First Pie of the Season: Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie

I know that last month, I promised as the strawberries came into season, to write about a bunch of recipes that used them while they were at their peak of flavor and freshness.

And did I do that?

No.

Why?

Because I was too busy eating them up to cook with them.

They just tasted way, way too good eaten out of hand, or perhaps dipped in slightly sweetened sour cream, to bother cooking with them. I haven’t even made strawberry shortcake yet! Or strawberry ice cream. Or, well, anything.

Until last night. I had about a quart and a half of strawberries and a pound of rhubarb in the fridge that needed to be used, so after supper, I rolled up my sleeves and prepared to make pie.

Except–I have never, ever made a strawberry rhubarb pie. I know it is a classic combination of late spring and early summer fruits, but I still had never tasted it. I am not certain why, except that no one in my family much liked rhubarb except my Grandpa. Apparently, he hadn’t grown it in years, either, by the time I came into pie-eating age, so there we are. Never once did I eat it, until today.

I have to say this–rhubarb stalks are very, very pretty. Ranging in color from celery green to ruby red, the smooth stalks glint with the hues of the semi-precious gemstone watermelon tourmaline. It is simple to work with, requiring no peeling, only cutting off the dried out ends from the stalks and trimming any leaf bits that may be left; the leaves are toxic and will sicken a person if they eat them. After that, all that remains to be done is to slice the stalks into 1/4″ pieces, and they are ready to be made into pie filling.

The strawberries have to be rinsed, hulled and sliced, and then, into the bowl they go with the rhubarb. I used roughly twice as much rhubarb as strawberries, as I was following a recipe from Ken Haedrich’s book, Pie.

Were it left up to me, I probably would have added more strawberries out of ingorance of the refreshing sour flavor of the rhubarb. But, I am glad I vaguely followed the instructions for the filling and left the proportion of strawberry to rhubarb essentially as written. I did use a few more strawberries than were called for; but that is because I wanted to use them up.

But, you know me–I could not leave the recipe completely as written; I had to tweak it a little. So, I did add the zest of a lemon and two tablespoons of rosewater to the filling mixture to grand effect, if I do say so myself. The rosewater adds a little extra “oomph” to the filling without being obviously floral, while the lemon zest adds complexity and melts beautifully into the cardamom and ginger that Haedrich’s source for the recipe, Dolores, used.

The crust was an unusual one–it is a “skillet crust.” Made by melting butter in a skillet, and then mixing in vanilla extract, and then stirring in flour and sugar until it forms uniform crumbs, the crust was simple to prepare, and a snap to use. Two thirds of it were pressed into the bottom and up the sides of a deep dish pie pan, while the rest was reserved to make a crumb topping. It was as simple to prepare as a graham cracker crust, but required no pre-baking; and I have to admit that it smelled really nice coming together.

I was at first dismayed by the amount of sugar in the crust, but after tasting it, the shortbread like consistency and flavor really offset the tang of the filling. Dolores really knew what she was on about when she made that crust recipe.

All in all, it turned out beautifully, and the pie comes out with a crisp crust and topping, filled to bursting with juicy, tangy fruit. It is a lovely dessert, and I will not hesitate to make it again–besides, I feel as if I must make up for all of those years I never tasted rhubarb! The spices are used in small enough amounts not to overpower the fruit and the rosewater really brings out the flowery nature of strawberries.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Crumb Pie in a Skillet Crust
For the Crust:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar (I used raw cane sugar)
3/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat; when it is melted, blend in the vanilla.

Turn off the heat and stir in the flour and sugar mixture; this may take some time, but be patient and keep stirring until you have a pan full of evenly mixed crumbles.

