Yorkshire Curd Tart

Ah, Yorkshire. God’s Own Country and my home county (well, it’s 3 counties technically, but let’s not worry about that now). There are many delicious regional recipes to be found there, but this must be the best: Yorkshire curd tart. For some very strange reason it hasn’t really ever made its way out of Yorkshire. Essentially it is a baked cheesecake – something that Britain isn’t considered famous for, yet if you delve into the old cook books, you’ll find loads of recipes for them. The cheese in question here is, of course, curd cheese which is sweetened with sugar, and mixed with currants, allspice and sometimes rosewater.

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Now a few guiding words on the making of a curd tart: no matter what you read, and I want to be very clear on this, cottage cheese cannot be used. It must be curd cheese which is very different in taste and texture to cottage cheese. These days it is difficult to get your hands on it, but it is very easy to make yourself, as you’ll see below. Also, the only spice to be used must be ground allspice (or clove-pepper as it used to be called in Yorkshire). Not cinnamon, not nutmeg, and certainly not mixed spice. Another misconception is that lemon curd is spread on the pastry base of the tart. Well it’s not, Mr Michelin Guide. Lastly, and as already mentioned, it’s a kind of cheesecake, and not some kind of custard tart as some people seem to think (Mr Paul Hollywood, I’m looking at you).

Ok. Good. Glad we got those issues out of the way.

Curd tarts were traditionally made around Whitsuntide from left-over curds from the cheese-making process and seem to originate in the early-to-mid 17th century. Most families kept their own cow in those days. For those of you that don’t know (and who does?), Whitsuntide derives from the words White Sunday which is our name for Pentecost, which, if my memory serves me correctly, is the seventh Sunday after Easter. The important thing is that there’s a Bank Holiday the next day and a whole week off for half term for the schoolkids.

In dairy farms with several cows, special curd tarts would be made after the cows had calved, using the cows’ colostrum to make the curd for the tarts. Colostrum is the milk produced straight after a mammal gives birth. It is particularly rich in nutrients and fat, and is yellowish in colour. I’ve always thought of this as a bit mean of the dairy farmer’s wife, but then again, she’d also have to tuck into umbilical cord pie the next day, so I suppose it evens out.

To Make Curd Cheese

It’s really easy to make your own curd cheese. All you need is some gold top Channel Island milk, some rennet, salt, and some muslin or other cloth to drain the whey from the curds; I have used an old pillowcase in the past with much success.

Rennet is an enzyme that curdles milk. In the old days a piece of a freshly-slaughtered male calf’s stomach lining would have been popped into the milk (as still occurs in the production of some non-vegetarian cheeses). These days with the magic of science, we can produce it from bacterial culture.

This recipe makes around 750g curd cheese.

In a saucepan, warm a litre of Channel Island milk to 37⁰C, also termed ‘blood-heat’. Use a thermometer if you like. Pour the milk into a dish or bowl and stir in half a teaspoon of salt and your rennet. Follow the instructions on the bottle to see how much to add, as different brands vary. Stir it in, along with half a teaspoon of salt.

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Leave the milk to stand for 10 or 15 minutes. Upon your return, you’ll see that the milk had gone all wobbly and can be easily – and satisfyingly – broken into curds.

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Scald your straining cloth with water straight from the kettle, spread it out over a bowl so the edges hang over, and then pour in your curds and whey. Tie up the cloth with string and hang up the cheese above the bowl to strain for 4 or 5 hours. Hey presto! You have made curd cheese. It keeps for several days covered in the fridge.

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To Make a Yorkshire Curd Tart

Here’s the recipe I use which is based on the one that appears in Jane Grigson’s English Food. It makes enough filling for one 10 inch diameter tart tin, though you can make several small ones if you prefer. The recipe only requires 250g of cheese, so if you’re making your own, you might want to adjust the quantities in the recipe above, or just make three tarts.

The tart is not overly sweet and has a lovely soft centre and a golden brown colour.

125g salted butter

60g caster sugar

250g curd cheese

125g raisins

pinch of salt

2 eggs, beaten

¼ to ½ tsp ground allspice

1 tsp rosewater (optional).

blind-baked 10 inch shortcrust pastry shell (made or bought)

First of all, cream together the butter and sugar well, then mix in the cheese, raisins, salt and eggs. Season to taste with the allspice and rosewater.

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Pour the filling into the pastry shell and bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 220⁰C. Cool on a rack.

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Filed under baking, Britain, cooking, Dairy, Desserts, food, General, history, Puddings, Recipes

59 responses to “Yorkshire Curd Tart

  1. Hi! I just wanted to let you know that you said Curd cheese twice, where I think you meant to say Cottage cheese the second time. I just thought you would want to know! This looks delicious 🙂


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  3. Love that you make your own cheese! I tried once with rennet and met with only partial success. I didn’t persevere. Maybe I should try again :). Lovely recipe!


