Monday, May 17, 2010

A Little History and a Recipe

As I had briefly mentioned last week, my friend Rhonda gave me a big bag of fresh rhubarb as well as some strawberries so that I could pretend I was Betty Crocker for a little while and bake a strawberry-rhubarb pie - something that I have only done once over the course of my lifetime but which turned out to be a big hit at work.  Rhonda's timing couldn't have been better as a fellow co-worker had been asking me just the night before when I was going to make "another one of those delicious pies"?

After mentioning the rhubarb in my post, I received the following comment from a fellow blogger who lives on the West Coast:
Travis Cody said... 
I've never had rhubarb. In fact, I didn't really know what it was so I looked it up. So it's a tart botanical veggie that gets used like a fruit?
That pretty much sums it up, Travis, as rhubarb sort of looks like red or pink stalks of celery, however; to elaborate just a little further I found this great bit of information at SpecialityProduce.com:
"Originally the ancient Chinese cultivated rhubarb for its medicinal properties. Used for a laxative effect, rhubarb didn't gain acceptance as a food in the United States until the late 1700s and only after the truly brave experimented with its seriously tangy culinary attributes. In 1947, rhubarb was legally classified as a fruit even though botanically rhubarb is a vegetable. It was the United States Customs Court in Buffalo, New York, that ruled rhubarb to be a fruit since it was used mainly as a fruit. This cost-effective act allowed imported rhubarb to pay a smaller duty than if it was a vegetable. Dubbed "pie plant", pie was the only dish this tart treat was used for in early days. The good news is that today's innovative chefs are reinventing rhubarb and creating superb rhubarb specialties from yummy soups to rhubarb compotes. Quite famous in Britain, Brits love their traditional rhubarb crumble treat. In the United States, Washington State leads in the production of rhubarb with Oregon, Michigan and California following close behind. Holland also generously contributes to the rhubarb supply."
As a kid, I can remember my grandfather had three very large rhubarb plants that came back every year in the spring that my cousins and I would break stalks off of and sit on the stone wall chewing on while I'm sure we made some rather amusing faces from the tartness!   To be honest, rhubarb pie was NOT on my list of favorites but as I grew older and my tastebuds gained some maturity, I discovered that if you added strawberries in with rhubarb you got one very tasty pie - especially if you went one step further and made a "custard" that went over the top of the fruit before you baked it.

Being that I had promised to bring a pie into work with me today I took the time last night to make two strawberry-rhubarb custard pies using the following recipe that I modified just a bit as the pie plates I own are 9-inch deep dish pies that require more filling than what is called for here.  Luckily I'm good enough at simple math to know how to halve or double a recipe!  The basic recipe is:
□ 2 (8") unbaked pie crusts
□ 2 c. rhubarb, cut into 1" pieces
□ 2 c. fresh strawberries, cut in halves
□ 1 1/4 c. sugar
□ 3 tbsp. butter, melted
□ 3 tbsp. flour
□ 1/2 tsp. nutmeg (or more to taste)
□ 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Place strawberries and rhubarb on bottom crust. Mix all other ingredients well; pour over top and spread around fruit. Top with solid crust or make a lattice weave for top crust; flute edges. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Turn down to 350 degrees and bake pie for 35 minutes or until rhubarb is soft.
The other difference is that I put half of the fruit in the pie plate and topped it with half of the custard and then put the rest of the fruit in and topped it with the other half of the custard.  Layering seems to work just a little bit better especially considering that I use a crumb crust on top rather than a full top crust or lattice crust.  The crumb crust couldn't be easier - you just use 1/3 c. softened butter or margarine; 1/3 c. flour; and 1/2 c. sugar and cut it together with two knives (or a pastry blender) until it forms a crumbly consistency.  Sprinkle it over the top of the pie, put it in the oven, and voilà!

Oh, and as for the baking time, I had to adjust that, too, as 35 minutes was nowhere near long enough for these pies to cook - it was more like an hour but I kept a close eye on them during the baking process.   The other thing to watch out for is that the filling will probably run over a bit so you might want to put a piece of foil underneath the pie plates unless you like cleaning the oven!