Transfer about two thirds of the crumbs to a 9 1/2 inch deep dish pie pan, and press them to the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Ingredients For the Filling:

1 1/2 pounds fresh rhubarb stalks, trimmed of leaves and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick (They should come out to be about 4 cups of slices)
2 cups hulled and sliced fresh strawberries
3/4 cup sugar (I used raw cane sugar)
zest and juice of one lemon
1/4- 1/2 all purpose flour (if your rhubarb stalks are small, use the larger amount of flour–if they are large, they are drier, use the smaller amount of flour)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1-2 tablespoons rosewater (use smaller amount for a more subtle effect)

Method:

Mix together the filling ingredients and allow to stand for ten minutes.

When the oven is preheated, put the filling ingredients into the prepared bottom crust and level it carefully. Crumble the reserved crust mixture over the pie evenly, and press it down gently with your hand.

Place the pie in the center oven rack and bake for thirty minutes. Turn the pie 180 degress and turn the heat down to 325 degrees F. Close the oven and bake for another 40-50 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the juces bubble thickly up around the edges of the crust.

Remove from oven, and allow to cool at least two hours before serving. (This is important–the filling thickens up as it cools. If you try to cut into it before it is at least just barely warm, it will be a sloppy, messy, painful procedure, and your pie will look more like roadkill than dessert.) (Although, for those with a morbid sense of humor, “Roadkill Pie” does have a sort of ring to it.)

28 Comments

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  1. I wonder where I can get rhubarb out here, I miss strawberry-rhubarb pie. I have no idea if I would like rhubarb all by itself.

    Comment by Azalais Malfoy — June 6, 2006 #

  2. The pie looks divine and sounds great. I like the unusual crust but I’m really in love with the rose water idea. I’ve used it only once and it really was delicate but beautiful and I’ve been looking for ways to use it again. This is a good place to start. Lovely post.

    Comment by tanna — June 6, 2006 #

  3. I finally gave in and succumbed to rhubarb this year (I grew up in a part of the country where it’s not grown, so it was mysterious to me). I’ve resisted the rhubarb+strawberry combo, but the combination of spicing you describe sounds so great I’m really tempted to try it…

    Comment by Tricia — June 6, 2006 #

  4. Barbara, I can’t believe you are so new to rhubarb! It’s one of my favourite vegetables and I am delighted to say that I have a plant thriving on my terrace this year.

    That pie sounds fantastic, by the way. I’m going to definitely give it a try as I have a couple of pounds of (bought) rhubarb to use up.

    Next up, you should try making a slightly tangy plain rhubarb (or strawberry rhubarb that works too) compote and spread it thickly on a hot piece of toast for breakfast. When the compote is cold from the fridge and the crunchy toast is hot from the toaster it’s an amazing combination: cold and soft on top, crunchy underneath and absolutely delicious.

    Mmmmm.

    Go get some rhubarb in your garden: it grows like weeds in the midwest!

    Comment by Meg — June 7, 2006 #

  5. Rhubarb pie is one of my favourite kind of pies! I love rhubarb pie so much that I get annoyed when there are strawberries added… Even though I adore strawberries as well! I’ve always found that the addition of strawberries makes the pie too sweet.

    Your pie does look delicious though and I may have to drop my curmudgeonly attitude to give it a try… if only the Ontario strawberries would appear!!

    -Elizabeth

    P.S. I’m assuming you still use ‘Star Kay White’ brand of rosewater? I really must look for it at our Indian grocery store. The previous rosewaters we’ve tried have been lacking.

    Comment by ejm — June 7, 2006 #

  6. I realize I’ve been MIA for a while…I’m back!

    Stawberry rhubarb is also a favorite pie of mine. I love practically anything tart and strawberries are my favorite berry. The perfect pie combination.

    One of my favorite blog recipes comes from Chocolate and Zucchini and it’s a rasberry and rhubarb compote…absolutely wonderful over vanilla ice cream!

    http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2004/05/compote_rose.php

    It’s not for everyone one but I happen to really like it. I’ve thought about how i could use it in other complex desserts, but it tastes so good by itself.

    Comment by Rose — June 7, 2006 #

  7. [...] Mentions of strawberries are popping up everywhere – I’m hoping I find some either tomorrow or this weekend at the farmer’s market. [...]

