ANN BAILEY: Crust anxiety makes rhubarb pie all the more specialFor a few weeks in May and June we eat sauces, bars and desserts made from the five rhubarb plants in our garden. However, one thing that’s not on the menu is pie. Though I bake a lot and am not afraid to tackle most any recipe, I am not confident when it comes to my pie making ability.
One of the best things about spring on the farm is enjoying our rhubarb in a variety of forms.
For a few weeks in May and June we eat sauces, bars and desserts made from the five rhubarb plants in our garden. However, one thing that’s not on the menu is pie. Though I bake a lot and am not afraid to tackle most any recipe, I am not confident when it comes to my pie making ability.
I suffer from crust anxiety and though I have been given a variety of crust recipes by people who say that “this one is really easy,” I haven’t mastered the art of making and rolling out good pie crusts. I don’t like the taste of store-bought crusts, so instead, I simply avoid making pies.
I definitely didn’t take after my mom in that aspect of cooking. Her crusts weren’t only an edible container that held the pie filling, they were tender, flakey and as tasty as the contents.
My mom’s rhubarb pie was my husband, Brian’s, favorite, so she made him one every spring. Although her lemon meringue pie was my favorite, I looked forward to eating her rhubarb, too. Topped with a beautiful lattice crust and filled with a tart-sweet rhubarb custard filling, every forkful was to be savored.
No rhubarb pie?
Last fall my mom died, so this spring I expected that, for the first time in many years, I wouldn’t be digging my fork into a rhubarb pie. I knew that any store-bought pie wouldn’t come close to my mom’s so I figured it was better to go without any pie, than to be disappointed.
But a couple of months ago, I was offered a second chance at rhubarb pie-eating when I was asked to be a judge of the rhubarb pie contest at University Lutheran Church’s annual Rhubarb Festival. I jumped at the chance, not only because it would give me the opportunity to sample delicious, home-made pies, but because I’d read and written about the festival and wanted to see it first-hand. I envisioned leaving with at least one rhubarb pie and a couple of desserts that I purchased at the bake sale.
On June 9, I helped judge the Rhubarb Festival along with Terry Dullum, from WDAZ-TV, and Brenda Gjelness, of Reynolds, N.D. The three of us judged a total of four pies. Each pie was delicious and it was difficult to pick a winner. The one that took top honors was the one that tasted the most like my mom’s.
I had hoped to stay for the festival’s legendary bake sale, but the line was long and I had a list of projects that I needed to get done at home so I left empty-handed — almost. I did take with me the uneaten portions of the four slivers of pie that I taste-tested.
When I got home, I put the pieces in the fridge so Brian, my daughter, Ellen, and I could eat them later. Later that evening, after we had finished our projects list, we sat down at the table to eat the pie.
Ellen discovered we didn’t have enough forks, so she got up to get one and had turned her back for only an instant, when Maggie, our shameless yellow Lab, snatched one of the plates and gobbled up two slivers. Brian grabbed the other before she could nab it and dispensed Maggie to her kennel.
One of the pieces that Maggie ate was the one Ellen had her eye on, so she opted for ice cream, instead. Brian and I shared the other two slivers. They were a yummy treat to eat after a long day of chores and we appreciated them even more knowing that they had been saved from the jaws of Maggie.
I hope that someday I will get over my pie phobia enough to try my hand at my mom’s rhubarb pie recipe. I know that it’s in one of her Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks and I think I could figure out which one it is by looking at the recipe ingredients.
Until then, I’m going to try and make an annual visit to the University Lutheran Church Rhubarb Festival. I know judging the pie contest is a one-time event, but I bet if I get in the bake sale line early enough I can lay my hands on one of the much-coveted rhubarb pies for sale. I’d be happy to pay good money for a homemade rhubarb pie. I’ll just have to make sure that I keep it out of Maggie’s reach.
Reach Bailey at (701) 787-6753; (800) 477-6572, ext. 753; or send email to email@example.com.