Every year in June, the small town of Midland becomes Ontario’s sweetest place when it hosts the annual Butter Tart Festival (yes, there really is such a thing). On the south shore of Georgian Bay in the heart of cottage country, thousands of visitors flock to the normally quiet town to celebrate and devour this quintessential Canadian dessert. Now in its fourth year, this one-day festival attracts over 20,000 attendees and has over 100,000 butter tarts on hand. Now that’s a lot of sweet calories!
As per Wikipedia, the “English Canadian tart consists of butter, sugar, and eggs in a pastry shell, similar to the French-Canadian sugar pie, or the base of the U.S. pecan pie without the nut topping. The butter tart is different from pecan pie in that it has a “runnier” filling due to the omission of corn starch. Often raisins, walnuts or pecans are commonly added to the traditional butter tart. However purists contend that such additions should not be allowed.”
The festival takes place on downtown Midland’s main street where tart vendors from all over Ontario proudly display and sell their wares. Many of the stalls provide free sampling, so the trick is to try before you buy – but to do so sparingly, or else end up with sugar overload! There is also plenty of shopping for arts and crafts, artisanal foods, and sidewalk sales held by local businesses. An official competition is judged with several categories (home baked, professional, traditional, and free-style) where the best tarts are crowned winners of the annual contest. Secret recipes handed down through generations of home-baking grandmothers are put to the test here.
Despite a chilly start to the day and the threat of rain, the festival was packed with visitors by noon, with many of the more popular bakers already selling out of their tarts. Luckily one of the vendors I tried (The Maids’ Cottage) turned out to be a winner – they took first place in the Professional Bakers (Traditional) category. And it was probably the best butter tart I’ve ever had. So buttery rich and gooey and sweet enough to make your teeth ring. Perfect!