought “Christmas is soon! Everyone will be here soon! This must also mean there are Christmas cookies already baked and stashed away in the house somewhere, I should go look!”
Sigh. Isn't it marvellous how we are wired to react to scents, inter-woven in to memories? This is being human, I'd say.
What you'll need
The Acadian version uses stew meat instead, 1 part beef to 2 part pork. For earlier Histamine Haven stages, opt to go with only pork, or do a combo of pork and lamb. As you move up the stages, using stew beef may be well tolerated by some.
The crust for this recipe is a grain-free, gluten-free, super crispy and delicious offering to top your mini pies with. Bonus here too -- it's made with lard, a traditional fat that my Grand-Maman most definitely used in all of her pies. Source it from a small local pork producer, or check out your local health food store for some of this good stuff.
This crust is not what my Grand-Maman would have made for this pie, but she would sure celebrate the fact that I'm getting in my kitchen to make some pie for the people I love, using whatever I have on hand. I'm pretty sure that's the main reason we have pie in this world.
This whole pie really is quite a simple process, and one I will continue offering in tradition to my family at this time every year. Especially in these little individual-sized deep dish bakeware: it makes for a beautiful (and less sloppy!) presentation.
The recipe shared below here is written up just as it was dictated to me by my Maman some 15 or more years ago, with some low histamine tweaks added in. The colours look bland, and with such a short list of ingredients, do not be fooled. This ain't a bland tasting seasonal treat at all.
I hope you like it.
Download the Acadian Tourtière recipe here.
Wishes to you for a smooth sailing kind of season ahead. Keep chaos at bay, friends. And make some Acadian Tourtière.
Here's a recent photo of me and my good lookin folks, from a recent trip out to the East Coast to catch some brilliant tunes at the Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Nova Scotia.
I know we walked on the same lands our Ancestors would have walked. Sheesh, this is a good life.