Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Fever Tonic: Rhubarb Custard Pie

How do we know spring is almost here?

You've felt it, haven't you?

On one hand, there are spring bulbs pushing their way through last year's debris, and birds arriving from the south on gentle breezes.

On the other hand, Old Man Winter is holding tight with both hands, refusing to let go.

We'll have a sunny warm afternoon one day, and the next day winter will come roaring back with a biting north wind carrying snow on its tails.

Except as the weeks go by, the wind doesn't bite quite so hard, and the snow doesn't last quite as long....

Don't worry. Spring will come. God promised, and He always keeps His promises :)

But I'm getting antsy. I can't wait to get back to the trails in the Hills!

The view east from Mt. Rushmore - in warmer weather!

Meanwhile, I have the perfect tonic for our Spring Fever.

It isn't rhubarb season for a while, but I saved some of last year's just to make this pie. 

Totally worth the wait!

This recipe is from my mother-in-law's side of the family (don't we just love old family recipes around here?). When she gave it to me, she wrote on the card "Grandma Ebenhoeh." I think she meant her mother - my husband's grandmother - but it could very well be from her mother, as well.

Edith (on the left) with one of her sisters in the Nason House.
Before she married, Grandma was called Edith. She and one of her sisters - I'm not sure which one, but she had eight of them - worked at the biggest house in town as domestics. That would have been in the early 1910's.

After she married John, and for many years after that, she was called Mama by her fourteen children (thirteen survived to adulthood).

My mother-in-law remembers that she was a wonderful cook, and the meals were always plentiful and good on their Michigan farm.

One big trial of her life was World War Two. She had five sons, and two of them enlisted early in the war. You can imagine how hard those years were for her! But they survived the war, and all thirteen children married and had families of their own.

One of her daughters is a regular visitor to the cafe - Hi, Aunt Jane!

And, believe it or not, her birthday is March 20, the first day of Spring!

This recipe is fantastic, and the perfect accompaniment - not cure, sorry - for Spring Fever.

Grandma Ebenhoeh's Rhubarb Custard Pie


Unbaked 9-inch pie shell (not prebaked - not for this pie)
2 eggs, well beaten
1 3/4 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups rhubarb - fresh or frozen
1 Tablespoon butter

If you use frozen rhubarb, thaw it and drain the juice.

Preheat your oven to 450°.

Get your pie shell ready. If you don't already know how to make your own pie crust, here's the step-by-step demo I did a while back: Jan's pie crust demo. Or you can always cheat and buy those refrigerated or frozen crusts from the store. (I won't tell Ruthy!)

Now, this is not a pudding or cream pie, so don't prebake the crust. Just have it ready for your filling.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, and then add the rest of the ingredients - but save the rhubarb for last so you can get the rest well mixed before adding chunks of fruit.

This is your custardy goodness! Now add the rhubarb (see it in the strainer in the background?) and pour the whole kit and kaboodle into your pie crust.

Dot the top with butter, and it's ready to go in the oven.

There's one little detail I left out when I made my pie. I don't like brown crusts, so I always put strips of aluminum foil around the edge...except this time.

Brown crust. Sigh.

I got over it.

Stick the pie in your oven (450° - remember?) for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350°, and continue baking until it's done. That detail depends on your oven - anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. How do you know it's done? Do the wiggle test. Gently move the oven shelf - if the filling moves like a water bed, it isn't done.

Let your pie cool - at least to room temperature - and then serve. We ate ours plain, but wouldn't it be great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream?

Now it's your turn. What is your favorite spring tonic?

Oh, and I almost forgot! Happy St. Patrick's Day!


  1. Hmm this is totally off the wall for me! I've heard of rhubarb and strawberries and I've heard of custard but never together! The raw pic looks kinda like that velvet a and rotel dip lol! Or a quiche! I may gphave to try this for a quilt thingy sometime..,if love recipes with family history esp hand written!

    1. Sorry iPad keeps changing words!

    2. It was new to me, too, but I fell in love with the first bite! The custard's sweetness offsets the sour rhubarb perfectly :)

  2. Bah humbug - it's -22, -30 with the windchill this morning. I seriously doubt that spring is going to arrive on time this year...if at all. Gah!!!! First day back at work and it will be another indoor recess!!!

    Okay -- over my hissy fit so I can comment on your post now. Sorry about that.

    Love the family history lesson. Merciful heavens, thirteen children?! I'm guessing that domestic service prepared Edith for the hard work of raising a brood like that. Goodness...I repent of complaining of having to do dishes yesterday...dishes for one. :-) And amazing that her sons survived the war. What a blessing.

    I love rhubarb and the Irish way (since we're talking St. Patrick's day) is to stew it up with some sugar and top it off with custard so I'm pretty sure I'm going to love this pie. :-)

    What? No gratuitous spring fever doggie pictures?!

    1. Big families are normal on my husband's side - at least up until the last generation.

      I grew up eating stewed rhubarb - just cooked and sweetened. It's my dad's favorite way to eat it.

      And my daughter took a great picture of Thatcher - but forgot to send it to me in time for the blog. Next week!

    2. Oh, Kav, I feel for you! Of course, it's terrible weather here in GA today. Rainy and cold (40 degrees). And of course I had all kinds of errands today! I'm home for the moment but have to go back out this evening. Ugh.

    3. We're supposed to get snow/rain/snow over the next 24 hours, too. And then again on Friday.

      Last winter we had the biggest snow storm of the year in April - and it was followed by another big one a week later. (Of course, nothing compared to the beginning of this winter in October!)

      I keep remembering that the only month our city HASN'T had recorded snowfall is July.

    4. Jan, that's just plain crazy!!! Even in June and August?? Wow.

  3. My favorite pie!!!!! The only thing different is my recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of cream to be added with the eggs, but rhubarb custard is a huge fave of mine, from childhood....

    And no one else likes it, Jan!!! They all want strawberry rhubarb, but me??? Old fashioned rhubarb custard with a sugared lattice crust and I'm HAPPY FOR DAYS!!!!!! Oh, such a wonderful thing! Thank you for posting it!!! I hope scores of people love this!!!

    1. I found a few different recipes for this pie - more eggs, or add cream, or more sugar, a lattice crust.... I stuck with Edith's original, and it's perfect.

      That won't keep me from trying other variations, though!

  4. is this a northern thing? I've never even HAD rhubarb (barely even heard of the stuff til I was in my seed planting mode several years ago and saw a packet of seeds) never heard of eating anything in a custard pie! and I also wonder about apple pie and cheese 'cause I love the Boxcar Children booksa nd they were always eating apple pie and cheese in the original ones...

  5. Susanna, my recipe was a "New England" recipe, so maybe it is a northern thing? And Jan, I had to layer my corned beef and veggies ala Tina Radcliffe's post on Friday..... but wanted to say I use the strips of foil, too. I've tried the aluminum guards... they don't work.... And my one complaint in bakery pies is the dark edged crust. A good crust should be protected at all costs!!!! :)


    Pi/Pie fanatic

    1. My crockpot is cooking Tina's corned beef and cabbage right now! Hubby came home for lunch and couldn't figure out why the house stinks so bad. Then we remembered! LOL

  6. Susanna, I looked it up.

    Rhubarb grows best in the northern states - from Maine through Illinois. It doesn't do well in arid or hot climates, so that's probably why you've never seen it!

    If you want to grow it in the south, you have to give it plenty of water and some protection from the sun. Up north, it's one of those plants you put in a sunny spot at the side of the garden and forget about it until you want to harvest some.

    If I want to grow some, I'm going to have to do the same thing. We're semi-arid, so I'll need to water it, and since we're at a fairly high altitude (3500 ft), the sun is strong and it will need to be on a shady side of the house.

    I've never heard of growing it from seeds, though. In Michigan and Indiana, you just ask a neighbor for a cutting....

    1. sounds like the equivalent of zucchini in the south! I don't garden (stuff keeps dying on my patio) but my aunt does sometimes and one year she was doing so much zucchini she was making bread or cake with it guess it's a matter of using what you have plenty of!

  7. Rhubarb grows wild at my parents house in Western NY. But I'v never been nuts about it. HOWEVER, this pie is swaying me to the dark side!!!

    1. You'll have to try this pie, Tina. You get a bit of rhubarb tang, but no sour. And then there's that creamy custard! Win/win!

  8. MMMmmmm! That's looks so good! My grandmother used to make a rhubarb-strawberry pie. But I never got that recipe from her. I'll have to try this one!

    1. This is so different from rhubarb-strawberry. The strawberries give that pie such a sweet, strawberry flavor mixed with the rhubarb. There's nothing like it!

      But this one is just a little rich...a little decadent...and quite old fashioned.

  9. We have rhubarb but it's not ready yet! We've had such a cold spring. But it's in the stores and I'm sorely tempted to get some and make this pie!! YUMMY.