Rhubarb Custard Pie and More

My mom and I have agreed that the best pie we ever tasted was on a late spring evening about 15 years ago - an evening something like this one, cooling, with the smell of rain in the air.   It's hard to point to one element that stood alone to make this pie so memorable. It seems to have been the combination of an excellent crisp crust, with custardy filling balanced by tart fruit, and the absolute perfect pie-eating temperature that made it surpassing.  There have been many pies since then, and I don't know if Mom has had a better one, but I don't think I have. I keep trying to re-create that experience. And if you try this recipe you'll come pretty close too. 

I've started using the Buttermilk Pie Crust recipe below as my go-to crust - it's easy to handle and very tasty. Especially if you use lard. I've stopped using shortening because I'm not sure what's really in it or how it's made, but I'm pretty sure that whatever it is, I don't really want to know. At least lard has a known source.  

This pie is best served very warm with a cup of coffee. Need I mention that leftovers (if there be some) are good for breakfast?  

Don't forget, Slow Food Huron Valley will be celebrating the 2nd Annual Pie Lovers Unite! on Saturday, July 19th, 2008 at 7:00pm. Come to  Ypsilanti's lovely Ladies Literary Club - bring a pie, write a pie-ku and win a pie prize. 

"If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, first you must create the universe."  

-- Carl Sagan

Rhubarb Custard Pie

(Preheat oven to 425º)

5-6 C. diced rhubarb (I like a full pie)

1/4 C. orange juice

2 eggs

1 C. sugar

3 T. flour

1/4 t. salt

1/2 t. nutmeg

First, roll out the bottom crust of the pie and have it waiting nearby. In a large bowl, mix together everything but the rhubarb (just the custardy part). I adjust the sugar up and down for the desired sweetness - I've used as little as 3/4 C. and as much as 1 1/2 C., but 1 C. is a good starting point.  Then, stir in the rhubarb just to cover with the eggy part.  Turn into the prepared pie plate. 

Top with a lattice crust and sprinkle with more sugar (demerara, if you have it, is nice) or cinnamon sugar.  Bake at 425º for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350º and bake another 30-45 minutes - until pie is browned the way you like it and bubbling in the middle. 

Buttermilk Pie Crust

2 1/2 C. flour

2 T. sugar

1 t. salt

1/2 C. butter, chilled until hard, then quickly cut into 1/2" cubelets

1/2 C. lard (or more butter), also chilled until hard and cut into small pieces

6 T. buttermilk (I've needed a little more than this)

Stir together dry ingredients - a whisk works well for this. Distribute the pieces of butter and lard over the flour. Cut in the still-hard butter and lard with a pastry blender, or 2 knives, or your preferred method. With a fork, stir in the buttermilk (I've also used plain yogurt, thinned with milk when I didn't have buttermilk) - until a shaggy dough ball forms. Add more buttermilk if it seems too dry, but just enough to get it to hold together. Chill for 1/2 hour or more. 


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