I run the risk of alienating some of the most loyal readers of Sugarcured with this post because, as Joanna’s dad once told us, “Cubans don’t eat rhubarb.” My co-author went against this maxim to humor me and try this most old school of my family’s recipes, the rhubarb custard pie, and I’m hoping the rest of the Cubans among us will be similarly tolerant.
I hesitate to say this after the beautiful ode to the season that Joanna penned yesterday, but in the past I’ve mostly thought of spring as a neglected middle child stuck between winter wonderland and sweet summer, that favorite season of mine that brings sweet corn and baseball and everything glorious. I’m starting to see the error in my ways and, not surprisingly, it has been food that has shown me the light. I’ve been gritting my teeth while my sister crows over her haul of morel mushrooms foraged in the woods around our house in Iowa. I’ve been paying silly prices for asparagus in the markets and thinking wistfully of the bounty of asparagus that grows even on the side of the road back home. In the midst of all this spring food nostalgia I decided that I couldn’t let another spring pass without making the quintessential dessert of May in Iowa- rhubarb pie
This is one very rare recipe I wouldn’t think to tinker with. It comes from my Great Grandma Ida Daib, the German-speaking Lutheran minister’s wife who definitely carried the homecooking gene that runs amok in me. Like any good heirloom recipe, there are no pretensions to be had and the only bit of whimsy is the sprinkle of sugar that tops the lattice crust. I never knew Grandma Daib but I learned my rhubarb pie technique from my mama who would always make two at a time, one for my dad to eat right from the pan and one for the rest of us.
I think this pie is best still a little warm but others of the Daib lineage (mostly the man who was lucky enough to land a wife who makes the best rhubarb pie in the world- that lady being my mom, of course) would argue that it’s best out of the fridge with a cold glass of milk as a midnight snack. And somebody told me it makes a great accompaniment to morning coffee, but I, as a future health professional who can neither confirm nor deny a serious vice of sweets for breakfast, will have to take your word for that.
If you’re daunted by the lattice crust, you hereby have my permission to mess with family tradition and make it double crust or top it with a crumble top.
Ida’s Rhubarb Custard Pie
Enough dough for two pie crusts (recipe and technique here)
4 heaping cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 3/4c sugar
Pinch of salt
3 T flour
3 eggs, beaten
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix the rhubarb, sugar, salt, and flour until well combined. Add the eggs and stir to combine. Roll out one of the pie crusts and place in a greased pie pan. Pour in the filling. Now roll out the second crust to the same thickness and dimensions as the first. To make the lattice, cut the crust vertically into 1″ strips. Use the two longest strips (from the middle of the round) to make a cross with its center in the center of the pie with the vertical strip resting on top. Now place one strip vertically on each side of the middle vertical strip but weave them under the horizontal strip. Now, following a similar weaving pattern, add two horizontal strips. Continue to alternate until the strips are used up and the top is complete. (aw heck, this is the hardest cooking task to explain ever! check out this link.) Top with a generous sprinkle of sugar. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 and bake 30 more minutes. Allow to cool almost completely before serving and serve at room temp or slightly warm. Store leftovers in the fridge.