R is for Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a vegetable, but is most often put to use like a fruit. For most folks, it is a love it or hate it situation – not too much of an in between. I love it's bright, tart goodness, and have quite a collection of recipes so that all that grows at my house is not wasted. It is tricky to cook with, because it holds so much water. I've turned out several pies that were either absolutely water logged, or so tight they were rubbery, by under or over estimating the amount of thickener needed. It's hard to get that just right consistency; glossy and soft – not too runny, not too firm and bouncy.

I've had a bountiful crop so far, due to the cool (cold!), wet conditions rhubarb is partial to.

This is what remained after harvesting about 2/3 of what has popped up so far this Spring. More will come now that it's been thinned a bit. YAY 😉

I seem to have better luck making bars, rather than pies. With the filling not so deep as it is in pies, it tends to thicken more consistently. So, I drug out all the gear, and a “go-to” recipe.

Here is the recipe I used, that is a compilation of several I've tinkered with to make it work for me.

First, the best crust I've ever had. The recipe came out of a little paper back church fund raiser cook book I bought when I was a teenager and kept in my cedar hope chest til I moved out on my own. I've used it until it is rag-tag and falling apart over the years.

3 cups white flour, 3/4 cup butter flavored shortening, 3/4 cup salted butter, 1 teaspoon salt, 4 to 5 Tablespoons ice water, 1 egg lightly beaten, 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in shortening and butter. Add ice water 1 T at a time til mixture is crumbly but starts to come together a bit. In a cup, add the vinegar to the egg, mix and pour into flour mixture. Stir and press til a ball forms, adding small sprinkles of flour as you go, so it doesn't stick to the bowl. Place dough ball in a bowl in fridge 15-20 minutes to rest.

Second, measure out 7 cups chopped rhubarb into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix 2 cups white sugar, 2 rounded Tablespoons tapioca powder (what I used was called tapioca flour; both work, and are probably pretty close to the same thing), 3 rounded Tablespoons white flour, and half of a 3 ounce package of red gelatin (I prefer strawberry, but any red works and looks best.) Add sugar mixture to rhubarb and coat well.

Get your crust dough from the fridge and roll out on a well floured surface, to about 1/4 inch thick. I transferred the whole kit and caboodle to a large, rectangular baking pan, covering the bottom and up the sides. Press lightly into corners and on sides. Cut the excess from what hangs over the sides. Gently pour rhubarb mixture onto crust in pan. I loosened the crust from the sides and folded it over the rhubarb, galette style. It keeps the crust from getting too brown on the sides. Since I try not to waste anything, I rolled the leftover crust into long skinny ropes and placed them on top. Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temp to 350, and continue baking 30 to 35 minutes longer.

It came out just right; not runny, not rigid or rubbery. The crust was a golden brown. I guess you could drizzle a glaze, but I think it's plenty sweet without.

We gobbled it up 🙂

Tomorrow I'll make rhubarb freezer jam. I love being on vacation!