It is once again time for that tangy summer treat that my family has become so used to. For years we went over to the neighbors' to pick rhubarb. Thanks to a family that no longer wanted a bed of rhubarb, I now have a couple plants of my own. The rhubarb lasts for a long time if you remember to cut the seed pods away so they continue to grow.
When the children were small we always made a trip across the pasture to gather rhubarb. I took a paring knife and a bag and cut from the giant bed that was in the side yard. While I cut and carefully put the leaves back under the plants, the children bagged it for me. Often they ate a stalk or two fresh from the bed.
When we were done cutting we visited with the old couple who lived on that farm. Henry and Mable were very happy to have us visit. They had a glass candy dish that I was sure the children would break on one of the visits. Henry always told the children to help themselves to some of the pink lozenges that he kept in that dish.
Shortly after my daughter had married they moved back to this area. She and her husband moved into the little old farm house. Now they have the rhubarb bed. I never failed to collect some when I visited. Either I put it into the freezer or we had some rhubarb pies.
I was always on the lookout for new rhubarb recipes. If I found something that sounded promising I tried it. Not every recipe I found was a keeper. This year I found new idea. The recipe called for orange juice. Since I had some of that in the freezer I mixed up the ingredients and had a new recipe for rhubarb sauce or rhubarb pie filling. It is tart, but not too tart. The orange juice takes the bite out of rhubarb, but still maintains an excellent flavor.
As I am prone to do once I fixed it I tweaked the recipe to my own taste. I added a twist of my own and have a recipe that I am sure I will use for a long time to come. The lemon juice enhanced the flavor.
I made pie crust and then cut the pastry into three inch circles. A dollop of filling went into each. The result was a hand held pie that was perfect for a picnic. These little sweet treats were a hit with the whole family.
I used up my own rhubarb on one batch so I had to go to my daughter's to get more. My granddaughter and grandson helped me cut and bag up some rhubarb. My grandson asked if I was going to make a pie. I saw a great big smile when I said yes. I also made a small rustic pie for our supper so he got to taste it ahead of time.
My favorite rhubarb pies were always what were referred to as the rhubarb cream variety. The eggs cut the tartness of the rhubarb. They really looked impressive because the filling puffed up through a lattice crust making a very pretty dessert. Now that I have found this orange recipe I think it will probably replace the recipe I used to use. We can do without the addition of the eggs.
Rhubarb is funny stuff. You have to work with it each season to find out how much moisture is in it. This year it appears to have moisture, but not as much as some years. I like to cook up a batch of sauce before I try to make a pie.
One thing I have noticed this year however is the amount of what we call stings in the stalks. There is more that needs to be cut or peeled away than there usually is. It does not hurt the quality of the rhubarb, but it means that it takes a little extra to make a pie.
For those of you who love rhubarb as much as I do I include my tweaked recipe. This makes enough for a pie or a little more than two dozen small tarts.
Orange Rhubarb Sauce/Pie Filling
3 c. diced rhubarb
juice of one lemon I use the bottled kind
Dash nutmeg and cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
Juice of 1 orange or 1 T. frozen juice
2T. cornstarch mixed with equal amount water
Mix cornstarch with about 2 T. of water. Put the other ingredients into a three-quart saucepan. Heat over medium heat until rhubarb is cooked. Add the cornstarch and cook until it is thickened. Be sure to keep a close eye on this because once it begins to thicken it will burn. If there is not enough moisture in the rhubarb, add water a little at a time to create the texture for filling.
Use in a pie shell or fill tarts. The tarts take about 20 min. in a 400 degree oven. This is also delicious eaten as sauce.