    • Thanks Vinny! It’s one of the best hidden gems of regional food in my opinion.

      I wonder why your rennet didn’t work?


      • I had trouble sourcing the rennet- maybe it was just too old? Anyway, the liquid never really solidified, sadly. Might look again when I’m out and about today and see if the situation has improved.


      • My rennet has been at the back of my cupboard for years and is still going strong! Perhaps you milk was too hot? These enzymes are sensitive little buggers!


    • Cactus

      Tricky stuff is Rennet. I am a home cheesemaker and it took me a while to figure it out.
      Without getting too technical, Rennet is measured in IMCU’s, (International milk clotting units) which depicts the strength.
      Here in NZ the standard Renco rennet is 65 ICMU, whilst I may follow a cheese recipe from the U.S, which states a rennet of 300 ICMU’s. Obviously I would need to put in 5 times the amount of NZ rennet, to match the U.S. and, it gets worse, theres double strength rennets, rennet tablets….it goes on. each manufacturer has a different strength.
      Cheese making books are great for leaving out the rennet strength in their recipes.
      The best thing is to follow the instructions on the bottle, rather than follow the recipe, and proportion directly. I learnt the long and hard way !!!


      • oops – lost my response (I think…). I think I said: that explains why the recipe was so unreliable. I wanted to include the recipe in a kids’ book and had to leave it out!


      • That’d explain it!


      • Cactus

        even as a cheese maker, I now use the lemon juice method (which would go into a kids book easily).
        Bring the milk to the boil, stir in 4 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, and stir gently for a couple of minutes. Works perfectl. Works using whlte vinegar, too, but I prefr the lemon juice.


      • Cheers for that Cactus!


  4. Am looking forward to making this – I’ve seen the recipe mentioned in some of my old cookbooks – I would like to make my own cheese but am reluctant to use rennet is there something else I could use. I’ve made a simple cheese before for Indian desserts with vinegar – does that produce the kind of curds you need for the tart? Thank you in advance.


    • I would go for rennet as it gives the best texture (the bottled stuff is vegetarian). Otherwise you can use lemon juice, which obviously will give a lemon flavour to the tart. The curds are much more like cottage cheese this way, but I’m sure I’ll be fine.

      Hope that helps Patricia!


  5. Kathryn Marsh

    Way back when farmers wives still took their totally unregulated eggs, butter and cheese to sell in Ripon market I used to help one of them with her butter and cheese making. And one of the things that sold hand over fist was her curd cheese. Which was made with vinegar. And as you say, a different texture to the rennet curd we made cheese with – Wensleydale style. It wasn’t legal even then to sell beestings (colostrum) so when we had it to sell the bottles were hidden under the stall.and the information was whispered to the customers. Now I no longer have cows myself I really miss beestings tart. My Lincolnshire grandmother made the curd for curd tarts with lemon juice and my Yorkshire grandmother also belonged to the vinegar school. Though in the fifties it was easy to get junket rennet in Leeds – most corner shops carried it, and every Coop branch


    • Thanks Kathryn for your answer to the vinegar question – I think I’ll try mine with that, I make my own apple cider vinegar so I’ll use that first. How lovely to read about your times at Ripon Market!


  6. Cactus

    Liquid Rennet will keep a lot better if refrigerated.


  7. Wowzas! That is complicated. I generally do what you do and follow the packet whether it be rennet, gelatine or whatever

    Thanks for the post!


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  9. Hi, I absolutely love this blog! I would like to make this pie, but I have one problem: it seems, it is not possible to find a recipe where colostrum is used instead of curd cheese. My parents have a little organic farm, so colostrum is available for me, but… every recipe calls for rennet. Could you please explain to me how to use colostrum in this recipe? Thanks in advance!


    • I’ve never used it myself, but follow the method using colostrum instead of milk. If you can’t get rennet, use some lemon juice to induce curdling.


  10. E. Platt

    My last Curd Tart was over 50 years ago, my M in law bought curd from the markets in York, still can taste them.
    My Mother used to make Curd Cheese when the milk was off, she just used to hang it up over the kitchen sink in muslin.
    I don’t think I can get Proper milk, all ours seems to be processed.


    • Hi there. You can still buy unhomogenised, unpasturised milk, if you know who to ask, it’s the pasteurisation process that kills off the bacteria that make the milk go cheesy. Vegetable rennet doesn’t give the curds the cheesy tang. YOu can, of course, buy bacterial cultures to put back into the milk!


