A few months ago, I was looking at an old cookbook published by a church in Ontario, Canada, back in the early 1900’s. Like many books from the time, it came with a list of cooking times for assorted fruits and vegetables, including some advice that would be shocking for today’s palates (like cook spinach at a hard boil for 45 minutes).
One entry on the list struck me as particularly strange, though. It was for a food I had never heard of before: Pie plant. What an adorable name for a plant! Pie plant! Did it look like a pie? Did it grow pies? Do you make pies out of it? What kind of pies would you make from a pie plant? (Well, pie plant flavoured pies, of course).
Before having Internet, I probably would have filed the knowledge of “pie plant” somewhere in the back of my brain, and gone through life always wondering what it was, content in the knowledge that somewhere out there existed the perfect plant for making pies. But without the Internet, would I have ever found out what pie plant was? It’s hard to say, and I suspect the answer would have depended entirely on finding an elderly enough farmer at the farmer’s market…in Ontario…which is currently thousands of miles away from me.
Thank God for the Internet. Pie plant is rhubarb.
To be honest, I have never been a big rhubarb eater. I have had strawberry rhubarb pie maybe three times in my life. I think I ate raw rhubarb once years ago, and it would mostly likely have been with my friend Ashley who is a fiend for tart flavours (She would happily take that hard-boiled spinach and eat it with vinegar. I have seen her do this.) Given my sweet tooth and rhubarb’s propensity towards tartness, it’s no wonder I hadn’t become better acquainted with rhubarb. Until this weekend.
I had gone to the market in search of some green vegetables, but what caught my eye were these vibrant pink stalks of the biggest stalks of rhubarb I have ever seen. I ended up buying several which were as long as my arm.
With these and a pint of strawberries in hand, it was time to make pie.
I should insert a quick safety note in here before I continue on to the recipe: The stalks of rhubarb are edible. The leaves are not. Don’t eat the leaves. They are so high in oxalic acid that you’d get kidney stones and be in so much pain that you’d end up cursing me for letting you know that pie plant existed in the first place. So don’t eat rhubarb leaves.
But anyways. On to the recipe.
Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit
1 pint of strawberries, washed and chopped
3 stalks of rhubarb, washed and chopped (about 4 cups worth)
1 yellow apple, grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
Mix the strawberries, rhubarb, apple, vanilla, and sugars in a bowl. Let this sit while you prepare the dough. The juices will start to come out of the strawberries. Before using the filling, stir in the half cup of flour.
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup of hard vegan margarine, chilled
1/4 cup of shortening
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup ice water
In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour and salt together. Use a pastry blender or a fork to cut the margarine and shortening into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add in the ice water and mix only until you have a smooth, pliable dough.
On a floured surface, use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out until it is large enough to overlap your pie plate. Transfer the dough to the pie plate and use a sharp knife to trim away the overhang.
Take the dough trimmings, knead them back into a single ball, and roll this into a rectangle slightly longer than the width of the pie plate. Using a ruler or the side of a cutting board as a guide, cut this dough into long narrow strips.
Pour the filling onto the pie crust and use the back of your spoon to flatten and smooth out the filling as much as you can.
Now to make the lattice top:
Place strips of pastry on the pie in one direction, so that it looks like you have a striped crust.
Now, fold back every other strip. Take another pastry strip and lay it across the pie, so that it is resting across the pastry strips that you haven’t folded back. Now unfold the folded pastry strips back across the pie. See how pretty and easy that is? Now keep doing this all across the pie. You have just made a beautiful lattice top.
If you have any more dough scraps remaining, you can re-roll them and cut out decorative shapes to decorate the edges of the pie with. Use water or melted apricot jam to adhere the shapes to the pie.
You can leave the pie unglazed or brush it with soymilk or melted apricot jam before baking. Mine is brushed with melted apricot jam.
Place a foil-lined baking sheet in the lower rack of the oven to catch any drips, and place the pie in the middle of the oven to bake until done. Tent the pie with foil if it starts to brown on the top too much before it is cooked on the bottom. It should take 50 – 60 minutes to bake.
Allow to cool before slicing. I served mine with vanilla flavoured almond ice cream.