Memere Bergeron's French Canadian Meat Pie
My mother always used to say that Memere cooked because she had to, not because she wanted to. She raised her family during the depression, through World War II and the 1950s and 60s. She was a woman who knew how to get the most out of a dollar. I remember going to her house for Thanksgiving dinner. After dinner, the turkey carcass was stripped clean and boiled to make turkey soup. Left over vegetables would be kept and added to the soup. She was a fan of boiled potatoes. Any remaining usually found their way in to the soup, or would be set aside and become part of really good New England clam chowder. When it came to meat pies, she made the best, hands down. She would buy her pork butts on sale and make a dozen or so pies at a time, handing out a few and freezing the rest. You could always count on a good meat pie lunch at Memere's from early fall right through Easter.
This is my grandmother's original recipe, and the one that I use for my pies and meat stuffing (you can use the mix to stuff your bird too). It is a simple meal to make, and the pies freeze and keep well. When cooking your meat and the onions and celery, the directions are to season to taste. It took me a few tries before I got the All Spice to Ground Clove ratio right. I go for a 3:1 ratio, All Spice to Ground Cloves. You'll need to play with it a little. Keep in mind, you are seasoning when working the saute and cooking the pork. As for the salt and pepper, I use a dash here and a dash there, but never more than that, and you can easily skip the salt. Also, I use unsalted butter. I have used both, and do not taste a difference in the final product.
One last tip, if you plan to make meat pies a lot, get a large cast iron skillet and use that pan exclusively for the meat pies. I have one that is pie-only and it definitely makes a difference in the way the pies taste.
- 3 Pounds Pork Butts, Ground twice (coarse grind)
- 4 Large White Potatoes, Peeled, cut
- 3 Celery Ribs, Finely chopped
- 1 Very Large Yellow Onion, Chopped
- 2 Sticks Unsalted Butter
- 2 Ready Made Pie Crusts
- All Spice, To Taste (6-9 teaspoons)
- Ground Clove, To Taste (2-3 teasppons)
- Table Salt, To Taste
- Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
- Wash, peel and cut potatoes; Boil potatoes until tender; Drain and set aside
- Wash, peel and chop onion; Chop celery (fine) - You should yield approximately 2 cups of chopped onion and one cup of chopped celery; Melt one stick of unsalted butter in large skillet; Add 1/2 cup water; Saute onion and celery in large skillet until tender; Add All Spice, Ground Cloves, Salt and Pepper to taste; (Suggestion: 3 teaspoons All Spice, 1 teaspoon Ground Cloves) Strain and set aside; Keep drippings from pan and add them to meat when cooking; (Note: I split the onion/celery saute in to two small batches for cooking instead of one large batch. If you cook in one batch, you will not need the second stick of butter.)
- Brown ground pork butts in large skillet; Add drippings from onions and celery when cooking; Add 1/4 cup water; Add approx 2 teaspoons All Spice, 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cloves, pinch salt, dash of pepper (season to taste, less is more with the Ground Cloves); Strain; Place cooked pork butts in a large mixing bowl; Reserve pan drippings for gravy if desired (Save as a turkey baste when using this recipe for stuffing)
- To cooked pork butts add cooked onions and celery; Mix well
- Add boiled potatoes to pork butt mixture, 2 large serving spoonfuls at a time and mix well; For three pounds of pork butts, you will use almost all of the potatoes; The mixture should have roughly a 70-30 split, pork to potato, so you may have leftover potato
- Grease two 12-inch pie pans and fill with ready made pie crust; Spoon in pork butt mixture, packed tight and level with top of pie pan; Smooth out and cover with ready made pie crust; Crimp crust around edges and pierce for ventilation
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees; Bake pies for 30 minutes at 375 or until crust is golden brown
- Let pies stand for 10 minutes then serve