Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Raisins or Nuts, Runny or Firm Fillings: Purists Debate Virtues of Butter Tarts

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Raisins or Nuts, Runny or Firm Fillings: Purists Debate Virtues of Butter Tarts

Article excerpt

Raisins or nuts: Purists debate butter tarts

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LONDON, Ont. - Ruth Currie and Shirley March drive almost an hour to buy their favourite homemade butter tarts, although there's an award-winning butter tart shop a few minutes away.

Currie says the local tarts are good. "They're just not exactly what we want."

When Barbara Rowlandson made and sold butter tarts in Midland, Ont., "complete strangers would stand around in my store and have discussions, arguments, an hour at a time, about what makes the correct butter tart," she says.

To aficionados, the smallest differences are a big deal. Purists say true butter tarts should not contain raisins or nuts. For Currie and March of Wasaga Beach, Ont., they have to have raisins.

Some like runny fillings, some firm. Some like thick pastry shells while others like thin so the filling stars. Some prefer flaky pastry or even phyllo shells while others don't want crumbs falling on their clothes.

Margaret Arnold of Maple Valley, south of Collingwood, Ont., has made and sold thousands of butter tarts in the last six decades from a recipe she developed.

"I searched different recipes in different books, but I always felt they were sooo sweet," she says. "So I went from there, using less sugar and more eggs, and found people liked them because they weren't so deadly sweet."

Now, at 91, she makes tarts mostly for family but still has one customer who orders three or four dozen for an annual event.

Butter tarts are almost unknown in the U.S., although southern pecan pie is similar, and food historians differ on their origin. Some say they're descended from sugar pies made by early Quebec settlers. Others say they may be related to a tart made in southern Scotland. Most agree the first written reference here was a recipe called A Filling for Tarts in a 1900 cookbook compiled by The Women's Auxiliary of Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, Ont. …

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