CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie

The thought of homemade pie conjures up warm memories of good times past for many people who grew up on farms or in the small towns that dot a map of the Plains and Midwest. During the summer, I could usually count on finding a pie, often rhubarb, on the counter at our house or Grandma and Grandpa Menard’s almost every week from late May until September.

Just about everybody had rhubarb growing in their yards in those days — many still do — and we were no exception. Perhaps that is why rhubarb pie along with apple pie was one of my Mom’s specialties.

Grandma, on the the other hand, had much more fresh fruit at her disposal, since Grandpa grew Concorde grapes, strawberries and raspberries. (They also had a couple of apple trees in their backyard.) It was because of Grandpa’s cultivation of the those fruits that I ventured into growing grapes, strawberries and raspberries, with moderate success I might add.

Although I like to cook and bake, pie-making is something that is beyond my purview. However, I’m pretty lucky, since Therese is an excellent pie maker. She is so good at it that many in our family call her Grandma Apple Pie.

But Therese’s expertise extends well beyond apple pie. Lately, she’s combined fresh rhubarb and strawberries from our garden in a pie that I would put up against any in a county or state fair competition. (The recipe she follows comes from a tattered ladies’ church cookbook from Strathcona, Minn.)

I highly recommend this pie recipe. If you don’t have rhubarb, at least one of your neighbors probably does. And fresh strawberries right now are abundant at pick-your-own sites, farmers markets and most grocery stores.

And if you do decide on this pie, don’t forget the ice cream!

Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie
1⅓ cups sugar
⅓ cup flour
2 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pinto strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
1 tablespoon margarine or butter
Milk and sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup shortening
5 to 7 tablespoons cold water
In large bowl, combine sugar and flour; add rhubarb and strawberries, tossing lightly to combine. Let stand for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make pie crust (recipe follows), lattice top with 9 1-inch strips. Put rhubarb-strawberry mixture in, mounding at center. Dot with butter. Brush lattice top with milk and sprinkle on sugar. Bake for 50 minutes or until crust is golden and bubbly. Cool on wire rack. Serve with ice cream.
For pie crust, sift flour and salt together; cut in shortening with pasty blender until pieces are the size of small peas. Gently stir in water. Toss with fork; push to side of bowl. Repeat until all is moistened. Form into 2 balls. Roll one of balls from center to edge until ⅛-inch thick. Roll out the second ball and cut into strips for lattice.

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