    Pingback by Berries and the trail at Couteau Bonswan — June 7, 2006 #

  8. Azalais, I suspect you could get it at one of the farmers markets there. It seems like nearly everything grows where you are! And I know you can get good strawberries, so there you go!

    Tanna–I will sneak rosewater into nearly anything I can get away with. I have a fairly famous cookie recipe–Aphrodite Cakes–that having icing that is flavored with rosewater. Check out the recipe and give it a shot–it has been a great favorite with my readers for quite some time now:

    http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/2005/06/20/whispered-secrets-of-a-kitchen-tantrika/

    Tricia–it really is good. Give it a try–I think you will like it very much!

    Meg, I don’t know why I never tried it before–I feel like such a dolt! It is a perennial, isn’t it? If so, it shall have to wait until we terrace the back, but I will definately give it a place in the garden, along with strawberries, asparagus and herbs, and whatever else I can sneak in!

    You know what I am tempted to try to make now? Strawberry Rhubarb Sorbet….

    Elizabeth–this pie is not too sweet. I think you will approve of it. The rosewater I tend to use is Cortas brand–from Lebanon. It is very strong, though, so use less than you would with Star Kay. (I prefer Cortas, though Star Kay works well, too.)

    Welcome back, Rose! It is great to see you again! Raspberries and rhubarb would be lovely, too. I don’t know if they are in season here at the same time, though. I would have to see….

    Comment by Barbara — June 7, 2006 #

  9. Barbara, yes I’m pretty sure it’s a perennial because there was always a large bush of it in exactly the same spot of my grandma’s yard. I seem to recall her telling me that the more you cut it back the more it grows, too – all summer long. It’s also very decorative with its broad green leaves and ruby stems.

    Alas, you (and I) will have to look out for little ones and make sure they don’t eat the leaves though. I know my mom drilled in us from an early age the fact that the leaves are “poisonous”!

    Comment by Meg — June 8, 2006 #

  10. I like the idea of the skillet crust–I’ll have to try that.
    I actually cooked rhubarb for the first time in May–a rhubarb compote, rhubarb simmered with white wine and cardamom seeds. It was so heavenly that I’m kicking myself for not having measure anything (I really have to stop that).

    Comment by lucette — June 8, 2006 #

  11. Yeah, the leaves are definately poisonous, Meg. I think, in fact, that is why Grandpa didn’t grow it when the grandkids were wee–he was worried we’d eat them and get sick.

    I will definately plant some–I need to make up for lost time in cooking and eating rhubarb!

    Lucette–I don’t feel so bad, then! I’m not the only one new to rhubarb! (I’d still present it in my blog were I you–just guestimate how much you used of what, and warn the reader right off that you are guessing. Most folks don’t mind.)

    Comment by Barbara — June 8, 2006 #

  12. Barbara
    I tried this recipe this weekend with much success. I didn’t have the rose water, so I skipped that, but it didn’t seem to negatively impact the flavor. I liked the addition of ginger, which I had not previously used in my strawberry rhubarb pie. The crust was, indeed, very easy I’m somewhat of a pie traditionalist and think I would revert back to my usual shortening-based crust…although the skillet crust was certainly much quicker! So who knows.

    Karen

    Comment by Karen — June 18, 2006 #

  13. Karen–I, too, tend to prefer my usual lard/butter crust for pie than the skillet crust. However, if you want to make a pie -quickly- that still tastes good, or if it is just really hot in your kitchen, and you cannot roll out your pie crust without tearing out your own hair in frustration–I think that the skillet crust is a great option.

    My own caveat though, is this–the crust will get soggy over subsequent days if you don’t eat it within about two days. I discovered that long after I wrote this post. It still tastes good, but it loses that lovely crispy quality.

