Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Meat Pie ...p40

The month before Christmas sets off panic in my brain as I try to remember exactly how to make my Grandma Alma's traditional meat pie.  [no worry now!  you'll always find the recipe in our hard copy or right here] What cut of fresh ham do I need?  [picnic preferred]  How many pounds?  [1 lb per pie]  Does this include the bone?  [no]  Where did I buy it last year?  [Ainsworth]  Which grocery store would even grind pork anymore?  [not Walmart, not HEB, not Kroger]. 

For several years now I have been blessed to have the closest expert on hand - my mom who had to master the art in order to capture the heart of her husband (through the approval of Grand-mere!)  Every year was a ritualistic "does it need more sage?"  "how 'bout more allspice?" questioning of my father, who would dutifully taste and critique until it was just like his mother's.  I have no doubt mom outdid her in one area:  pie crust.

She's one who needs no recipe, goes totally by feel (she always tells me that's my problem, I'm afraid to touch the dough!) and always her pie crusts hold together and often outshine the filling they enclose.

Mom, remember when your pie crusts would mysteriously lose their fluted edge - it was I who would sneakily break off pieces to eat, leaving unfluted pies!  And, while we all love the meat pie, our favorite was her turning the leftover dough into the pastry delight of "puppy dog tails...."
Note the puppy dog tails on the tray!
 Truth be told, as a child I wasn't too fond of the meat pie filling.  Traditionally we'd come home after midnight Mass to eat a piece of meat pie, then on Christmas morning we'd top a piece with an egg, cooked over easy, and lots of salt and pepper.  If we were frugal, we'd have one pie every month throughout the rest of the year, finishing just in time to begin again....however, now, I cherish the meat pie tradition so much I wouldn't dream of not doing it as it has maturated into a strong sibling bond.  (Ok, my husband would be sorely disappointed to not have meat pie Christmas morning!  "Forget the presents!  Where's the meat pie?")  Now that several of us sisters are close, one massive meat pie making party in early December kicks off the season with us instructing the younger generations in the art of making pie dough (though none of us truly measures up to mom here!), tasting the meat filling for the proper seasonings, and showing how to put decorative touches on the crust.  Mom, bless her heart, though paralyzed on the left side, made the dough for 40 pies last season!

This year, many were traveling elsewhere for Christmas, so it was just us - mom and me.  Mom wore the appropriate "Canada, Eh?" t-shirt in honor of this French Canadian recipe and her boys Lou.  I think my hubby was so delighted that we were still going to make pies, he jumped at the chance to help us turn out a few.  Eight altogether.  One eaten Christmas morning, topped with eggs, coupled with coffee.  No other morning like it.
Hardy Appetit!

Definitely a YUM!

1/2 stick butter
1 tsp. roast meat seasoning
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 tsp. sage
1 whole fresh picnic ham*, ground coarse (not your usual grocery store grind)
1 tsp. allspice
1/2 loaf bread, torn into tiny pieces
salt & pepper

In large kettle, melt butter, saut√© onion.  Add ham.  Add water to cover meat.  Cook and simmer about 10 minutes.  Add torn bread pieces and seasonings.  Stir and put cover on top.  Let cook together, stirring occasionally.  Cook until meat is browned completely.  Spoon into pie.

*Can also use 8 lbs. pork butt.

Pie Crust:

3 cups flour
1 1/2 c. shortening
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda (cuts richness of filling)
1 tsp cream of tartar

Add 1/2 cup cold water to above ingredients and mix.  Roll out for pies.  Repeat dough process for amount of pies necessary.


  1. So wish I was there with you beautiful ladies. What a masterpiece to see both of you in action doing one of the most favorite and treasured traditions of our family.

  2. Another thing I missed out on this year!