Rhubarb pies

THE aroma of stewing rhubarb in a country kitchen and the fragrance from the oven of the first rhubarb pie make it official that winter has ended. The vibrant red stalks and wide, dark green ruffled leaves send a welcome message: Spring is here.

Rhubarb pie does not have as long a history in this country as some other desserts.

It was already a favorite for pies and tarts in England by 1810, but two decades would pass before an American cookbook included a recipe for rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb pies have undergone many changes in the last quarter century.

Perhaps because the season is longer and we can now buy frozen rhubarb at any time of the year, many unusual pie combinations have resulted.

These include rhubarb custard, rhubarb meringue, rhubarb cream, rhubarb chiffon, and those which contain other fruits, fruit juices, or berries. Peach-Rhubarb Pie 1 15-ounce package refrigerated prepared pie crust 1 teaspoon flour 3/4 to 1 cup sugar* 2 12-ounce packages frozen peaches, thawed and drained, reserving liquid 3 cups fresh rhubarb 1/3 cup flour

Prepare pie crust according to package directions for 2-crust pie. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In medium saucepan, combine sugar and 1 teaspoon flour. Gradually add 1 cup reserved fruit liquid. Cook until mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly.

Shake rhubarb and peaches in 1/3 cup flour. Place flour-coated fruits in pie-crust-lined pan. Pour thickened juice over fruit. Top with second crust and flute. Slit crust in several places.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until golden brown. (Place pan on foil or cookie sheet during baking to avoid spillage.) Cover edge of pie crust with strip of aluminum foil during last 10 to 15 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning, if necessary. Serves 8.

*Use 1 cup of sugar if rhubarb is very tart. Orange-Rhubarb Pie 4 cups rhubarb, cut in 1/2-inch pieces 1 cup sugar 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca 2 tablespoons finely shredded orange peel 1/3 cup strained orange juice Pastry for 9-inch lattice-top pie 2 teaspoons sugar In bowl, stir together rhubarb, 1 cup sugar, tapioca, orange peel, and orange juice. Let stand 15 minutes.

Roll out half of pastry and line 9-inch pie plate. Fill with rhubarb mixture.

Roll out remaining pastry and cut lattice strips.

Top fruit filling with lattice crust. Trim and crimp edges. Sprinkle top of pie with remaining sugar.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Cover edges with foil if crust browns too quickly. Serves 8. Rhubarb-Apple Pie 2 cups sugar 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon salt 4 cups thinly sliced, pared tart cooking apples 5 cups fresh rhubarb, cut in small pieces 1 tablespoon lemon juice 2 tablespoons butter, melted 10 phyllo-pastry leaves 1/2 cup butter, melted 1 egg yolk Confectioners' sugar

In large bowl combine granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, apples , rhubarb, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Toss lightly.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush each of 6 pastry leaves with 1 tablespoon butter. Layer one on top of the other in a 10-inch pie plate. With scissors, trim edge, leaving a 2-inch overhang.

Butter and layer 4 remaining pastry leaves. With a serrated knife or pastry wheel, cut into 1 1/4-inch strips.

Turn filling into pastry shell. With pastry strips, form lattice over pie filling. With scissors, trim pastry to edge of pie plate.

Brush edge of pie with slightly beaten egg yolk. Fold overhang of pastry up over rim and strips of pastry, and press to form an edge all around.

Bake 1 hour, or until pastry is golden-brown and filling is bubbly.

If necessary, place a cookie sheet or foil underneath pie to catch drippings.

Serve slightly warm, sprinkled with confectioners' sugar. Serves 8.

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