words & photos :: Feet Banks
When it comes to strawberries, we all kind owe a debt to the French.
Sure sure, Roman writers were waxing poetic about the strawberry as far back as the first century AD, but the juicy little berries were never properly cultivated in in Europe until the French brought them from forest to field sometime in the 1300s.
Even more importantly, it was a French spy (!?) who smuggled the Chilean strawberry into his homeland in 1714. The Chilean variant had what the domestic strawberries lacked—size. Once farmers accidentally cross pollinated the fragile-but-girthy Chilean berry with the hardy-but-unimpressive Virginian strawberry (from North America) they kicked off a genetic path that eventually led to where we are now—big fat strawberries that taste fucking awesome in champagne, dipped in chocolate, or (best of all) baked into a nice warm pie with a little tart rhubarb to accentuate their sweet, succulent, deliciousness.
A side note on rhubarb: don’t eat the leaves or you will piss blood until you die. Ok, that might be a bit dramatic—some studies claim a 143lb human would need to eat 9+ pounds of rhubarb leaves before they died. Other studies claim smaller amounts though, and nearly everyone agrees the oxalid acid in the leaves is a nephrotoxin that leads to kidney stones (aka: pissing blood and incredible amounts of pain), so don’t eat them.
Beyond that, I guess it’s worth noting that rhubarb is a native plant of China but has been grown in North America (by way of Europe) since at least as early as the 1730s. It’s not super easy to find rhubarb at the corner store so the best bet is to grow your own (or cozy up to someone who does). My kid likes to chew on rhubarb stalks and claims “the redder the stalk, the sweeter the chew,” but the best use for this “devil’s celery” is in a big steaming juicy strawberry rhubarb pie. So, let’s get into it.
Hot Damn! Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
As with most fruit pies, there is a real danger of the finished product being runny as pigeon shit (if you want it to be warm) so to circumvent that let’s take it back to what we learned with the Saskatoon Pie and precook/reduce our fruits.
Step 1: Make your Crust
Use your grandmother’s old family recipe, or buy some if you are in a rush or don’t give a shit. (Tenderflake brand is the best, get deep dish crusts though.) Also, no one is gonna complain if you make a crumble-style crust either—do whatever you want.
Step 2: Pie Filling
(Makes two pies.)
- 6 cups fresh rhubarb sliced into roughly 1/2 inch pieces
- 6 1/2 cups strawberries chopped
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Juice from 2-3 decent sized lemons.
- 2 tbsp salted butter
I don’t like it too fake-sweet (let the fruit do the work) but some people might want to add a bit more sugar to taste. Alternatively, if you so desire you can chuck a teaspoon of cinnamon in there for added zing. Taste your filling mix periodically and add whatever you damn well feel like. Baking is not calculus, there’s room for personality.
- Chuck all the ingredients into a decent sized pot. You want about an inch or less of filling in the bottom of the pot so it heats evenly.
- Mix together and cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring often. Very often! Stir the fuck out of it with a hard spatula or a wooden one that scrapes the bottom good because it is gonna try to stick and burn.
- Lower the heat to simmer, keep stirring or another 5 minutes
- It’s ready when the rhubarb is getting soft and the consistency is thick and almost jammy.
- Let the whole thing cool until you can put your finger in it without pain. Room temp is best.
- Pour the filling into your pies (don’t go all the way to the top or it will splooge out the sides)
- Put your top crust on, solid or latticed. Seal the edges well or it will splooge out the sides (see photo).
- Cut steam holes, patterns into the top crust (unless it’s a lattice, obviously)
- Brush with egg white/water mixture and sprinkle with granulated sugar if you want to get fancy
Bake the Pie!!
- 10 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit
- 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Let this pie cool for a while before serving. Try to hit that sweet spot of still warm but not runny (30 mins), and of course the higher quality your vanilla ice cream is, the better it will all taste.
Give the second pie to a neighbour, friend, or anyone—doing nice things for others is legitimately the key to a fulfilled life.