Ever since we first had rhubarbs, we at A Book of Cookrye have been wondering... what does straight rhubarb taste like? We had rhubarbs with raisins, but what does this weird red celery stuff taste like on its own? We're turning to the Great Depression and finding out!
|A Book of Selected Recipes, Mrs. George O. Thurn, 1934|
The recipe looks pretty straightforward, right? Give or take a couple of ingredient amounts, it's the same as the rhubarb-raisin pie only without the raisins.
|Custard Rhubarb Pie|
2 c cut-up rhubarb (or 10 oz frozen)
2 eggs, separated
1 c sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter, melted
½ c powdered sugar
1 unbaked pie shell
Heat oven to 350°.
If using frozen rhubarb, thaw it, retaining all juices. If using fresh, pour boiling water over it, soak about 5 minutes, and drain, retaining about 3 tablespoons of water on the rhubarb.
Stir together the sugar and flour. Add the egg yolks and mix. Add the rhubarb and butter and mix everything together, beating out any large lumps of sugar and egg. Put in the pie shell and bake about an hour and a half.
About ten minutes before the baking time is up, beat the egg whites until almost completely stiff. Add the powdered sugar a spoonful at a time. Scatter each spoonful over the surface rather than dumping it in a heap on the egg whites; it will mix in easier that way. Spread it over the pie (it will probably be thin). Return to the oven, reduce heat to 300°, and bake until the meringue is a nice golden color.
A Book of Selected Recipes, Mrs. George O. Thurn, 1934
I know we're supposed to mix in the egg yolks first, but is it supposed to look like this?
The lumps would not dissolve upon contact with rhubarbs. Maybe this is why they don't grow rhubarbs in the south- people got tired of having to flog their pies with a whisk.
|Great. I've got egg globules crawling all over the rhubarbs.|
At any rate, this recipe was pretty quick to throw together. We figured the business with boiling water was to soften the rhubarbs a bit before baking and skipped it since they were already kind of mushy.
For some reason, the sight of the pie filling right after we dumped it out of the bowl was more amusing than it should have been. And get a load of the color on this thing! Are rhubarbs really this color, or did they dye them in processing?
|As you can see, a lot of the egg globules evaded my best efforts.|
However, the pie never really set as such. After an hour or so of the pie not even looking like it could pretend it had firmed up, it occurred to us that it might set up better once it cools. Borrowing from our brief experience in jelly making, we started spooning out a little of it onto a plate which we had shoved into the freezer. It took a further thirty minutes for it to show evidence that it was any thicker than when it entered the oven. Maybe if I hadn't used frozen rhubarbs it wouldn't have taken so long.
But eventually, we got to the meringue making! As we previously discovered, powdered sugar works really well for making meringues. They come out so creamy. They do seem less voluminous than meringues made with granulated sugar, so if you want a big meringue cloud, you may want to skip that (and also use more than two egg whites). For this particular pie, we decided a thinner meringue that was more of a baked-on frosting would be better than a massive puffy thing floating in its own sphere of existence and nearly completely separate from the pie itself. And look how happy the pie was to see us!
Incidentally, while meringues still divide a lot of people (in my family, some people scrape them off and leave the rest of the pie behind while others complain they're like sweetened Styrofoam), the oldest mention of them suggests you only bother putting a meringue on a pie if you can't get any cream to whip. We at A Book of Cookrye think it no coincidence that most meringue-topped recipes until very recently call for the same number of egg whites to go on top of the pie as they do yolks to go in the base. It's less waste. And in the case of this recipe, there's a Depression on, so the idea of throwing away half of your eggs is really stupid.
Also, we have never baked a meringue slowly before. Most recipes tell you to crank the oven to somewhere in the 400°-450° range. Cooking the meringue slowly meant that for once we didn't burn the crust before the meringue was done, and the meringue itself resisted falling a lot better than we're used to.
And behold the finished pie! The recipe may call it a custard pie, but it doesn't look much like one, does it? We'd thought it would look more like rhubarbs floating in pudding. Instead, it looks like rhubarbs held together in a mysterious force field possibly generated by the meringue on top. And it was so brightly colored we think rhubarbs might not technically be natural.
That said, the baking time is ridiculous. If we make this again, we will cook the filling in a double boiler instead of leaving it in the oven for that long.