In our Heritage Dish series, we feature Hamilton Beach employees and their favorite family recipes. This month, we highlight Pat Schweitzer, consumer test kitchen manager, and one of her favorite family dessert recipes inspired by life on a Jackson, Minnesota farm, Rhubarb Custard Pie.
In our family, it just wouldn’t be spring without mom’s Rhubarb Custard Pie. Tart rhubarb is the perfect complement to the sweet goodness of the custard on the bottom and the crunch of the crumb topping.
I grew up on a farm in southwest Minnesota. My mom Alyce traded in her teaching career to raise fruits, vegetables, chickens and her own brood of five children. At the end of her massive garden was a patch of rhubarb. If you’ve only seen the huge stalks in grocery stores, you have been missing the real thing! Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that grows like crazy in cool weather, so it’s a natural for early Minnesota gardens. Although considered a vegetable, it’s mostly used like a fruit in desserts and jams. Only the stalk is edible, and the larger it grows, the more woody the stalk becomes and the less desirable it is for cooking.
If you had an abundance of rhubarb, you would make rhubarb cake, rhubarb bread, rhubarb crisp, strawberry rhubarb jam and, if you still had some left, you’d probably pass it on to friends and neighbors whose gardens were less productive. But despite rhubarb’s versatility, none of those treats compared to my Mom’s custard pie. Recently, as I was rummaging through my collection of handwritten recipes, I found four for this pie.I guess I wanted to be sure I had a copy!
My mom will tell you that one of her secrets to a perfect rhubarb pie is the pie pan. It is an all-aluminum deep dish pie pan. According to her, they don’t make them anymore, so she searches rummage sales, and when she finds them, she gives them to my sister, sisters-in-law and me. (Don’t tell her I now have two of them.)
Making this pie is so easy. You just chop up the rhubarb and mix it with eggs, milk, sugar and flour. The recipe cards vary on the amount of sugar, and one version has nutmeg added. I go with the lower amount of sugar and leave out the nutmeg. I prefer it to be pretty tart with the rhubarb flavor as the star. You then pour the mixture into a pastry crust and top it with the crumb topping. After baking, the custard magically sinks to the bottom and the tart rhubarb filling gets sandwiched in the middle by the crumb topping.