Spent the weekend on M's folks' farm, and finally got to watch her mom make a pie from start to finish. Typically, we're showing up late and the pie's already in the oven. This time, we got there late again ... but she made the pie the next day, so for once, we were early ... well, early for tomorrow, if that can still count as early.
I'm amazed by rhubarb. It sells for around $3 / lb for conventional in most grocery stores, which isn't bad. The thing is, it's the easiest thing in the world to grow. You plant it, and it grows. Basic stuff.
And apparently I have a rather unconventional sense of beauty, because I think it's a beautiful plant. Big and bold, assertive, staking it's claim. Most folks, though, think of it more as a cross between a weed and a shrub ... a shreed, if you will. Ungainly and gangly, with no apparent symmetry or form. But I appreciate it's strength and perseverance, which more than make up for not being a leggy super-model of the plant world.
In a world that favored function over form, everyone would grow rhubarb right in front of their front porch, or as a divider between their yard and the neighbors. Ugly? Yeah, right, call it ugly when you're having yet another free pie or cobbler, courtesy this shreed that keeps coming back year after year.
For more on the wheres and whyfors of rhubarb, check out this. The key point is, rhubarb is about the tartest thing you'll ever taste, but the common misconception is that you have to kill it with tons of sugar to tame it down. But tart and sweet aren't like a pH factor — you can't just add them together until you get a neutral. Too much sugar kills the tartness of the rhubarb, and you just get an overly sweet pie. You really don't want to use any more sugar than you would for a peach pie of the same size, just enough to take the edge off without drowning it.
Here's the original family recipe:
And if you can't read the 3x5 card, here's another version:
1.5 cup sugar
4 Tbs minute tapioca
1/4 tsp salt
Pastry shell for top/bottom
2 cups flour
2/3 cup + 2tbs crisco
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbs cold water
Combine sugar /tapioca/salt.
Add fruit, mix well, let stand.
Spoon fruit into pastry shell.
Optional: dot with butter
For the pie crust, it's just: mix flour and salt, cut in shortening, sprinkle with water and you toss it with a fork, gather into a ball and roll into a shell.
Bake at 375 for about 40 mins. Watch the edge of the crusts; if the edges start to get too dark, remove from the oven, cover with strips of foil, and return to the oven. Wait for the fruit to really bubble or the rhubarb will be crunchy.