Real Good Rhubarb Pie


My dear friend MMHoney reminded me that I had her mother’s rhubarb pie recipe, in her mother’s own handwriting no less. I had posted a photo of that handwritten recipe after our visit, but by the time I had any rhubarb, I’d forgotten about it. I ran straightaway and found it! It’s simply and enticingly called Real Good Rhubarb Pie. I have rhubarb. How can I not make a pie of such quaint hubris?

Plus, I love ye olde receipts. They are always an adventure.

Here’s what the recipe says:

3 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut in thin slices
2 egg yolks, beaten till frothy and pale
2 cups sugar, add to egg yolks
Sift together
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
8 tablespoons flour level measure

Mix thoroughly: pour in pastry lined pans. Dot top with 2 tablespoons butter. Place in oven on 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce to 350 and bake till rhubarb is soft. Then cover with egg whites are golden brown. Delicious.

I think that’s cover with egg whites and bake until they are golden brown, and I think she means make a meringue, but those details are left out. That’s what’s fun about old recipes. They never explain anything!! And she says pans. Does this make two pies? It sounds like one pie. How many egg whites for the meringue? Just two, really? (One might assume two from the two egg yolks earlier in the recipe.) Three egg whites would really make for better coverage on a pie. Of course, we might simply be EXPECTED TO KNOW THAT. Along with how long it takes for the rhubarb to get soft at 350……..

Here is my slightly reorganized recipe with a few additional details, based on my experience baking the pie. You really can’t beat two egg yolks, by the way. At least I can’t. And I’m not too into sifting.

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How to make Real Good Rhubarb Pie:

3 eggs, separated
2 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut in thin slices
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
pastry for a single crust pie

Separate the eggs from the get-go. Meringues beats up much faster if you have the whites at room temperature. Set aside three egg whites for the meringue. I bet it wouldn’t hurt to throw an extra egg yolk into this pie, but I just used two egg yolks, per the original instructions. Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl; stir well. You can beat the egg yolks first if you want to, but I don’t think it makes a difference and there’s enough beating activity later with the meringue. Don’t wear yourself out just yet!

Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir to combine.

The mixture looked kinda dry at this point.

But in the short amount of time it took me to roll out the pastry and line the pie pan, it became much moister.

Maybe the rhubarb got liquored up while I wasn’t looking. You never know what these old receipts will do.

Transfer to a pastry-lined pie pan. By the way, you can find my pie pastry recipe here.

Dot the top with a tablespoon or two of butter and stick it in a preheated 450-degree oven for 10 minutes. I always bake my pies on the bottom rack of the oven. (Prevents soggy crust syndrome and over-browning of the crust edges. A twofer!) After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. I guessed the time to soften the rhubarb filling at 20 minutes, so after 20 minutes at 350, I took it out and inspected it. With my fork.

And took a bite. It was soft and sweet and delicious.

Time for meringue!

Since MMHoney’s mama didn’t pass on any precise instructions for her meringue, I made meringue the way I usually do.

Meringue for Pie
3 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar

Combine egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl. Beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar a little at a time, continuing to beat until you have stiff peaks.

The best way to spread meringue is to plop it all down in the middle and spread out toward the edges.

Try to avoid any air pockets in the meringue. (Beaten egg whites are full of air, of course, but you don’t want pockets on top of the pie that aren’t sealed down by meringue.) You can reduce shrinkage on meringues by over-sealing, spreading it well over onto your crust edges.

Perfecting meringue can be a lifelong journey. I find meringues work best well-sealed straight on hot fillings, and in a dry kitchen. Moisture in the air is a meringue killer. Expect trouble on a rainy day. Try to not be boiling anything on the stove or even running your dishwasher at the same time you’re making meringue.

Meringue is a lot more fun if you have a stand mixer, by the way.

Because it takes forever.

I don’t know how the women of MMHoney’s mama’s day did it. I made meringue by hand one time (I don’t mean with a hand mixer, I mean BY HAND) and it about killed me. If I’d been one of those women back then and I’d had to make meringue by hand, the whole meringue pie concept would have died and we would have never heard of meringue pie today.

Which would be a shame because meringue pie is so lovely!

After placing the meringue on top, bake another 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees, until the meringue is nice and golden. (I place the pie on the top rack when baking the meringue.)

Cool pie completely before storing in the fridge.

And–tis true, this is real good rhubarb pie! Thank you to MMHoney and her mama, and all the mamas who beat meringue by hand so we could have meringue today with our stand mixers!

See this recipe at Farm Bell Recipes for the handy printable and to save it to your recipe box: Real Good Rhubarb Pie

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  1. Granny Trace says:

    I so want some for breakfast 🙂
    Granny Trace

  2. BuckeyeGirl says:

    My grandmother had arms like a brick mason from all her egg beating, meringue making, dough kneading, pot lifting and everything else doing. I’ll never understand why men keep insisting we’re the weaker sex. …oh yeah, my other grandfather WAS a brick mason so I have a basis for a reasonable comparison even as a child!

  3. Runningtrails says:

    That looks lovely! Thanks for the merangue tips!

  4. Robin says:

    :heart: My mouth is watering.My grandmother,who had a farm in Michigan, used to make it for my Mom when we visited her in the summer. I haven’t had it since,but it sure brings back memories !

  5. