As we celebrate Earth Day next week, our thoughts turn to the upcoming growing season as many are itching to get out and prepare our gardens for planting. There is a “growing” interest in planting, harvesting and enjoying our own vegetables.

Beyond our own gardens, farmer’s markets will be soon be opening, generally on Victoria Day weekend across the country, just as the first of the early greens, rhubarb and asparagus make an appearance.

So too is there an interest in the slow food movement. Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1986 to counteract fast food and the disconnect many people have between farm and fork. It encourages shopping local, supporting the community, reducing carbon footprint and making connections from farm to table.

Always making those connections is culinary activist Anita Stewart. Her latest book, Anita Stewart’s Canada (HarperCollins Canada) celebrates Canada from coast to coast through food, recipes and stories. And one of the most celebrated foods in Canada has to be butter tarts.

According to Stewart, “Since the turn of the last century, recipes abound for it in almost every Canadian cookbook, but you won’t find a reference for this noble tart in the Oxford Companion to Food or in the American reference book Food Lover’s Companion. Friend and historian Mary Williamson is an expert on butter tarts. She notes the earliest reference was in a cookbook compiled by The Women’s Auxiliary of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie in 1900 and it’s merely named ‘A filling for tarts.’ For farm women, two essential ingredients, eggs and butter, were in abundance. And Canada, when these tarts were invented, was a farming country.”

Peggy Morris’s Amazing Butter Tarts

From Anita Stewart’s Canada. Peggy Morris and her husband Edmund farmed northwest of Elora in Peel Township, Ont. Anita enjoyed Peggy’s butter tarts many times over the years and asked for her recipe. Makes 18 tarts.


• 1 cup (250 mL) raisins
• 2 eggs
• 1/3 cup (75 mL) corn syrup
• 1 cup (250 mL) packed brown sugar
• 3 tbsp (45 mL) melted butter
• 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped walnuts
• 18 Sweet Tart Pastry shells

In a small bowl, cover raisins with boiling water. Let soak for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar, butter and nuts. Stir in raisins. Pour evenly into prepared tart shells. Bake in preheated 450°F (220°C) oven 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F (180°C) and open door slightly for 15 to 20 seconds to bring temperature down rapidly. Bake for 15 minutes or until bubbling and deep golden brown. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

Sweet Tart Pastry

• 2½ cups (625 ml) sifted cake-and-pastry flour
• ¼ cup (60 ml) granulated sugar
• ½ tsp (2 ml) salt
• 1 cup (250 ml) chilled unsalted butter
• ¾ cup (175 ml) ice water


In a bowl, sift together flour, sugar and salt. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. With a fork, stir in ice water, ¼ cup (60 mL) at a time, until the dough can be gathered up into a ball. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Flour a rolling pin and the top of the dough. Divide dough in half.

Roll out one piece of dough, dusting with flour as needed, to about ? inch (3 mm) thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut into approximately 4-inch (10 cm) circles and press gently into muffin or large tart pans. Repeat with remaining dough.

– Barb Holland is a professional home economist and food writer who believes in shopping locally and in season.

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