Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Attack of the Rhubarb

I am a hunter-gatherer. My father and grandfather were hunter-gatherers. I am not a gardener. But...I do have a little garden.

These are my two Rhubarb plant growing in wild abandon at the side of the house. Summer in Alaska is that magical place that grows hundred-pound cabbages, with all-day light, where plants grow visibly each day. Rhubarb pops out of the ground first, while there is still snow and frost on the ground, and after a very few weeks I need to start harvesting it, otherwise, as you can see from the photo, I can't walk down the path to the shop.

The rhubarb grows next to the chives, which grow next to the wild lilies, my favorite plant in the garden, which rise like spears up through the wild mint, choked by chickweed and butter & eggs. I don't weed very often and feel guilty as I do, as if pulling mandrakes.

But I gladly harvest the large stems of the rhubarb plant, lop off the leaf, take a bundle of stems into the kitchen and chop them into inch-long bitter bits.

I'm fairly old-fashioned, and I am such a fan of anything made with butter. So I take a cube of slightly soft butter, and cut it for a long time into flour until it is almost mixed. Then I roll it into two balls, insert them one at a time between two sheets of wax paper to make the shell and top. I like a Pyrex pie plate best; the aluminum ones get holes and the stuff dribbles onto the oven and smokes up the house.

Next, I toss three cups of rhubarb and one cup of sliced strawberries in a mixing bowl, add a quarter cup of tapioca for thickener, and a third of a cup of sugar to cut the sour of the rhubarb, and a pinch of salt; mix it all up and let it sit for 10 minutes.

I seal the pie by pushing a fork around the edge, a trick I learned from my grandmother Katie Mae Daly Hurst, born in Cedar City, Utah, the daughter of Irish potato famine immigrants, with 13 children. I'm sure she learned it from her mother, and so on. You get the picture.

A quick slice of t he knife around the edge produces a perfectly round pie, and a lot of shavings.

A few slices in the top so the steam doesn't build up.

The shavings are a treat! Another trick from Grandma Hurst. Lay the pieces in a baking pan, sprinkle with sugar and either cinnamon or nutmeg...your choice, and bake for a brief 10 minutes.

Little kids love 'em! So do big kids...

1 comment:

sbt said...

Wow! what a beautiful pie ralph!!!