Last year (by which I mean 2012, I guess), we had tourtiere for Christmas Eve dinner. I didn’t make it, it was a frozen pie left over from a cooking class we helped with, but it was wonderful and we decided that, although none of us is French Canadian, we would have tourtiere at Christmas from then on. So this year when the holidays came around, I realized that to do a really proper meat pie I needed lard for the pie crust. Fortunately I had some pork fat on hand.
When we bought our first half-pig from Well Fed Farms I went to a lard rendering workshop that Katharine and Erik put on, but never got around to rendering my own (it’s still in the freezer). Then we got our second half-pig, which mysteriously came with an enormous amount of pork fat – I’m guessing we inherited several other people’s share in addition to our own. I pulled out my lard-making notes and one of the big balls of fat strips and we began peeling off the pieces and chopping them into small bits. I divided them into two stockpots with a little water and set them to simmer, then spent the next several hours stirring and ladling off the rendered fat, pouring it through cheesecloth into clean glass jars. It worked like a charm, and the liquid fat gradually congealed into perfect white shortening. It made nearly two gallons of rendered lard.
I took one of the jars with me to my parents’ for Christmas, and made up a pie crust with part butter and part lard. I used the trimmings to make a little tart that I pre-baked, then topped with a bit of Delice de Borgogne cheese and some fresh rosemary. Holy god that was good.
I looked at a number of different recipes for tourtiere, since I couldn’t find the one from the cooking class. The ones with oatmeal didn’t appeal to me – I really just wanted spiced pork, onions and potatoes. I eventually settled on this one from King Arthur Flour, and we were more than pleased. I particularly like the step of adding the potato cooking water into the meat filling, as it boils down it creates a starchy, silky binder for the pork.
The crust was incredibly rich and flaky, and the pork filling was fragrant with cloves and sage. It didn’t seem nearly as heavy as maybe it should have, but we tried to keep our portions small and made sure to have plenty of salad and cranberry sauce alongside.
The dog really, really wanted some.
Adapted from the King Arthur Flour website. I followed her steps almost exactly, but used my own pie crust recipe and added cinnamon to the filling.
- 2 cups all purpose flour, plus a little extra for rolling out
- pinch of salt
- 1 stick butter
- 1/2 cup lard
- pinch of salt
- ice water
Mix the salt and flour in a bowl. Rub the butter into the flour, then the lard. Add ice water in a trickle and mix in until the dough is just damp enough to make into a ball. Divide into two pieces, flatten into rounds and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for an hour or overnight. Take the dough out of the fridge at least half an hour before rolling it out.
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups water
- 1 large potato (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice; about 2 cups diced potato
- 2 pounds ground pork
- 1 medium-to-large onion (about 8 ounces), diced; about 1 1/2 cups diced onion
- 1 to 2 large cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 1/2 tsp ground clove
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- several dried sage leaves, crushed
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt, to taste
To make the filling: Put the salt, water, and potato in a medium saucepan, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.
Boil until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the potatoes, saving the water. Mash about half the potatoes, leaving the other half in chunks.
In a large skillet, brown the meat, draining off any excess fat when finished.
Add the onion, garlic, spices, salt, and reserved potato water to the meat, stirring to combine.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Stirring occasionally, continue simmering the mixture for 35 minutes or so, until the liquid has evaporated and the onions are tender.
Add the mashed potatoes to the meat mixture, stirring until thoroughly combined. Gently stir in the diced potatoes. Set the mixture aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Roll out one of the rounds of pie dough to fit into a deep dish pie pan. Settle the crust into the pan. Spoon the filling into the crust.
Roll the other piece of dough into a circle, and lay it atop the filling. Tuck the overhanging bottom crust over the edge of the top crust, pinching and pressing to seal. Crimp the edge of the crust, if you like. Cut a circular hole, or four slashes in the center of the crust, for steam to escape.
Bake the pie for 45 minutes, until it’s golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and set it on a trivet or rack. Allow the pie to cool for about 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Serve with a green salad, cranberry sauce or mustard. The pie is good hot or cold (it makes great leftovers).
4 thoughts on “lard for Christmas”
Thank you for helping to spread the gospel of tourtiere! My family is French Canadian (well 1/4 of it…my maternal grandfather’s family goes back to the original French settlers in the 17th century) and we have tourtiere every Christmas eve. Our recipe doesn’t include the savory herbs, only the spices, and some stock instead of water. I’ll have to try the potato water instead. My mother, at one time, used a slightly fancier recipe that included some veal but I can’t see the point to that. I unsuccessfully rendered lard this fall (the results were tan, not white), but I’d like to try again. Like soup, this is a perfect cold winter food, totally appropriate even when it’s not Christmas.
My pleasure! I love meat pies of all sorts so tourtiere was an instant hit for me when I discovered it.
I’m not sure what causes lard to be tan instead of white – maybe cooking it at too high a heat? My instructions say to take it really, really slow, and ladle off the fat as it renders, since the first few jars will be whiter and purer tasting. The longer it sits on the meat scraps and cracklings the darker and porkier it will be.
I went slow and low, but probably too long. I did not find any instructions that said to ladle it off as you go, so I’ll try that next time. I used leaf lard, so there isn’t a lot of porkiness (or cracklings to lend that) more a slightly acrid-not-quite-burnt element to it. I’ve used it in some cooking, instead of oil for onions and blooming spices for chili for example.
That does sound like it just cooked too long, or possibly wasn’t stirred often enough. If it works for cooking, though, that’s great – I’ve started using mine for fried rice and it’s absolutely fantastic.