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The Best Rhubarb Cream Pie Recipe
Perfect rhubarb pie with lattice crust
Rhubarb Pie - A Sign of Spring
Rhubarb pie is always a sign of spring in the country, and rhubarb cream pie with its custard-like filling is an old time favorite. Tender pink rhubarb shoots poking up in the garden are some of the first signs of spring, and rhubarb is one of the first crops you’ll see at local farmer’s markets. If you’re lucky enough to grow your own rhubarb, be sure to give this delectable pie a try.
Grow Your Own Rhubarb
Rhubarb plants are easy to propagate by division, and this will create new plants that have the same characteristics as the parent plant. I was lucky enough to get a large plant from my grandmother's garden. It had thick, dark pink stalks that made beautifully tinted pink pie fillings and sauces. One large plant was easily divided into eight smaller plants that soon produced all the rhubarb we could possibly make into pie, jam or cakes. My family did love rhubarb. My three sons and husband, all bottomless pits, also enjoyed rhubarb sauce, rhubarb strawberry jam, rhubarb cake and rhubarb cobbler. In the spring and early summer, we usually had a large bowl of rhubarb sauce in the refrigerator which we all enjoyed as a refreshing snack or on vanilla ice cream.
Taking Rhubarb to the Farmer's Market
By the second year, we were pulling enough rhubarb from our garden plants to supply us with a few pies and rhubarb sauce. After about five years, our eight plants each produced more than enough to supply our family, so the boys set up a little self-service stand at the end of our driveway and sold bunches of rhubarb for $1.00 each. With very little effort, they had a thriving business for a month or two each spring.
Recipe for Rhubarb Drink
If you use rhubarb that is red in color, the drink will be a pretty pink!
- Wash and cut about 6 cups of rhubarb into one-inch slices. Place rhubarb into a large pot and add about 3 quarts of water.
- Cook on medium heat until the rhubarb is mushy and press through a sieve. Discard pulp.
- Alternately, you can place it all in a blender and blend the pulp into the water for a thicker drink.
- While the mixture is still warm, add sugar to taste. Start with about a cup of sugar, and taste test. Add more water if necessary.
The drink will be tart, similar to lemonade, but have a more syrupy consistency because of the rhubarb pulp. Serve chilled or over ice.
Making and Selling Refreshing Rhubarb Drink
Their most innovative project though, was at our table at the local Ithaca Farmer’s Market. Since the market opened in early spring before most of our other crops were ready, we were looking for something else to fill up our table. At that time, few people were selling drinks, and the warm Saturday mornings had us hot and thirsty. We decided to make a batch of rhubarbade by cooking the rhubarb with water and sugar and straining out the pulp. Because our rhubarb was such a deep red color, the resulting liquid was beautiful— pink, tart and a little thick, similar in consistency to pineapple juice. We added enough sugar to make it palatable and enough water to thin it to a refreshing consistency.
Not knowing how this unusual drink would go over, we only made a couple of gallons of it, poured it into a big drink cooler with ice and set it out with some small paper cups for 50¢ a cup. In no time, our supply was gone and people were coming back for more, asking how we made it. The kids were delighted, and we made several gallons of the drink each Saturday throughout our rhubarb season.
Perfect Rhubarb Cream Pie Recipe
This is the recipe that my mother always used for rhubarb pie. While there are many other tasty versions, I think this one, with its custard-like filling, is the very best!
* For a deeper pie, use 5 cups of rhubarb and increase sugar to 2 cups, eggs to 3.
Rate this recipe: Perfect Rhubarb Cream Pie
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 4 Tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3 to 4 cups * rhubarb, cut into 1/2" slices
- plain crust for 2 crust pie
- Line a 9" pie plate with pastry crust and set oven to 450°F
- Cut rhubarb into 1/2" slices.
- Beat eggs, flour, sugar and nutmeg together until smooth. Pour over rhubarb and stir well.
- Pour rhubarb mixture into pie crust. Dot with butter and top with pastry crust or lattice crust.
- Top of crust can be sprinkled with granulated sugar and cinnamon mixture for a more decorative look.
- Bake in hot oven 450°F for 10 minutes, then turn temperature back to 350°F and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes.
- Cool pie before serving if you want filling to be set. Although the warm pie is delicious, the filling will be a bit runny while the pie is still warm.
- Serve plain or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
- *note: If you have a deep dish pie plate, increase amount of cut rhubarb and sugar proportionately.
Rhubarb Nutrition Facts
One cup diced rhubarb (unsweetened) contains:
Calories - 60
Vitamin C - 10 mg.
Folate - 8.5 mcg
Calcium - 105 mg.
Magnesium - 14.5
Phosphorus - 17 mg
Potassium - 351 mg.
All About Rhubarb
Rhubarb is treated like a fruit, but it is actually a vegetable. At one time it was used medicinally as a diuretic, laxative, purgative and tonic for treatment of constipation. It was also used for a myriad of other complaints from menstrual problems and hemorrhoids to acne.
Now the tart vegetable is mostly used in pie and other deserts created by country cooks. While it is often grown in old fashioned gardens, it’s not always easy to find in stores, and you will seldom see prepared rhubarb deserts or jams on store shelves. If you don’t have rhubarb growing in your own garden, the best place to find it is your local farmer’s market in the early spring.
Only the stalks of the rhubarb plant are edible as the leaves contain oxalate which is poisonous. Rhubarb in itself is very low in calories ( about 30 calories in a half cup of raw sliced rhubarb, but it is so tart that it is almost never eaten without being cooked with sugar or another sweetener.
The oxalic acid in rhubarb leaves can kill aphids. Chop 3 to 5 rhubarb leaves and cook in a quart of water for thirty minutes. Strain, combine with a half teaspoon of dishwashing detergent and use to spray on plants to prevent or kill aphids. Don’t use on edible plants as the oxalic acid is poisonous.
In the mid-1980s, researchers found that CFC's (Chlorfluorocarbons) were one of the primary reasons for the dangerous depletion of the ozone layer. Conventional methods for breaking down CFC's are costly and dangerous. In 1995, two Yale scientists discovered that oxalic acid, found in rhubarb, helped neutralize CFC's.
How to Propagate Rhubarb by Plant Division
Rhubarb is easily propagated by dividing the roots of a mature plant — one that is at least 4 years old. The root ball should be dug up in early spring before leaves begin to show or in late fall. First, discard any parts of the root that are damaged or look rotted. Look for the buds on the root and be careful not to break them off. With a sharp knife, cut the crown of the plant so that there is at least one bud showing on each piece of root.
When planting the divisions in their new location, mix some compost in with the garden soil first. If you are dividing in the fall and there are still leaves on the plant, cut off the largest ones and cut off any flower stems. Remaining leaves will probably wilt anyway, but don’t worry, it won’t affect the plant.
If you are lucky enough to have rhubarb growing in your garden, I envy you! Our lovely rhubarb plants are still thriving in New York many years after planting them, but we were unable to move them with us to North Carolina. Rhubarb pie is now a rare treat, but I still make it at least once a year when I can find rhubarb in our local farmer's market or grocery store. Whether you grow your own or purchase your rhubarb, I hope that you will enjoy some luscious rhubarb pie too!
© 2011 Stephanie Henkel