Skip to content

Eating Her Curds and Whey

Cottage Cheese Tarts

by Jane Worthington-Roth

I was taking a stroll down memory lane the other day while listening to reports of the annual observances on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. On December 7, 1941 the world changed for my grandparents who at the time were 35 and 40 years old. I thought about how frightened they must have been to hear the words of President Roosevelt as he spoke before Congress telling our country how December 7, 1941 was a “date that will live in infamy.”

Assuredly, life was much more difficult then but it was also much simpler. While considering what to write for, my trip down that memory lane led me to think about food items I remember my grandmother (“Baci”) always had around. Of course there was a bowl of fruit on the table and the usual bread, milk and eggs but I also remembered that she always had a tub of cottage cheese in the fridge. I see that they still sell cottage cheese in every grocery store, but to be honest, I don’t know anyone who buys it and I never see it stacked in anyone’s shopping cart.

Cottage cheese made its way into so many dishes back then. My grandmother never bought packaged “macaroni and cheese” or, heaven forbid, something as exotic as “Velveeta.” No… my grandmother’s rendition of macaroni and cheese was a box of boiled elbow macaroni, sautéed in a frying pan loaded with a lot of butter until the macaroni was lightly browned. Just before taking it off the stove, a good glob of cottage cheese was stirred in, making a delicious gooey white dinner.

Cottage cheese appeared everywhere when I was growing up. Restaurants offered “relish trays” on every table that commonly included horseradish-cottage-cheese and crackers. One of my mom’s common treats with a Sunday roast was a serving of cottage cheese topped with a canned pear half (cut side down). I remember as a young child using a Q-tip and little containers of food coloring to “artistically” paint the back of the pear in “realistic” colors for a glorious effect underscoring the importance of Sunday dinner.

A couple of days ago, my mom emailed me a photo of my grandmother’s “Cottage Cheese Tarts.” I love the photo because it shows the recipe just as I remember – carefully typed on an old fashioned typewriter, showing the paper folds that the recipe has endured for generations. The recipe is simple – it had to be since it took so long to type out copies - but in its simplicity is delicious elegance, and I’d like to share the recipe with you here.


Cream 1 cup Spry*.
Add 1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
Blend well.
Add 1 cup cottage cheese and mix.
Add 2 cups sifted enriched flour and mix well again.
Chill dough thoroughly about 3 hours, or overnight.

Roll out ¼ inch thick in confectionary sugar.
Cut 3 inch squares.
Place 1 tsp, marmalade, or jam, in center of each square.
Fold corners over filling.
Place squares on ungreased backing sheets and bake in 325° oven for 20 minutes.
Makes about 3 dozen 2 inch tarts. Very delicious.

*Spry was a brand of vegetable shortening produced by Lever Brothers starting in 1936. It was a competitor for Proctor & Gamble’s Crisco. Granted, this ingredient is a far-cry from the usual health-conscious ingredients in my recipes but I have to admit that my grandmother did have some great old-world ideas. She was the person who taught me how to double-cook French Fries only in lard, a practice I still continue today.