Monday, December 23, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Jam Tart

In 1883, there were just six houses in Saskatoon, population 70. Many residents still lived in tents or sod shacks. Of those six houses built in 1883, only one remains. It sits at the back of its original lot at 512 10th Street East, in the neighbourhood of Nutana. It's just 16 by 20 feet, with a kitchen/dining room and two small bedrooms.

The year after the house was built, it became the home of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Trounce and their two children, originally from England. The Trounces quickly integrated into the social life of the fledgling community, as noted in an article published in Saskatchewan History in 1987:

"This house was the scene of innumerable social activities, especially parties on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, and is referred to in several early memoires and books."

Their first Christmas in this house was a celebratory affair. Mrs. Trounce noted the menu in a letter, which is held by Saskatchewan Archives. The meal began with beef steak pie, boiled and roasted potatoes, bread and butter and dessert: mince pie, apple tart, blanc mange (a custard), currant biscuits and open jam tart. Note, no green vegetables of any sort, which were in short supply in a prairie winter.

It is very likely Mrs. Trounce's open jam tart was similar to a version popular in England, which can be made with any type of full-sugar jam. Over the holidays, I will drive by Trounce House and think of those pioneers, so full of hope in their new home.

Open Jam Tart
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
1/4 cup ice water
1 egg yolk
2 cup jam

Sift together flour and sugar. Add butter in small pieces. Cut in with a pastry blender, then use your hands to rub remaining lumps into the flour until resembling coarse sand. Work quickly to not warm the butter.

Mix ice water and egg. Pour into flour, mixing quickly with a fork then with your hands, pressing the dough into a ball. Do not knead like bread. Form dough into two balls, wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Roll one ball thinly between two pieces of well-floured wax paper. Use the wax paper to lift the pastry over a tart or pie plate. Trim the edges generously. Chill 30 minutes. Poke the pastry with a fork. Spread jam in pastry. If desired, decorate with cookie shapes cut from extra pastry. Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes, until pastry is nicely brown. Cool completely before cutting.

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