When I came across an armload of fresh ruby-red rhubarb at my local supermarket this spring, my mind went right into pie-making mode. Rhubarb pie is as easy as apple pie, calling only for chunks of fruit and a generous addition of sugar, flour and butter to transform this stolid vegetable/fruit into a luscious pink pie.
Pairing rhubarb with strawberries is a popular preference, and it’s one I adore both for its flavor notes and the brilliant upswing in color provided by the berries. While working on Southern Pies, I encountered both of them as beloved versions, but I found myself cherishing the simple rhubarb-only pie.
In many parts of the South, folks refer to rhubarb simply as “pie plant”. Traditionally, a generous patch was planted out by the summer garden, or near a fence.
A true harbinger of spring, its reappearance in the form of gigantic, outer-space movie leaves atop sturdy-looking but actually delicate stalks signaled that winter was losing its grip and that the sun was taking charge for the foreseeable future. More than once I encountered references to the pleasures of breaking off a stalk and dipping it in sugar for a spur of the moment hand-held snack. So far I haven’t tried this out, perhaps out of a feeling that one earns this privilege by having a proper rhubarb patch out back. But it’s 2012, and I’m alone in the kitchen: next pie, I’ll go rogue and see what that is all about. I also mean to have a rhubarb patch in by autumn. Back with the scoop. Meanwhile, I recommend that you give rhubarb pie a try.
Nancie’s Rhubarb Pie
Two sheets of pastry, for a double-crust pie
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons flour
6 cups chopped rhubarb (1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces)
2 tablespoons butter
Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Fit one of the piecrust sheets into a pie pan. Leave about an inch of pastry extending out beyond the top edge of the pie pan.
In a large bowl, combine the sugar and the flour. Using a fork or a whisk, stir to mix them together well. Add the rhubarb and toss until the sugar mixture coats the rhubarb evenly. Tumble the rhubarb into the piecrust-lined pie pan. Mound it up so that it peaks in the middle, since it cooks down quite a bit.
Carefully place the top crust over the rhubarb, and trim the edges to extend beyond the edge of the bottom crust by about an inch. Tuck the top crust under the bottom crust and press them together. Using a fork, work your away around the piecrust, pressing the tines in firmly to seal and adorn the edges. You could also pinch the sealed crust up into a pretty edge, using your knuckles, thumbs, and imagination. You cannot do this wrong. For a video of this process, check Real Simple magazine’s website HERE. Using a butter knife or paring knife, cut vertical slits around the edges on the top crust of the pie. Make slits in the center area too, so the juices can flow forth as the pie bakes.
Place the pie in the center of the 425 degree F oven. Bake for 10 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. Bake until the piecrust is evenly and handsomely browned, and the lovely pink juices bubble up and decorate the top crust of your pie, 40 to 50 minutes. If the top crust browns before the pie is done, cover it loosely with a sheet of foil and continue baking. When the pie is done, remove from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack or a folded kitchen towel. Serve warm or at room temperature. Vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or heavy cream alone: any of these would each enhance the pleasures of rhubarb pie.
Note: For an old-time North Carolina-style cobbler, use a 9-inch square pan instead of a pie pan.
Here are links for rhubarb basics, and an abundance of recipes for making rhubarb a regular–no, a thing, in your kitchen, ending up with two of mine.