Nita’s Rhubarb Pie is luxurious and rustic all at the same time. The tangy, earthy rhubarb is a perfect counterpoint to the smooth, creamy custard.
Custard, To Your Health
Did you know that at one time, custards were considered health foods and were marketed by American food companies for their nutritional value especially for children and invalids? Just think, had you known this, you may have been able to request chocolate pudding for that “illness” that kept you home from school.
Custard actually has a long history that dates back to the Middle Ages and was often used as a filling for pies, tarts, and other pastries. Its name is derived from crustade which is a tart with a crust.
So it makes total sense that a custard would be a perfect foil for the fruit (rhubarb is actually a vegetable) of the pie plant as rhubarb has been aptly dubbed.
How to Make Nita’s Rhubarb Pie
I did take a little bit of creative license with Nita’s Rhubarb Pie. Her recipe called for 2 egg yolks to create the custard. Since I never have a plan for the whites that have been separated from their yellow partner, I decided not to split the eggy partnership. As our pie pans have gotten a little bit bigger than when Nita was making this pie, I added another egg. And a teaspoon of vanilla is always a nice addition to a creamy custard.
The first thing that you need to do is make your pie crust. If you have a favorite family recipe, use that. If not, Kate McDermott of Art of the Pie has a great recipe for pie crust on her website.
While the pie shell stays cold in the refrigerator, combine the sugar and the flour in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs by hand, in a stand mixer (my preference) or with a hand mixer until they are well blended. Add the sugar and flour mixture, pour in the melted butter and make sure that everything is fully incorporated. Then stir in the vanilla.
Take your pie shell out of the fridge, place the rhubarb in the pie shell and then pour the custard mixture over the top.
I like to place my pie plate on a baking sheet, just in case there is any spill over. I have a 1950’s GE oven that does not feature a self-cleaning cycle, so I take all precautions necessary 😉
The initial bake is done in what Nita refers to as a “hot oven”, which is around 400 – 425˚F (I set my oven to 425˚), then it’s finished in a “slow oven” – 300˚F – for 30 minutes. I actually recommend a moderate oven – 350˚F – for the 30 minutes.
I’m going to have to do a little research to see how the verbal descriptions of oven temperatures came to be. If anyone knows, I would love to hear.
One thing to remember when making fruit pies or custard pies, they need to cool completely before slicing into them. So, what I’m saying is plan ahead. And if you have any leftovers, make sure they go in the fridge.
recipe for single pie crust
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups sliced rhubarb 1/2-inch slices
- Heat the oven to 425˚F.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour.
- Add the eggs to the bowl of a stand mixer. You can also use a hand mixer if you prefer. Fit the whisk attachment to the mixer, and mix the egg on low until combined.
- With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add in the sugar and flour mixture. Slowly add the melted butter, mixing to combine. Stir in the vanilla.
- Fill the pie crust with the rhubarb and pour the egg mixture over the top.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 425˚F, then turn the oven down to 350˚F and bake for another 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool completely before slicing.
Recipe Box Roulette
This recipe is from a social media game we developed called Recipe Box Roulette. Find a family recipe box and play along.
The rules are simple. Let your fingers wander over the recipes cards in the box, draw one at random, share it with us on FB Page or on your Instagram Feed. Remember to tag @theheritagcookbookproject and use the hashtag #recipeboxroulette.
Extra credit – make the recipe and share a photograph.
Ruth Haerr’s Recipe Box – Recipe by Nita Marvin