Rhubarb Pie

I've always associated rhubarb pie with the Southern US. Maybe this is because my (other, very non-Yankee) grandmother was the first one who introduced me to it (mixed with strawberry pie filling in a too-red confection when I was a preteen), or maybe it's because, after that one ill-fated strawberry adventure, rhubarb went out of my head until I was 15, hanging out with a friend in Kentucky, and his dad brought me a piece of “fresh rhubarb, right off the bush! You have to try it, it's just so good!”

Have you ever tasted raw rhubarb? It's literally the worst. It's so bitter and so sour and so terrible I thought I'd never recover. So after that I learned my lesson and moved on to eating it only cooked any time I could find it, which wasn't often in the States.

But then I moved to Scotland and it's all over the place here! Rhubarb muffins, rhubarb puddings, rhubarb jam for your scones in the morning, and best of all, it's never paired with strawberries! So now I love rhubarb. As long as it's not raw, that is. It's pearly and pink and pastel and it's amazing boiled with sugar, strained, and stirred into lemonade.

But I still associate it with the Southern US, and so I was surprised to find a recipe for it in the box. Eleanor may have been many things, and she may have spent a full half of her life in Florida, but she was, above all, most emphatically not Southern. So I guess I was wrong about rhubarb, but that's ok. That's what the project is about, after all: being wrong about inconsequential things and then figuring it out.

This recipe is really simple-- even moreso if you only read half of it, as I did, and somehow ignore the entire “double pastry” part and only make it with a single crust. Hey, we're not here to judge. Just to eat pie and drink hot coffee. But my favourite part-- beyond the simplicity of the recipe, beyond the beauty of cooked rhubarb-- my favourite part is that it's written on the back of a pre-printed recipe card for Armour Star Chopped Beef. What, you may be asking, is Chopped Beef? I don't know. Perhaps it is like chipped beef, but I've never had that either and I'm not about to do the research to find out.

So Eleanor hand-wrote the recipe for this rhubarb pie on the back of a card that I assume probably came with the box itself-- there are a handful of these cards in the box, all with handwritten recipes on the back. And all of them contain gems like this: “Cut contents of 1 tin chopped beef into 8 slices. Fry in a little butter.” I'm glad Eleanor wrote on the back of them-- I'm going to assume even she didn't like the idea of tinned beef and only saved the cards because she had written dessert recipes on the other side. When I first realised that the front of the card had a pre-printed recipe on it, I asked Judson if I should make the recipe for Chopped Beef, too-- but then we realised (with a sigh of relief) that there is no way to buy tinned beef over here in Scotland (or, I hope, anywhere), and that it's not even a recipe so much as just “remove contents from jar and eat,” so I'm not bothering with it. If you have a problem with that, we ask that you kindly take it up with management.

If you have a tart or quiche pan (like a pie pan, but shallower and with straight, fluted sides), this is the perfect recipe to use it. I have one, but forgot about it until it was too late. Alas. If you're not using a tart pan, I recommend increasing the amount of rhubarb from 2 cups to 2 ½ cups or so (4 large stalks is plenty). I've included a recipe for pie crust below, but it makes enough for a double crust. I only used half of it, because I didn't read the recipe well and was already planning on using the other half for a dish I'll be posting tomorrow, but the recipe calls for a double crust, so feel free to use the entire thing. I ended up liking it better without a top crust because it let the rhubarb shine through more, but I'm kind of meh about crust anyway. If you're one of those people who likes crust, then make the top layer, too.

The Verdict:

4 spoons out of five. I found myself wishing there was more rhubarb in the filling and that it was a little more tart. (The wish for more rhubarb could easily be remedied by cooking this in a tart pan, which is what I'll do next time). It's worth noting that the Brits we shared it with, who probably all have more rhubarb experience than me, loved it, so it's possible I'm the one in the wrong on this one.

The recipe:

Rhubarb Pie

The Ingredients:

The Crust:

2 c flour
½ tsp salt
½ c butter, cold
2 tbsp shortening or Stork
1 egg
3 tbsp ice water

The Directions:


Combine flour and salt in mixing bowl.
Cut in butter and shortening with a pastry cutter or two knives until mixture forms very coarse crumbs.
Make a well in the center of the mixture.
Beat together egg and water, then pour into well in flour mixture.
Toss the mixture with two forks until it almost forms a dough, then press it together into a ball with your hands as fast as possible.
Divide in half and wrap in plastic wrap or foil.
Chill 20 minutes in freezer or 90 minutes in refrigerator before using.
Roll out half of dough and press into the pie pan-- crust does not need to be parbaked before cooking the pie.
If desired, roll out second half of dough and place on top of rhubarb filling, pricking top crust to allow steam to escape.

The Filling:

2-2 ½ c rhubarb, sliced into bite-size chunks
3 tbs cornstarch
1 c sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional but recommended by me)


Preheat oven to 425F/218C.
Mix together all ingredients and pour into prepared pie crust (recipe above, or use a storebought crust).
Cover tightly with foil and cook 10 minutes.
Turn oven down to 350F/176C, remove foil, and cook for another 45 minutes, until filling is set and does not wobble when nudged.
If using only one crust, you might need to lay the foil loosely over the pie during the last 10 minutes to keep the rhubarb from scorching as the filling finishes setting.

Yields one small pie.