    Comment by Barbara — June 18, 2006 #

  14. This was FABULOUS!!!!!

    Comment by Mary Beth — June 19, 2006 #

  15. My grandmother used to pick wild rhubarb in Indiana. I was shocked when I met someone who had never even HEARD of it, let alone eaten it. I now live in Virginia (I’m not sure I could successfully grow rhubarb here, not much of a green thumb) and have found a jarred rhubarb strawberry sauce that is great over ice cream (add a bit of choc sauce if you like). YUMMO!
    After reading this, I called a local bakery to ask if they had a rhubarb-strawberry pie on hand… they’ve never had a request for one! I guess it’s a Northern thing.

    Comment by Michele — March 20, 2007 #

  16. I think you can grow rhubarb in Virginia–at least in the northern part of the state, anyway, because it grew in West Virginia, where I grew up. We just didn’t grow it ourselves.

    I think that it is considered to be an old-fashioned sort of vegetable that hardly anyone grows anymore, and that is why we have folks who have never heard of it. It is a shame, though, because it is utterly delicious. My goal this summer is to use it in savory contexts….

    Comment by Barbara — March 22, 2007 #

  17. For those of you wondering if Rhubarb will grow where you live, I assure you it most likely will. I have a family plant (or at least part of the original root)that continues to strive that has been all over the country. My Great x3 grand parents brought it with them from Pennsylvannia in the 1800′s when they homesteaded in Northern Wyoming. There sit flourished for about 100 years. My family was living in southern Arizona when my mother decided that she missed the wonderful tastes of her childhood, so the next time we were at the homestead she found a root (the cattle had eaten the leaves to the ground) and it thrived for a decade before we moved to Colorado. The rhubarb went with us to two different location and climates in Colorado. I have lived in three different homes in the Denver area as an adult and that root or a part of the original root has moved with me every time. It is a hardy plant and oh so tasty! I now have one as a container plant on my patio.

    Comment by Carol — May 26, 2007 #

  18. I just made this pie – it was fantastic!! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe! I never had something that got better and better every day! The crust is so unique too – I bet it’d be good with a chocolate tart or something.

    Comment by Virtual Frolic — June 6, 2007 #

  19. Where can I get rhubarb too make pie I can not find any here in Florida

    Comment by candy — December 1, 2007 #

  20. Well, first of all, it isn’t in season, right now. You can get it in the late spring, early summer around here.

    And maybe it doesn’t grow in Florida–so, next summer, you might try asking a friend who lives in the Midwest to buy some at a Farmer’s market and ship it too you overnight.

    Or, try the farmer’s markets there–I dunno–it might grow in Florida.

    Comment by Barbara — December 1, 2007 #

  21. I grew up in Pennsylvania and we always had huge patches of rhubarb that we made pie or cobbler with. I now live out West and have found it in grandpa’s garden. There are different varieties and some are more decorative, though edible if you want to put them in a decorative garden and have them not look out of place. I recently saw a very decorative variety at our local botanical gardens. I like it stewed with strawberries and some sugar and no crust. Cuts out fat and calories and tastes oh so good!

    Comment by Heidi — May 21, 2008 #

  22. Candy, I have seen frozen rhubarb in the freezer section at some grocery stores. You might check there,or look on-line (try google?)

    Comment by A Kim — May 30, 2008 #

  23. what is 1 used raw cane suger?
    what is rosewater?
    i cant wait to try this pie but i need alittle help.

    thanks

    Comment by tabatha durham — October 29, 2008 #

  24. Whats the Calories

    Comment by Darlene — July 5, 2009 #

  25. Just want to let you know I was intrigued by your recipe, so I made it tonight for Thanksgiving tomorrow…can’t wait to see if everyone likes it! I made only two small modifications: 1) substituted about 1/2 cup of strawberries with blackberries, and 2) made extra crumble mixture, mainly due to large pan.

    Comment by Fiona — November 25, 2009 #

  26. My rhubarb pie has a small can of condensed milk (not sweetebed) with the sugar and flour and it is very good. I sometimes add strawberries to it also.

    Comment by Pat Lewis — May 12, 2011 #

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