If the scone is the "queen of sweets" for the tea table, then surely the delectable tart must be her "lady in waiting". Easy to make, and ever-so-dainty, a variety of tempting tarts offers the tea-taker a symphony of tastes wrapped in a sweet, melt-in-your mouth shortbread crust. For an afternoon tea, I delight to offer at least two (and sometimes three!) types of tarts,. My favorites are the ever popular lemon curd, tart served plain, or presented with a diminuitive dollop of clotted cream, the Maid of honor, a delightful jam filled tart with a delicate cake hat punctuated with a flowerette of pink buttercream, and finally, in deference to my east coast ties, the toothsome Cape Breton Pork Pie. This little gem, one of my husband's all-time favorites, contains NOT ONE OUNCE OF PORK! It's name is the subject of some conjecture. My favorite explanation is that they are so good, when you have one, you can't resist having another, and another and another! Thus, you "pork" out on them, making a little piggy of yourself in the process! So dear blogerites, here is my recipe for Cape Breton Pork Pies. I found it in a venerated cookbook, which was given to me by my dear friend , June one year for Christmas. Imagine my delight, precious blogerites, when I received this, to discover that it was the cookbook most used by my own sweet Mom. In fact, she used it so much it was in tatters by the time she passed away, and was mistakenly discarded when my sisters were packing up her kitchen.. The title page had gone missing when I was just a little girl, so the name on it's front meant little to me, but the pages looked familiar somehow, so I quickly turned to the cake section to discover the recipe for the birthday cake mom had always made for me. I felt as though I had recovered a bit of my own heritage from the ashes of time. What a blessing! Upon further investigation of it, I found the recipe for the Pork Pies, something my husband had intimated was an integral part of his own Christmas tradition from Sydney, Cape Breton. I made them as a suprise for him, and to his delight, he pronounced them "better" than his auntie's. So now they are a staple in our house for Christmas, but also for tea. Enjoy and please let me know how yours turn out.
CAPE BRETON PORK PIES
1 cup of cold, creamery butter ( this is what made them better than Auntie's. She probably used margarine, which was a common practice in Cape Breton. The difference it makes to the recipe is unmistakable!)
4 tablespoons icing sugar
2 cups flour
Cut the butter into the flour suing a pastry cutter. Add sugar and knead until well-blended. Press small amounts into small muffin tins. Bake at 425 degrees F. for 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on them as they brown very quickly, and you DO NOT want to make them too dark. ( In my opinion, the lighter they can be, the better, but that is just MY preference!) Remove and allow to come to room temperature. Carefully remove from tins, as they are VERY delicate!
2 cups finely chopped dates
1 1/2 cups brown sugar ( I use demerara)
1 cup water
Lemon Juice (the juice of one lemon, whatever that may be. I usually heat my lemon in the microwave for a quick 10 seconds. It DOUBLES the amount of juice you will get from it. How much of that juice you put in is really up to your taste, but I like the whole amount.)
Simmer the above ingredients until the dates are of a soft consistency. Cool, then fill the tart shells. Top with a piped swirl of butter cream icing which has been flavoured with maple syrup or flavouring. YUM! YUM! YUM! These freeze well, and can be made weeks ahead if covered well in the freezer.
* anecdotal additions are my own, but this wonderful recipe is from "Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens" by Marie Nightingale (Nimbus Publishing Limited)