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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.

About the Author
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher, and the author of ten cookbooks. Her passion is researching and celebrating traditional food in its cultural context, and her beloved subjects are two seemingly different places with much in common: the cuisines of Asia and of the American South. Nancie gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a Piedmont North Carolina native,and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.
  1. jamielifesafeast Reply

    Beautiful! Great doings with a pie plant! I love it, and the rustic look is perfect for rhubarb. I rarely bake with rhubarb but your pie is so worth making in my house! Fabulous! Happy Pie Day, Oh Queen of Pies!

    Here’s a rhubarb-berry crumble I made


    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      Thank you, wonderful friend! You are queen of chocolate, of bakedom, of visual culinary loveliness, and of connection. Thank you for these sweet words and I adore your rhubarb crumble post, not just for the rhubarb but also for the warming words on nature and time together and all the feast of topics that come with the images you share. Pie Party 2013, here we come!

  2. Christine Reply

    I used to find rhubarb too stringy and sour…but I now like it more and more.
    Your recipe looks so yummy …I am going to share it with my Mum and make your pie during my holiday with her.

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      Many thanks, Christine. I love that you are taking rhubarb ‘to heart’ , including it in your family holiday. That is sweeter than any pie. Thanks for visiting here.

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  4. reciperenovator Reply

    Hi Nancie, I love that it’s called “pie plant.”! I have a friend who has so much growing in Rhode Island that she mails boxes of it to us. I just found a rhubarb recipe book for her in Alaska, with more than 100 recipes for using rhubarb in a dizzying array of methods. I make a gluten- and sugar-free version of the strawberry-rhubarb-sour cherry pie. Yum.

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      ONE HUNDRED RECIPES for rhubarb? I love it. And I’ve known it was pals with strawberry, but sour cherries? Well of COURSE, now that you mention it. Nice and inspiring. We have it into the summer some places here and I adore it. Must plant this fall. Many thanks for stopping by!

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