The Main Menu: The month of May is the perfect time for a fresh rhubarb pie

A fresh rhubarb pie, with a lattice top, is a perfect treat on a May day, writes our food columnist Jan Main.


During a recent tidy-up of my garden, I was taking stock.

What plants were coming up? It was like a reunion of old friends. There, spreading, new, dark green leaves and sporting their edible deep, pink stems were four healthy rhubarb plants.

Aha!! Spring desserts await with that luscious, distinctive pink and tart taste of rhubarb – pies, cakes, muffins compotes and chutney.
I love them all, but a rhubarb pie ohhhh!!!! with softly whipped cream served warm fresh from the oven made with rhubarb picked that morning!

Now, that was a perfect surprise for Mother’s Day, Sunday dinners, even Queen Victoria’s birthday!

If you are not fortunate enough to have a rhubarb plant in your garden, you can purchase fresh rhubarb in most supermarkets starting now. It’s not cheap and only enough for a single pie. (My grandmother would have a fit at the price of fresh rhubarb today!)

However after the lockdown, you can buy frozen rhubarb at Macmillan’s Orchards in Ajax , 733 Kingston Rd. E., to have a ready supply for all those rhubarb treats and countless pies!

Rhubarb Pie – The Classic, with Lattice Top

The first rhubarb pie of the season always tastes special: tart, sweet, juicy and aromatic, the perfect spring dessert. Serve with a generous spoonful of quality vanilla ice-cream or softly whipped cream.

Rhubarb Tip: To minimize the sourness of the rhubarb, discard the rhubarb leaves, wash the stalks thoroughly to rid them of garden dirt and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm pieces) Put the measured rhubarb chunks into a mixing bowl and pour boiling water over the pieces; let the stand about 1 minute. Drain and add them to a mixing bowl then combine with the other ingredients as the recipe below describes.

Pastry for Pie
(base and lattice top)

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, cold from the refrigerator
1/4 cup (50 mL) shortening
1/2 cup (125 mL) cold water
5 cups (1 1/4 L) rhubarb cut into about 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (75 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp (2 mL) cinnamon

To Make Pastry: In medium mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Using pastry blender cut butter and shortening into flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle water over flour-fat mixture. Stir flour until it clumps together and form into ball.

Divide ball in half. Roll first ball between two large pieces of parchment paper rolling away from you and turning paper as you want to form a circle about ½ inch (1.2 cm) larger than pie plate and about 1/8 inch thick (3 mm).

Remove the top layer of parchment paper and put aside. Invert and centre the pie plate over the rolled out pastry and quickly pick up pie plate with pastry, turning right side up, gently removing the remaining parchment paper and put aside. Carefully ease the pastry into the pie plate trying not to stretch dough. (Don’t worry if one side of the pie has more pastry, you can always patch!)

To Make Lattice Top: Repeat rolling out the second pastry ball. Once rolled out, cut the pastry into 1- inch (2.5 cm) strips. Take the longest pastry strip and place in the middle of the reserved parchment paper. Place the next longest piece at right angles to the first to form a cross; repeat with remaining pastry strips placing one lengthwise and the other crosswise to form a lattice of pastry strips on the parchment paper.
Set aside pastry lattice with parchment while you make the rhubarb filling. Pre-heat oven to 425 F (220 C).

Rhubarb filling: In mixing bowl add rhubarb and pour over boiling water. Let stand about 1 minute. Drain and return to bowl. In separate bowl, mix flour, sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle sugar mixture over rhubarb and stir in to combine evenly. Spoon filling into prepared pie shell. Using parchment lift the pastry lattice over the filled pie and quickly invert so that pastry lattice covers rhubarb filling. Discard parchment paper. Adjust any pastry strips to make an even lattice; crimp(pinch) pastry together around outside edge.

Bake pie on cookie sheet (to catch drips) 15- 20 minutes at 425 F (220 C) or until pastry begins to brown, then reduce heat to 375 F (190C).

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes longer or until pastry is golden brown and rhubarb is tender. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting into wedges. Makes 6 – 8 servings.

Quick Rhubarb Pie with Pastry Cutouts

This recipe is designed for those with limited time and/or are pastry challenged.

Purchase 2 deep 9- inch (23 cm) pie shells. Remove from freezer and let stand to soften slightly about 15 minutes. Use one pie shell to fill and the other to make favourite cookie cutter shapes as the topping for rhubarb filling (such as hearts).
Make rhubarb filling as described. Fill pie shell and arrange pastry cut outs decoratively on top of pie. Bake on cookie sheet according to directions above.

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