With the coming of spring we will also enjoy the beginning of the annual crop of rhubarb, one of my absolute favorite fruits. I always get a huge reaction when I take a rhubarb pie to the church Coffee Hour, and I have introduced some people to it, actually.
But if you are from the Midwest, you remember rhubarb growing in your back yard, which it did in mine, and gave me a tummy ache when I nibbled on it raw. My mother straightened me out on that, and I did learn to love it.
The strawberry-rhubarb pies you can buy in supermarkets have two flaws as far as I am concerned. First, as to the rhubarb, there is usually too much strawberry, which cuts the sweet-tartness of properly-prepared rhubarb. I also dislike the overly thick crust of most prepared supermarket pies, no matter what kind.
This is not true, by the way, for Arizona's famous artisan apple pies that are prepared and sold throughout southern Arizona. We have the orchard that gives us the apple pies at Stout's Cider Mill in Willcox, which are well worth the drive east from Tucson on Interstate 10 (you can't miss it).
In our supermarkets we can also find pies from Apple Annie's Orchard, which I get at Sprouts here. Lately they have been available in convenient smaller sizes, as in a pie designed just for two people. That suits my and my husband just fine, so I buy them when I see them.
If you are looking for a good rhubarb dessert, though, I urge you to buy some either at Sprouts or Safeway, where I see them as soon as the weather permits. The are available at most of Tucson's supermarkets, though. Those who truly appreciate rhubarb will recommend the darkest stalks, by the way.
They look basically like red celery, and like celery they are fibrous, so cut them small and you won't have to worry about that. Now the heirloom recipe that I have is for Fruit Crisp, which comes from my great-aunt Leda Hodskins, who lived in Indiana and was one of the heroic women who rescued my father from imminent death as a premature baby and reared him after the tragic death of his mother (at his birth).
This was back in 1918, and premature babies without a mother didn't have much of a chance. But the women of that Indiana small town saved that baby, and he grew up to be my dad who passed on the story to me.
Mrs. Hodskins was very fond of my mother and gave her several recipes that have come down to me, including this one for Fruit Cobbler. My mother made it mostly with cherries, but I have made it with apples and rhubarb as well. It is simple and delicious.
From Margot's Heirloom Recipes
Leda Hodskins' crisp recipe
1 cup organic sugar
3/4 cup organic whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup organic butter (1 stick), cold, cut into Tablespoons
5 cups trimmed and diced rhubarb
1-1/2 cups light-brown sugar
Combine the rhubarb and the brown sugar. Bring it to a boil over medium heat and cook down until it has thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Place this compote in a baking dish that has been prepared with nonstick cooking spray.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Place the sugar, pastry flour and cold butter in a mixing bowl. Cut in with a pastry blender or using a food processor (pulsing only). When the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, sprinkle it over the rhubarb.
Bake the crisp for 30 minutes, or until the crisp is golden brown. Serve warm or cold.
This crisp does not include oatmeal, and after growing up on it, I find oatmeal to be rather intrusive in some recipes, especially if you use typical oats rather than the quick-cooking kind, which are much finer in texture. I still make this crisp, though, because it can be made gluten-free by substituting oat flour or a GF baking mix for the wheat flour, though. My daughter, who avoids gluten, appreciates this.