It's Rhubarb Season

When my children were young, I could always tell when my rhubarb was ready. This was because of two unmistakable signs. One was large rhubarb leaves that were torn from their stalks and scattered around my yard. The other was bowls with little pink sugar crystals in them, which I would come across in random locations. You see, my kids and their friends loved to pull stalks of rhubarb to eat. They would tear the leaves from the stalks and drop them wherever they happened to be. The ones who couldn’t quite handle the sour taste would put sugar in one of my cereal bowls and dip the end of the rhubarb into it before taking a bite. Once the rhubarb was consumed, the bowl would be abandoned.

Now that my children are grown, rhubarb season tends to sneak up on me. My apple trees are barely in bloom, and I haven’t yet finished planting my garden, but still, the rhubarb is ready to be picked and eaten. My 22-year-old son pointed that out to me a few days ago or it might have slipped passed me, so I can still thank my children for helping me know when the rhubarb is ready.

My two favorite recipes to make from rhubarb are rhubarb crunch and strawberry rhubarb pie. We usually only get to eat these delicious desserts in the spring and early summer. We could have them year-round if I would freeze some of my rhubarb, and every year I say I am going to do that. But that is another thing which tends to slip past me most years.

Rhubarb crunch is a recipe I got from my mother. It is like a crisp only it has a crust on the bottom as well as the top. Be sure to grease the pan well or spray it heavily with baking spray, or you’ll find yourself having to chisel out the bottom crust. But it is well worth it. The bottom crust is the “crunch” and it is delicious. I like this best served hot with vanilla ice cream. If you don’t have ice cream, pouring a little milk over it is good too.

Rhubarb Crunch

1 C flour (I sometimes use whole wheat)
¾ C oatmeal
1 C brown sugar
½ C melted butter
1 tsp cinnamon
4 C rhubarb cut into ½ inch pieces
1 C sugar
2 Tbs cornstarch
1 C water
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, and cinnamon together. Add butter and mix until crumbly. Press half into an 8”x 8” greased pan. Pour rhubarb over crust. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Add water and cook until thick and clear. Add vanilla. Pour over rhubarb and top with remaining crumb mixture. Bake at 350o for one hour.  (Double the recipe for a 9”x13” pan.)

Strawberry rhubarb pie is a favorite of one of my sons. Unfortunately, it’s too early for my strawberries to be ready, so I had to use ones I bought from the store when I made it this past weekend. Still, the pie was delicious.

I’ve tried a lot of different recipes for pie crust. The one I like best and which has become my go to recipe, is the simplest one I’ve used. I got it from a dear friend named Barbara. The trick with it is to have the water really cold. Before I start mixing the crust, I put ice in a glass, fill it with cold water, and put in my refrigerator. Then when I’m ready to add water to the mixture, I have the icy water needed to result in a flaky pie crust.

This recipe makes 2 single crust or one double crust pie. I doubled it to make 2 double crust pie, but I would not try to make more than that at a time. It would be hard to handle more without overworking it, and that would result in tough pie crust.

Barbara’s Pie Crust

2 ½ C flour
1 tsp salt
1 heaping C shortening (almost 1 ¼ C)
½ C ice water

Whisk together flour and salt. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or knife. Mix in water. Do not over mix. Roll out on a well-floured surface.
For an unfilled, single crust pie shell, bake at 425o for 8-10 minutes
For a filled, double crust pie, bake at 425o for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to350o and bake for 45 minutes more. (Or follow the baking directions on the recipe for the filling you use.)

For my strawberry/rhubarb filling, I used a recipe from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook I received over thirty years ago as a wedding present. I checked, and even though the book is that old, it is still under copyright, so I won’t share the recipe here. It is a pretty standard one. You can find dozens by googling “strawberry rhubarb pie recipe.” This one is thickened with instant tapioca rather than cornstarch, and it resulted in a nice, set filling.


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