Christmas Tradition-by Sister #3


I love tradition. I’m especially fond of traditions that are connected to holiday memories. One of the strongest food memories I have of our family Christmas is my Mom’s butter tarts.

According to my mom, this recipe dates back many generations on the Jones side of our family. I even have the special tart tins Mom used to bake them. I’m not sure how many generations used these pans but suffice to say they are well worn.

These tarts are different than the traditional Canadian butter tart. The shells are quite shallow, the pastry thin and crumbly. They feature currents, as opposed to raisins, lucky for me as I am not a raisin fan. The filling is sticky and crispy around the edges. They are delicious and bring me immediately back to my childhood.  

When I bake them I feel my mom beside me, telling me to roll the crust a wee bit thinner, and how much filling each tart needs. I wonder if she used to feel her own mother’s presence when she made them for the many years after her mother’s passing.  Recently I’ve been working on the recipe as the notes my mom had written down were a bit vague. For instance the recipe never said how many tarts you would get, and in the past I’ve just gone by feel. Rolling out tart shells and filling them as I go. When I ran out of filling, I was finished baking and would wrap up the remaining pastry for another purpose. But now that I’m sharing them I have done my best to fill in some gaps. So fingers crossed that they work for you.

I was thrilled to be asked to share them with my honorary niece and nephew (children of my BFF).  Ashley even went to thrift store on a visit to Winnipeg and found the exact tart pans I use. So over Zoom, connected to St. Paul Minnesota and Silver Spring Maryland, I showed the kids the ins and outs of the recipe. There was a bit of a struggle with the crust, lard is not readily available in the U.S. and shortening comes in a 20oz block and not a pound like here. But we muddled through and the end result was a hit. It was fun to do some Christmas baking together. I am pretty sure that one of my blood nieces or nephews will pick up the torch and continue to make these after I am gone. And I hope they can feel me telling them to roll that crust just a little thinner. I hope everyone who eats them can feel the love of all of the past generations that has been passed on from one to the next. Hope your Christmas baking is going well and you find ways to celebrate your own family traditions. 

Mom’s Butter Tarts


For crust

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp salt

1 lb Tenderflake lard

1 Tbsp vinegar

1 egg, lightly beaten

Ice water

You will only need about ¼ of this dough for the tarts, the rest can be kept in the fridge and used for another purpose, also freezes well.

For filling

1 cup butter                 2 cups brown sugar

¼ cup milk                  1 cup currants

2 eggs, beaten             2 tsps vanilla


For crust: Whisk together flour and salt. Cut in Tenderflake with pastry blender or 2 knives until the lard is pea sized within the flour. In a 1 cup measure combine the vinegar and egg. Add the ice water to make 1 cup.

Gradually stir liquid into Tenderflake mixture, adding only enough liquid to make the dough cling together. Gently knead the dough a few times, but be careful not to overwork it.  Just want it to come together, then gather the dough into a ball and divide into 6 equal portions. Wrap the portions and refrigerate. After 15-30 minutes your dough is ready to work with. Roll out one portion on a lightly floured surface. Cut into appropriate size circles of dough that has been rolled thinly.  Less than 1/8th of an inch thick. The remaining portions of dough can be frozen for later use.

For filling: Use non-stick spray to coat tart shells. Place dough circles into pan. Place 1 tsp of currants in each raw tart shell. Over medium heat, melt butter, mix in brown sugar and allow sugar to melt.  Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, stir in milk, egg & vanilla.  Pour mixture into tart shells about ¾ full.  Bake at 375ºF for 15 minutes. The filling may overflow the crust a bit so it’s important to use the non-stick spray.

Makes approximately 3 dozen tarts

Kath’s quote: “If baking is any labor at all, it’s a labor of love. A love that gets passed down from generation to generation.” – Regina Brett

Love never fails.

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