A Tale of Two Rubes – Pies That Is

Rhubarb season has been in full swing here in New Hampshire these past few weeks. I love rhubarb, but have no recollection of my Mom serving it. Since the only desserts we ever had were compliments of Mrs. Smith’s frozen pies we never tasted rhubarb. I guess rhubarb pie wasn’t in Mrs. Smith’s repertoire either.

Over the past two weeks I’ve made two rhubarb pies using two different recipes. Each had its merits. In both cases, I made the crusts by scratch – something I really haven’t done before. Very tricky, and I know my crusts need improvement. But they were miles better than the store bought crusts with no flavor.

Rhubarb Pie Number One came from the Good Housekeeping’s Party Pie Book, 1958.

I tackled the crust first. For Rhubarb Pie you need/want a top crust of some kind. For this first pie I chose a lattice top.

Pie Crust (this made enough for a double-crust)

  • 2 1/4 c. sifted flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. shortening (I used butter)
  • about 1/3 c. iced water

Sift together the flour and salt into a mixing bowl

Cut two thirds of the shortening into the flour with a pastry blender until like corn meal for tenderness

Cut in remainder until like large peas for flakiness

Sprinkle water, 1 tbs at a time over different parts of mixture, while tossing quickly with fork until all particles stick together when pressed gently

Use only enough water to make flour particles cling together. They should not be wet or slippery which toughens the crust. Amount may vary with flour.

Form pastry into two smooth balls and cover well with cling wrap

Refrigerate for 1/2 hour

Roll one crust to 9″ in diameter (leave the other crust in the fridge while you do this)

Drape crust over your rolling pin and put in bottom of your pie tin

Roll second crust and cut strips to make the lattice work top

So I managed to do all this, but the water wasn’t even close to what was needed to create a ball that holds together. Same thing happened with the second pie. Hints and tips are much appreciated if you make pie crusts with ease. Both crusts were pretty good, but the edges were quite tough.

The pie filling itself was super easy.

4 c. rhubarb cut in 1″ pieces

1 1/2 c. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

4-6 tbs. flour or 2-4 tbs. quick tapioca (I used flour, but will try the tapioca next time. The pie was runny!)

Mix the rhubarb with the sugar, salt and flour (or tapioca)

Place in the pie crust

Dot with 2 tbs butter (I forgot to do this)

Put the lattice work crust on top

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 40-50 minutes   

The pie tasted great and all in all I was pleased with it.

Rhubarb Pie Number Two came from The Vermont Year-Round Cookbook by Louise Andrews Kent, 1965. Louise Andrews Kent wrote under the name of Mrs. Appleyard. Her many cookbooks are considered classics.

I finally started reading my version of Mrs. Appleyard’s Kitchen from 1942 and was totally hooked. Not only are the recipes well-written, but Louise Andrews Kent’s writing style is filled with dry witty humor. Its not often that you find a cookbook that keeps you laughing! In researching Louise Andrews Kent, I found this Vermont Public Radio program on Kent, along with her recipe for Rhubarb Pie. How could I resist?

Wish I could have taken a photo, but he looked a lot like this complete with suspenders, work shirt, & blue pants.

But first the story of how I acquired the rhubarb. While driving home on Friday I stopped at a farm stand to get some rhubarb. I could write a whole post about the experience, but suffice to say the stand was like stepping back into 1930s rural New England.  Sitting in the small stand next to a 200-hundred-year-old farm house was a small wizened man smoking a pipe. His black cat was sitting beside him. Not a vegetable was in sight. What transpired was an hour-long conversation about topics ranging from raising cats, King’s Philips War, the Raid on Deerfield, Robert E. Lee, the Gnostic Gospels and the Book of Enoch. Oh, and yes I got some rhubarb from his heirloom plant that had been growing there for over a hundred years.

Here’s Mrs. Appleyard’s recipe:

3-4  cups rhubarb
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbs. of sugar
2 tbs. of flour
1/8 tsp. each of cinnamon and nutmeg
1 egg well beaten
2 tbs. butter cut into bits (I forgot again!)

Cut the rhubarb in 1/2 inch pieces

Sift flour, sugar and spice together

Line a 9-inch pie tin with pastry. Leave a good margin of pastry around the edge of the tin. This is to be turned up over the upper crust and pressed with the back of a fork so no juice will run out

Scatter 1/4 cup of the flour, sugar and spice mixture over the lower crust   

Add half the rhubarb

Add half the remaining mixture, then the rest of the rhubarb and the rest of the mixture. The rhubarb should be heaped slightly toward the center of the dish: it will sink while baking

Pour the beaten egg over the pie and dot with bits of butter

Put on the upper crust. Gash it well so that steam can escape

Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until the fruit is tender and the crust is brown, about 40 minutes longer

The pie was quite tasty!


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