There it was, in Week Two’s box…long strands of what my husband said looked like red celery, tart on the tongue and just what I wanted.
The scent carried me back to my family farm. Every summer we’d pick rhubarb out of the patch behind our little playhouse, and then there would be tantalizing, homemade, sweet delights. Rhubarb Crisp. Rhubarb Jam. Rhubarb Muffins. And, my absolute favorite, Rhubarb Pie.
With a skip in my step and a smile on my face, I walked home from the CSA pick up and could already taste the pie in my mouth. We’d eaten delicious salads and enjoyed some great bok choy and radish stir fry, but my sweet tooth and fond memories of the odd fruit-like vegetable trumped all else.
Pie baking has two important parts: the filling and the crust. As with everything else, personal preference is key. Some enjoy flaky crusts with a hint of sweetness, while others like thick, buttery crusts. I’m with the former and have always enjoyed this recipe:
Never Fail Pie Crust
1.5 cups flour
1 tsp. vinegar
1/2 cup lard*
3 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
Cut the lard into the flour until it looks like little flakes, then add salt, egg, vinegar, and milk. Mix together, then knead a few times in the bowl. Separate into two balls of dough, then roll each out on your counter sprinkled with flour. Makes two thinly rolled crusts.
After rolling out the first crust, place in your pie pan. Then you’ll add the filling before placing the second crust on top. Since we already had a bag of frozen strawberries (thank you, Trader Joe’s, for your organic selections!) and not quite enough rhubarb, I decided on a Strawberry-Rhubarb pie.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Filling
1 bag of frozen strawberries (or about two cups of fresh ones)
2 cups of sliced rhubarb
1 1/4 cups white granulated sugar
6 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. butter
Combine flour and sugar, and sprinkle 1/4 of it over bottom pie crust in pan. Chop rhubarb into 1 inch pieces, and mix with strawberries in bowl. Pour the rhubarb and strawberries into the pie pan, then sprinkle with the remaining flour/sugar. Dot with tiny pieces of butter and cover with the top crust. (If you’re fancy, you can call it the Upper Crust instead. But I digress…) Brush with milk and sprinkle with a little sugar.
Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then for an additional 40 minutes at 350 degrees. I recommend using aluminum foil or a tin cover over your crust edges so that they’ll bake but not burn…for those of you who haven’t baked a pie, the edges bake much faster than the center of the pie.
Making cutouts or small slices in the top crust allows for the heat to release instead of creating huge air pockets in your crust. In the middle of this one, I also made a strawberry shaped cutout and a small r. It’s not necessary, but I enjoy the creation part of baking just as much as the eating part.
What about that leftover dough?
The remaining dough can be rolled out, brushed with milk, and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes, and then enjoy. You definitely don’t want to eat this every day, but it’s a great dessert in small doses. It’s also something that young children can “make for themselves” and add to the memories of childhood, so just portion wisely and savor the treat!
*A note for those who looked at my crust recipe and cringed at the sight of “lard”, please know that it’s gotten a bad rap. Do some googling and read up on the differences between hydrogenated and unhydrogenated lard, as well as the health benefits of lard and butter (compared to things like Crisco). I actually rendered lard for the first time on the same day as baking this pie, and the crust was the best one I’ve ever made in terms of taste and texture…that’s saying a lot, considering the two hundred or so pies I’ve made.