Having not used this particular recipe before, I figured it was my duty to taste-test a slice of pie before bringing one into work with me this afternoon so guess what I had for breakfast?

Sorry for the quality of these pictures but they were taken with my iPhone as I was just in too big of a hurry to get a bite of pie to take the time to dig out my Nikon for a better shot!  As for how it came out?  I'm happy to report that it is delicious!  I'm sure the folks at work will be pleased as will Amanda who had to suffer through the wonderful aroma last night while they were baking but hasn't had a slice yet as they were still too hot when she went to bed.

In conclusion, Martha Stewart you've got nothin' on me - at least not when it comes to baking!

11 comments:

  1. Now I'm hungry for a strawberry/rhubarb pie. Yummy. It looks really good even though you took the photographs with your phone. Just saying. I'm coming over for a slice.

    Have a terrific day. Big hug. :)

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  2. Looks delicious, Linda! Betty and Martha would be envious I'm sure.

    Sounds like a perfect way to "break the fast" - have a great Monday.

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  3. I have a (very) small plot of rhubarb growing in my garden and I adore rhubarb crumble. Unfortunately sweet stuff is out of the question for me now so I give the rhubarb to either my Dad or my MIL who absolutely love it.

    Looks like you did a great job with your rhubarb Linda. :)

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  4. OMG, Linda! I love, love, love rhubarb pie -also rhubarb sauce too! My grandma always made rhubarb pies with a lattice top and her recipe-which I have but have never tried as our rhubarb patch went missing several years ago -(and I refuse to pay the outlandish prices they charge for a pound of rhubarb in the grocery stores here) so I haven't had rhubarb anything in a long, long time. A couple of weeks back though my neighbors' daughter brought me some rhubarb plants so I can start my own rhubarb patch once again! Hope they grow for me now! I don't know if a blogger named Technobabe follows your blog or not, but if she doesn't I'm gonna send her your way as she wanted a good recipe for rhubarb pie and I had sent her my Grandma's -which might be a little difficult to follow seeing as Grandma had her own methods in putting her recipes down to paper. I hope she had listed ALL the ingredients and steps in that recipe, ya know. That pie of yours looks absolutely awesome and has my mouth watering like crazy now for some of the same! Great post too in explaining what rhubarb is too, by the way!

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  5. oh man that looks delicious!!!

    smiles, bee
    xoxoxoxoxoxo

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  6. Yummmmmo, your pie looks absolutely delicious and no doubt it was:-) I have two rhubarb plants in my garden and I was just looking at it the other day. It should be ready to use any day now. I don't care for plain rhubarb pie but mixed in with strawberries like you did, it's great!! I remember going to my gran's as a child and asking her for a piece of rhubarb and sugar in a bowl so that I could dip the rhubarb in it. It was the only way I would eat it, since it was too sour otherwise. I do remember the puckered up faces we'd make anyway! lol xoxo

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  7. Interesting. You have made me consider...the next time we're out for pie, I shall see if they have any strawberry/rhubarb so I can taste.

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  8. Now you have me singing the rhubarb pie song from Prairie Home Companion...LOL

    One of my favorite memories from childhood is picking rhubarb from the back yard and grabbing a coffee cup with sugar in it. I'd dip the stem into the sugar and take a bite, dip and bite... well, you know the rest.

    MMMMM!

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  9. I have a love-hate relationship with rhubarb. The first time I ever tasted it was as an accompaniment (stewed) with Mrs. Knott's famous fried chicken dinner. Ack. But I don't like grapefruit either. I have a dear friend who is a fabulous baker, so I tried her cobbler and alas. Age hadn't altered my taste buds a bit. I'd sure give yours a shot, though! You just never know...
    ~~~Blessings~~~

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  10. I am jealous! I love Rhubarb. My Mom had quite a few plants but we were a big family and it never went to waste. I can remember eating it raw like celery and Mom used to make the best Strawberry Rhubarb jam and a syrup for pancakes (you have got to try it with pancakes). I did not get my first "Rhubarb Tart" till I met my Sweet Hubby.
    Thanks for great memories, good thing it is almost dinner time, I am hungry.
    Kat

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