Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

By request, this one comes from today's coffee hour experiments. Why do I experiment on the poor congregation of my church? Well, I have extraordinarily picky menfolk. Boy claims not to like pie at all and is iffy on chocolate unless Oreos are involved. (I swear he was not dropped on his head as a child.) Man eschews most fruit and all coconut. Thus, the church.

This round involved key lime pie, King Arthur chocolate cream pie, strawberry rhubarb pie, Cape Cod blueberry pie, a chocolate bundt cake with ganache, and my mom's self-described "best dip in the world." The key lime disappeared in seven minutes, so I think I'll keep making that one.

Aside: The "key" to that one (heh heh heh) is to use real key lime juice. There is a big difference in flavor. Now, you can buy a giant bag full of key limes, which are teeny little things about the size of a Ping-Pong ball, and squeeze a zillion of them until you get a cup of juice. Or, if you have a life, you'll need to buy a bottle. Problem: here in the midwest, it's hard to find the real thing. Oh, you can go find a bottle of "Key West Lime Juice" at most high-end grocery stores, but pay attention to the fine print: "Key WEST lime juice." That means it's from limes grown in Key West, not from key limes. Sneaky.

In order to get real key lime juice, I generally have to order by internet. My preference is from the Florida Key Lime Pie Company in Cocoa Beach, which I discovered on vacation there several years ago, but sadly despite their new digs next to the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop, they still don't do mail order for key lime juice. (Solution: Florida vacation! Sure!) Nellie & Joe's is the most popular, but online you have to order it by the case. Amazon to the rescue: They carry Nellie & Joe's and Florida Key West in single-bottle or double-bottle amounts, as well as a few suspicious types ("Manhattan" key lime juice?). So check your labels. The flavor will be very, very different.

Anyway! The strawberry rhubarb is not precisely an experiment; it's my mom's recipe, but I last made it maybe 10-15 years ago. I was curious to see if it held up. Ironically, my mom made the exact same pie on the same day, but in Philadelphia! 'Tis the season.

Other experiments were less successful: the Cape Cod blueberry pie fell apart, so it kind of ended up as a soupy blueberry cobbler. The Cape Cod recipe is a heritage recipe going back to 1800s New England, or so I was told. I will have to research other recipes to figure out how to keep it in pie formation without loading it down with a lot of gelatin ickiness.

But since it was requested, here is my mom's strawberry rhubarb pie recipe, with my notations.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
from Patrice Stribling Nelson

2 pie crusts
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 1/2 c. rhubarb, sliced
1/3 c. plus 1 tsp. flour
2 1/2 c. strawberries
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. orange rind
2 tbsp. cold butter

Start with a deep pie pan and flour the interior. Place one of the crusts in the pan and make sure it stretches all the way up the sides.

Slice berries and rhubarb into a bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine sugar, salt, nutmeg, 1/3 c. flour and orange rind. Add to fruit and toss well. Then leave it alone to macerate for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour berry mixture into the pie plate. Dot the berries with pea-sized chunks of butter.

Now, if you're lazy like me, you'll do a full-cover top crust. Take your crust (which for me is Pillsbury, but you might choose to make your own if you have endless spare time) and layer it over the top. Pinch the edges together - sometimes there's enough dough that I can make kind of a rolled edge, then mark with fork tines to seal the edges together and make it look pretty.

If you're not lazy, you can cut the second shell into half-inch strips and weave them together for a lattice top or whatever artistic design suits your fancy.

Once the pie is sealed, pour a little milk into a disk and brush the top crust lightly with it. Then sprinkle with sugar. This provides a nice, sweet crackly glaze.

Bake 40-50 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the whole top of the pie is golden brown. If it's not golden in the center, you're not done. I strongly suggest covering the edges with foil or a pie shield, and if it seems like it's browning too fast, cover the pie with foil.

Word to the wise: when baking a goopy pie like this on the center rack, line the lower rack of your oven with a sheet of aluminum foil. That way if anything spills in your oven, you just throw away the foil instead of having to clean the whole oven or put up with the charming burnt smells. I generally just keep that rack lined with foil all the time until it needs replacing. Works like a charm!

I will note that while the strawberry rhubarb was very popular and P.S. it's all gone now, I found the rhubarb a little overwhelming - more of a rhubarb pie with strawberry suggestion than the other way around. Next time instead of having a 50-50 split between strawberries and rhubarb, I might alter the ratio toward strawberries. On the other hand, that might make it too soggy. What do you think?