Now I know that it is Spring!
When I went over to my daughter’s for Mother’s Day brunch I checked the bed of rhubarb. Guess what? It is ready. That bed has been growing by the farmhouse as long as I can remember and probably much longer than that.
When the older couple lived there we were invited annually to come over to cut some rhubarb. My family loved rhubarb so I always took them up on it. Of course, we visited with them while we were there. They loved to see the little ones, but I imagine they were also glad to see us go back home.
I remember that my great-grandmother had a small of rhubarb right in the middle of her tulip bed. Grandma came over from Holland so I suppose some of those tulips might have made the trip as well. She had some very different varieties. The garden was beautiful when it was in bloom. The tulips were usually in bloom when the rhubarb was ready. My grandmother would send grandpa or Uncle Walter out to cut some for her.
I never cared much for the rhubarb pies that grandma made. I loved sour things but that pie seemed to be exceedingly sour. I do not remember my grandmother ever making any rhubarb sauce or I might have liked that.
I think maybe rhubarb is an acquired taste. When I married and moved over to the farm I found a recipe for a rhubarb pie that called for eggs. When I tried it, I found that it was very good so that is the way I have always made my pies. I use two crusts, but the top one is a mock lattice crust where I twist the strips of dough to look like an open-work fence. The egg makes the prettiest top as it browns slightly and puffs up through the lattice.
So as not to be in trouble with my readers I have included that recipe here. Just use your favorite crust recipe or even cheat with a frozen or packaged crust if you like. Since my recipe came out of my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook I did not include it in either of my own cookbooks. I received that cookbook as a gift from my Aunt Betty and Uncle Paul in 1957 just before I started high school. I was not thrilled when they gave it to me, but years later I treasure that book and still use it often for special recipes.
Rhubarb Cream Pie
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine 1 c. sugar, c. flour, and tsp. nutmeg. Beat into 3 beaten eggs. Add 4 c. rhubarb cut into one-inch pieces.
Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake pie for 50 to 60 min. Check the crust edges often if they are getting too brown cover with some aluminum foil or a device for covering crusts.
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Hint: each year I check the water content of the rhubarb before proceeding with my recipe. I make a rhubarb sauce to see how much water it gives off. If it was a rainy spring you may need to add a little more flour so that you do not have a running filling.
The hint included is my own of course. No cookbook, except one that is done by a home cook provides these types of pointers.
I now have a couple rhubarb plants of my own. Someone my son knew was cleaning out a yard and wanted to get rid of the rhubarb. We happily took some off their hands. One of my plants has done well but the other one was under the eave and I think got too much water. This spring my son and grandson moved it for me. We dug out a big hosta plant to make room for it. It is coming along, but I suppose it will take a season to establish itself.
While I am at it I will tell you how to make a very easy rhubarb jam. That recipe was given to me by my mother-in-law so it is in my cookbook. We figured out how to make a sugarless version as well as a regular version. It is handy to have something sugarless in case someone who visits cannot have sugar. I make this every year because the jam from last year is always gone.
5 c. rhubarb
1 (3oz,) pkg. gelatin sugar-free or regular
4 c. sugar or sugar substitute
Cut rhubarb in inch pieces. Mix with the sugar. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves and rhubarb is soft. Boil for 2 min. then remove from the heat. Add gelatin stirring gently. Pour into sanitized jars. Top with two-piece lid. Be sure you hear the pop that means it has sealed.
Note: I have used raspberry, cherry, strawberry, and blackberry gelatin and they were all good.
I remember asking my students if they liked rhubarb. I got some very strange looks. There was a lot of head shaking to indicate that it was not a favorite. Often I made a batch of strawberry rhubarb sauce to take in for them to sample. I simply told them that I made a sauce for them to try. Voila! Most of the children ate it all and asked for more.
Then, we discussed how it was made. I took in stalks of rhubarb so they could see how it grew. The opinion on rhubarb was much different after the sampling experience.
If you have never eaten rhubarb I invite you to expand your palette with one of these recipes. Rhubarb seems to take the flavor of whatever is added to it.