There’s no doubt about it.
Prince Edward Islanders are mighty particular when it comes to what goes with their Christmas meat pie.
And whether it’s a side of mustard pickles, a drizzle of molasses or a dollop of cranberry sauce, the chances are that more than a few of those meat pies being enjoyed this holiday season are from The Home Place in Kensington.
“I definitely lean towards the mustard pickles for sure,” says Glenda Burt, owner of The Home Place Restaurant and Inn, which is home base for the creation of her popular meat pies.
If you think you’re busy with Christmas baking, try to keep up with a meat pie wish list of 30,000 — and counting — the bulk of which now makes their way onto grocery store shelves in pretty much every major chain and more across the province.
Burt was pretty much born to be creative with food.
Growing up in Darnley, she preferred to watch her mother, Mary Hickey, work her kitchen magic than veg out in front of the television.
In the late 1970s, her mother operated Cabot’s Reach Restaurant in Malpeque and later founded Mary’s Bake Shop in Kensington.
“So I grew up in it. It was always around me. When I would come home from school there would always be homemade rolls coming out of the oven. My mother is a great cook,” she says.
“I always loved the whole aspect of food.”
Burt went to Acadia University in Nova Scotia with aspirations to become a dietician but shifted gears after a year to pursue her love of cooking.
She attended Holland College’s culinary course where she received her interprovincial cook’s license and her red seal.
She opened The Home Place Inn and Restaurant in Kensington in 1997 and shortly after that people began requesting the meat pies that her mother used to make at the bakery.
“I swear it just snowballed every year from there,” she remembers, “and here I am making copious amounts of them today.”
Sales to grocery stores started when the meat manager at Save Easy in Kensington got wind of her meat pies and requested some for the store.
When he relocated to the Atlantic Superstore in Summerside, Burt’s pies went with him, too.
“That was a totally different ball game; more exposure,” she says.
“I kept getting calls, ‘I need more. I need more.’ I couldn’t get over it.”
Her product is now available in a great many stores on P.E.I., including Sobeys and No Frills, and there is talk of expanding to the mainland some day.
That will require moving to a larger production facility.
Initially, Burt’s meat pie production run at The Home Place only kicked into gear leading into the Christmas season. Then it expanded to include Thanksgiving, and now they are available year-round.
She has also hired more staff to keep pace with the demand.
While there are many variations of meat pies, Burt’s is a traditional meat, onions and seasonings recipe that uses a biscuit dough recipe instead of a typical pie crust
“There’s no preservatives or additives or anything — it’s all-natural. It’s just what people used to eat years ago, instead of the more processed products that are so common today,” Burt says.
“I think that’s what sells them, too. It conjures up memories of when people were growing up. Some say they’re pies like their grandmother used to make.”