It’s Canadian Thanksgiving, and you know what that means! Passive-aggressive machinations regarding who gets to carve the turkey and whether Peggy’s gherkins get to sit in Great Gramma’s crystal dish or if it will be That Woman Bob Married with her goddam pickled beets again, and what’s so special about pickled beets anyway? Great Gramma never served pickled beets; it’s just not right.
Where was I? Oh right, Canadian Thanksgiving.
I suppose if I googled long enough I could find some ridiculously convoluted excuse for why our Thanksgiving is in October instead of November, but the simple fact is, we’re a Northern country. If we waited till November the weather would be crap and people would literally die in the car on the way to the big family dinner, frozen in snowdrifts, their misery preserved forever or until the spring thaws at least. Seriously, this was my biggest worry when I was a kid; that we’d die right there on the 401 because of a white-out.
What’s on the menu at a Canadian Thanksgiving? Pretty much anything that would be on the menu at an American one, barring sweet potatoes with marshmallows (what IS that? some kind of practical joke by the South?) and pecan pie. Why don’t we do pecan pie? Because pecans up here cost about as much as truffles do, and you don’t see us making truffle pie now, do you? So we have pumpkin pie and butter tarts.
Butter tarts are perhaps the most Canadian food ever invented (pace Poutine!). There is some controversy about whether or not raisins go in butter tarts, and I’m all Team Raisin, simply because you need some sort of contrast to the delicious, caramely center UH “centre” of the butter tart. Nuts are completely non-canon, although a tasty addition; walnuts are best, because their natural dryness plays against the sweet creaminess of the filling very well. Think of butter tarts as pecan pie without pecans in it, and you can see why we like them so much.
Chatelaine is the definitive Canadian women’s magazine (think typical American women’s magazine, but with fewer boobs, less makeup, and more politics and social justice articles) and so it is to Chatelaine that I turn for a classic butter tart recipe. They’re all more or less the same, actually, but this one has a pedigree.
Preparation time: 10 minutes; Baking Time: 16 minutes; Makes: 12 tarts
12 ( 3-inch, 7.5-cm) homemade or 16 purchased frozen tart shells, each about 3 inches
3/4 cup ( 175 mL) corn syrup
1/4 cup ( 50 mL) liquid honey
1 tsp ( 5 mL) vanilla
1/2 cup ( 125 mL) brown sugar
1 tbsp ( 15 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ( 50 mL) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup ( up to 1/2 cup, 50 mL to 125 mL) raisins or walnuts
Oh, what a delicious dribble occurs when biting into these buttery tarts made by Tait’s Bakery. These are divinely runny so be prepared for the drips!
Place oven rack at its lowest level. Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line 12 tart shells with homemade pastry. If using store-bought frozen shells, use 16 and leave in foil cups. Place tart shells on a baking sheet with shallow sides to catch any spills. In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs with corn syrup, honey and vanilla until well blended. Stir brown sugar with flour. Stir into egg mixture along with butter until evenly mixed.
Dividing equally, scatter raisins or walnuts over bottoms of shells. Pour filling over top. Bake on bottom rack of preheated 375F (190C) oven until filling is bubbly and top is slightly crusty, from 16 to 18 minutes for 12 tarts or about 16 minutes for 16 tarts. Cool on a rack. Tarts will keep well at room temperature for up to 1 day. Or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
Okay, okay STOP! “Delicious dribble,” people? If it is occurring, you’re using “dribble” as a verb, and verbs are tasteless, as is anyone who writes like that. Now go back to J-school and come back when you can write prose that actually makes sense!