Friday, May 24, 2013

Old-fashioned Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow. – Gilbert K. Chesterton 

Word to the wise: I cut 6 slits in the top. It's neater to cut along them,
so if you want 8 slices, make 8 slits.

This weekend is supposed to be a weather write-off. So why not take a quick pop out to the grocery store and stay inside and make a pie?

There’s nothing quite as tasty as strawberry-rhubarb pie. I just wish that strawberries were available locally at the same time as rhubarb. Our rhubarb patch out back is doing quite nicely this year.

This is a friend's patch. Ours is somewhat smaller.
You should be able to find rhubarb in the grocery store now, if not very soon. It is one of the first “local grown” crops to come onto market every spring and is loved (or hated) by many. Let’s face it – rhubarb is tart. Some like it, some don’t.

A favourite way to enjoy rhubarb is to therefore combine it with other fruits that are sweeter. Although there are many that could be chosen, the most common pairing is strawberries. This is even though local strawberries don’t become available until the last week of June.

Thank goodness for imports (I guess). That’s what I used to make this pie. Oddly enough, many of the USA grown strawberries are from Nova Scotian plants. The Annapolis Valley is a major exporter.

Strawberries aren’t a problem, but the amount of rhubarb can be. By that I mean too much, not too little. If you have a patch of your own, you probably have much more than you can reasonably use.

So the thing is to preserve it for later. I find the best way is to chop fresh stalks into 1” pieces. This is the size you would use for a pie filling and many other recipes. Then blanch the pieces in boiling water for about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes – with no salt. Then simply drain, bag and freeze.

To harvest, simply pull the stalks and break off the leaf.
If you deal with your over abundance of rhubarb in this way you can have the next best thing to fresh any time of the year!

For those who don’t know, here’s some important information. Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid which is poisonous. You would have to eat quite a lot of the leaves to die (about 5kg), but even a little will give you quite an upset well before that level is reached. The stalks also have some oxalic acid, but far less than the leaves. So never eat rhubarb leaves.

I pride myself on my pie crust. Sometimes I have a dud, but most times it’s flaky and pretty good (if I do say so myself). The trick is to just bring the dough together and not maul it until it's smooth. Rough dough is flaky dough. I learned from my dad, who was impatient in making his crust. It always came out well.

This crust recipe is a keeper. The addition of the egg and vinegar may have had something to do with it, but I mostly blame it on using lard, as opposed to shortening. You can substitute vegetable shortening if you must… but try the lard.

Crust goeth before a fall. Or is that pride...?
Old-fashioned Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
Prep: 30 min  | Bake: 40-50 minutes

Crust: Prep: 15 min
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for rolling 
1 tbsp sugar
2/3 cup lard
1/2 tsp salt 
2 teaspoons vinegar 
1/4 cup ice cold water

Filling: Prep: 15 min
3 beaten eggs 
1 cup sugar 
1/4 cup enriched flour  + 1 tbsp
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 tsp cinnamon
This is one of my favourite pies, plus apple, blueberry,
custard, cherry, chocolate...
1 tsp lemon zest
2 1/2 cups 1-inch slices rhubarb 
2 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries 
Pastry for 9-inch lattice top pie 

Make the crust by cutting the lard into the flour/sugar/salt until the size of small peas. Mix together the vinegar, egg and water. Stir into the dough until just combined. 

Do NOT force it together. It needs to be ragged. Any additional flour left in the bowl ca be incorporated by using it on your board to roll out the crust. 

Chill until ready to use.

Combine eggs, sugar flour, salt, cinnamon and lemon rind and mix well. Chop and toss the rhubarb and strawberries together. 

Line a 9” pie plate with half of the rolled pastry. Do not trim the edges. Fill with the cut fruit. Pour egg mixture over the top. 

Top with the remaining crust. Trim both top and bottom doughs about 1/2-34" out past the plate rim. Fold both in under the inner edge of the plate. Pinch together, crimping the edge. Cut several vents in the top.* 

Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for between 40-50 minutes. 

Let cool slightly before serving to allow the filling to set. Vanilla ice cream goes very well with a slice.

HINT: I cut six vents in the top of this pie. I found it very easy to cut along the vents to serve and the crust didn't break apart or collapse. Six vents equaled six slices. If you wish, cut 8 vents and divide the pie into that many pieces. This is a trick I will be using a lot in the future!


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