There are a few food things that come to mind when you say the word Canada

That is if you know Canadians at all. One is Poutine, that delicious dish of crisp chips and squeaky cheese curds, smothered in hot gravy.  Another is Maple Syrup.  I swear our veins run with maple syrup, not blood.
Peameal Bacon, lean, juicy and rolled in cornmeal. Montreal Smoked Meat sandwiches. Quebec Pea Soup, made with whole yellow peas. Molasses cookies.  Beaver Tails.  Lobster Rolls from the Maritimes and their infamous fish chowder.  Nanaimo Bars, three layers of non-baked heaven,  and the Piece de la Resistance . . .  Butter Tarts.

It is impossible to be a Canadian and not love most if not all of those things.  And we do them very well. And there are others. Saskatoon Berry Pie.  Pierogi. Pouding Chomeur also comes to mind as do Bannock and Tortiere.

I think our Canadian flag should be marked into segments with each one representing one of these traditional and delicious dishes, with the maple leaf (on a bottle of maple syrup) holding court in the centre of the flag.

 We invented Tim Hortons!  Americans used to come up to Canada just for the Tim Hortons Coffee. The drive-throughs of Tim Horton's all across the country are jam packed every morning with Canadians in their cars wanting their double doubles on their way to work.

They do have Tim Hortons here in the UK now, but I have not been to it.  I have heard however that it is not as good as back home, and actually, I have heard that back home Tim Hortons is not as good as it used to be either.

Change is not always good.  They used to have a resident baker on the premises every night. He would work all night making cakes, donuts, etc. for the next day. Now I hear, they bring everything in from a central warehouse, frozen.  I fear it has lost the personal touch.

Butter Tarts are very similar to the Scottish Ecchlefechan tarts.  I strongly suspect this recipe was brought over to Canada with the Scottish settlers when they immigrated.

We had Ecchlefechan tarts when we were in Scotland on holiday a few years ago. I have to say that they were very similar 

So just what is a butter tart?  Let me see if I can find adequate words to describe this decadent, moreishly delicious Canadian treat that is impossible to resist.

Tarts made with flaky buttery pastry and filled with an ooey gooey brown sugar and maple filling, stogged full of toasted walnuts and sticky raisins.

You can find other kinds with chocolate chips and all sorts stuffed into them. But the original and the best is just four things.  Flaky pastry.  Rich and sweet maple filling. Toasted walnuts.  Sticky raisins.  That's it. Simple.

When I was a child the first thing my sister and I did when we got our allowance was to high-tail it to the Canex store and go halves on a package of ready made butter tarts.  They came two to a pack.

I don't think we would even wait until we got home to eat them. 

We would crack them open while we sat on the grass right at the top of the hill leading down to the Canex.  Every mouthful was ecstasy and we wanted the pleasure to last as long as we could make it last.

Those butter tarts had nothing on this recipe.  This recipe I am sharing with you today is the best recipe (in my opinion) for buttertarts ever invented.  I copied it many years ago into my Big Blue Binder.

The Big Blue Binder is a binder I have carried with me all over the world.  Anyone who has been reading me for a while knows that it is filled with my tried and true recipes, gleaned from years of travel. Recipes shared with me from family and friends.

When people share their recipes with you, you just know that they are good.  Nobody shares their worst. Its a fact. You can bank on it.

This recipe for Butter Tarts is the first recipe in my pies and pastry section. It is the best in my opinion.  I cannot tell you how many times I have baked these over the years.

It copied right there in black ink in my what-used to-be beautiful handwriting. (Key boarding has ruined that for me I have to say!) The page has been splotched on and is becoming tattered and yellow from age.

I thought it was about time I got it down here so it didn't get lost forever.  I can't tell you where it came from. I haven't bothered to note the source in this instance.

I had the habit of only noting sources when the recipe came from family or friends. Recipes copied  from books, magazines,  newspapers, etc. were not source-noted.

Who knew that one day we would be able to share these delicious things with people and readers from all over the world!  This was pre-computer days.

The only thing I can tell you with impunity is that it came from either a magazine or a book and I am thinking if it was a magazine it was Canadian Living.

I miss Canadian Living Magazine. I used to buy it every month. It was filled with everything Canadian, from fashion to decorating, crafts and of course cooking.

My other favourite magazine used to be Chatelaine.  I bought that religiously as well.  They were my textbooks on my journey towards becoming a good and solid cook.

The rest came from my mother and Home Ec at school.  Home Ec taught me basics that I have never forgotten. It was my favourite subject and not just the cooking term.  I loved the sewing and the houskeeping  terms as well.

I think perhaps I should have been a Home Economist.  That is a career I could have quite happily embraced. Never mind . . .  I did love being a stay at home mum, and I loved being a Chef in my later years.

This recipe has a gorgeous rich filling that is gooey and decadent.  It is flavoured highly with pure Maple syrup and brown sugar. Do NOT be tempted to use pancake syrup.  It might work and it might not, but I can tell you one thing, they will not be like or taste the same as a real Canadian Butter Tart.

It would be but a pale imitation of the real thing.  Pale. Pale. Pale.  You need to use real Maple syrup and real butter for that matter.

Don't ever use margarine. Poo Poo Poo. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. Blecch. Blecch. Blecch.  These tarts are like a piece of fine art. Only the best and finest  ingredients need apply. 

There is no room for fakes. No room at all.  Trust me on this. 

Do not be tempted to overfill your pastry cases with the filling. It does expand in the oven and you will end up with pastry/tarts that are stuck to your tin and a sticky baked on mess to clean off.  Trust me.  Cement.

I use my butter and lard pastry. You can find that recipe here.  It is a lovely pastry. Nice and flaky. I use it for all my pies and tarts.  It always turns out.

These were a beautiful weekend treat for us. I had not made them in ever so long.  They are a once in a blue moon treat.  I don't know if they can be frozen or not because I have never frozen them.  To be honest they have been around long enough for me to have to do that.

They usually get snuffled up right away.  And when I say snuffled up, I mean snuffled up! These are dangerous!

Canadian Butter Tarts


With ImageWithout Image

Yield: makes about 18

Author: Marie Rayner

prep time: 15 Mincook time: 30 Mininactive time: 10 Mintotal time: 55 Min

This is an old, old recipe from my Big Blue Binder of recipes which has followed me around the world. I cannot tell you where it came from as it has been handwritten and no source has been noted. Let me just tell you they are moreishly delicious and if you can eat just one, you are a much better person than I am!


Pastry to line 18 patty pans ( I like my butter/lard pastry)
2 large free range eggs
1 cup (200g) soft light brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp white vinegar
1/2 cup (120ml) maple syrup, pure not artificial
6 TBS (86g) butter, melted
2/3 cup (80g) chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 cup (75g) raisins


Preheat the oven to 230*C/450*F/ gas mark 7. Line your patty tins with the pastry.  Divide the chopped nuts and raisins between each pastry lined tart.
Beat the eggs.  Add the sugar, salt, vinegar and syrup. Blend well together. Beat in the melted butter until all is well emulsified.
Fill you pastry lined tins 2/3 full with the egg mixture, pouring it over top of the fruit and nuts.
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Bake a further 20 minutes.
Allow to cool for about 10 minutes then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

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