    • Lance

      Why I’m actually reading this recipe is that my gran (I’m now 74) used to make it by this method in Oldham when I were a lad, and I’ve gone on about ever since but never done anything about it!
      I can still taste it too…


  11. Roy Smith

    Do you really get 750 g of curd from one litre of milk? I could only manage about 350 grams from two litres.


    • Hi Roy, i think i must have put a typo in there by accident! It was more like 250g. Channel Island milk is the best for this job


      • David

        I was just going to comment that it is highly unlikely to render 750g or Curd from a litre of any milk and I found someone had already shown this.

        Great recipe which I am now just in the process of baking this morning: thank you.

        I have often used the lemon juice method less so the vinegar for make Paneer, for Indian dishes that use this as a base. I suspect the lemon juice method might be ideal with the Curd Tart.


      • If you’re going to add something acidic, definitely go with the lemon. I prefer the neutral vegetable rennet though. I’ve recently invested a Yorkshire curd tart ice cream, I should post the recipe!

        Hope the recipe has worked out for you


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  13. Kerhie

    Can it be stored in the fridge or will that make the pastry doggy


  14. Susan

    Hi, Do you use the whey for making scones instead od buttermilk . Delicious.
    I love this blog .


  15. Joseph Lynn Wardle

    Got my City and Guilds in Confectionery in 1951 in West Yorkshire. We always put raspberry jam in the curd tart before the curd mixture..Lovely moist tart,very popular. Age 85 tomorrow.


    • Happy 85th Joseph!

      I’ve never considered putting jam in a curd tart, but seeing as everything is improved by raspberry jam I see no reason why it shouldn’t see included!

      Hope you’re still baking away!


  16. Neil, I love cooking foods from the past, and I just made a Yorkshire curd tart. Though I was thinking to myself how nice it might be with fresh berries, I stuck to the dried currants that are historical.


    • Its gotta be currants, Jean. Anything else wouldn’t make it a Yorkshire curd tart! This food isn’t from the past either, bought one only the other day from a bakery. Thanks for the comment!


  17. John Pilley

    Just made first curd tart at an unfortunately advanced age – thank you. Your local Polish shop may be an easy source for suitable curd, mine stocks it in proper, low fat and pointless varieties.


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  19. Mrs k stain

    Without going against yorkshire tradition, may l suggest a far easier (Indian) way to make curd, that does not rely on rennet. Bring full fat milk or gold top milk to boil in a BIG pan. (Try 4 pints of milk). As it STARTS to rise on the boil, lower heat and immediately add vinegar, (approx 2 tablespoons). It will seperate into curd & whey the INSTANCE you add just enough vinegar. Drain into a muslin lined colander. You can squeeze it, press it with a weight, freeze it, cut into chunks and fry for paneer or ma,e the delicious curd tart!! 4 pints makes about 1.2lbs.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Expat Yorkshire baker

    Really good recipe, but think the quantity of currants is rather too much.
    When I make it again I’ll put fewer in.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Ian

    I have made this several times now, (Being a Yorkshireman 18000km away from the nearest Yorkshire Curd Tart) and love it….delicious! One thing I didn’t notice before was that the ratio of butter to sugar is 2:1, whereas most other recipes seem to have a 1:1 ratio. Not being a baker I wondered at the reasoning for this. Is the extra butter what makes the tart tastier? Or is it more technical than that? Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ian. Thanks for your comment. I made Yorkshire curd tarts when i was in Texas, so I know how you feel.
      The recipe I use is based on Jane Grigson’s and I’ve never really questioned it. It is very buttery and I would recommend giving it a go


  22. Alison Gruber

    If you can’t make curd, pop into your local Eastern European shop and buy Twaróg….. that’s full fat curd cheese. In a round or triangle shaped plastic wrapper, with the other dairy

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Lynne Tann-Watson

    It’s not true that curd tart never made its way out of Yorkshire. There are curd tarts of varying recipes, traditional all over England. Up until relatively recent times, Melton Mowbray curd tarts were sold around the streets of the town at whitsun and many other places have their own tradition of curd tarts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Are they still made I wonder? And are they like Yorkshire ones or quite different? Indeed there are a few curd tarts, Maids of Honour spring to mind. Ripened milk or cream would have been in abundance!


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  26. Richard

    I remember buying curd tart in Helmsley in 1965,from a bakers in the market place I think, and discovering that the currants were not currents, but cooked specs of blood. I assume from the colostrum? Does that mean that the cow was poorly? Anyway, it was delicious but nobody down south and in Wales will believe me that the currants were not currants and I came to doubt my own story. What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmmmm. Well I’ve had colostrum and it’s never had specs of blood in it. BUT there are examples of blood put into sweet dishes, the most famous being the Welsh goose blood tart. So perhaps it was that?

      When I make my next postbag episode of my podcast I’ll ask if anyone knows about it (If that’s okay).


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