Thursday, April 28, 2011

Signs of Spring: Rhubarb Custard Meringue Pie

 I adore rhubarb.

My rhubarb plants are coming along nicely outside in the garden.  I have a huge planter tipped upside down over one of the plants to force it (more on this soon), and it is going to be beautiful. In the meantime, I decided it was time to clean out the freezer - so I decided to thaw out the two remaining bags of rhubarb I froze last spring.

If you are lucky enough to have outdoor space, and fortunate enough to have your own rhubarb plants, freezing it for later is easy.  Simply pull the stems and discard the leaves, then was the stems, chop into 1" pieces and throw into freezer bags.  I had very little time last spring to process much of the rhubarb in the backyard, so instead, I have been able to enjoy it all winter.  Frozen rhubarb is easy to use in cobbler, pie, stewed or baked.  It is best to allow it to thaw completely if you are going to bake with it.

I let the rhubarb thaw in a colander placed over a large bowl to catch the all the juices as the rhubarb melts.  This is a combination of juice and water, but it is tasty to reserve for later use in jello, if mixed with other fruit juice.

I decided to make a recipe from one of my longtime favourite cookbooks, Classic Canadian Cooking, by Elizabeth Baird - Rhubarb Custard Meringue Pie.  If you ever see this book at a garage sale, I highly recommend you pick it up, as this book is out of print. I particularly like this book because it is organised according to the seasons, and has lovely menus for different occasions, and many recipes are based on historic or traditional Upper Canadian cooking.

While the rhubarb thawed, I prepared my pie crust.  You need only a bottom crust for this pie. Mix the rhubarb with the flour and sugar mixture. This recipe has a little bit of mace in it, which is a lovely, but unusual flavouring.  Separate your eggs, reserving the whites.  Whisk together yolks, cream and melted butter.   Spread the rhubarb mixture in the prepared pie crust.   Pour the egg mixture over top, and place pie in 450 degree oven.  Reduce heat to 350 after 10 minutes. Bake 35- 40 minutes, or until custard is set.

 While the pie is baking, whip the egg whites with vinegar and salt until they form stiff peaks.  Add sugar and vanilla. Elizabeth Baird's recipe uses three egg whites, but I only used two as to not have a leftover yolk (her meringue would be higher than mine). Spread meringue over pie.  Sprinkle with sugar and bake for another 4 minutes at 425 degrees until golden brown.

Et voila.  Allow to cool, and serve as soon as possible.  Meringue does not like to be kept waiting!  It gets weepy if you're late for dinner. 

Rhubarb Custard Pie, adapted from Classic Canadian Cooking: Menus for the Seasons, by Elizabeth Baird, published 1974 by James Lorimer & Company.

2 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup white sugar (I used about 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon mace
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup light cream or milk
1/4 melted butter

3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons white sugar (I used about 3 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon white sugar (to sprinkle on top of meringue)


  1. i adore rhubarb as well. i have yet to bake with it. this summer i will. thanks!

  2. Mmm. My mum makes a delicious strawberry rhubarb custard pie with meringue on top, similar to this. It's quite possibly my favourite kind of pie.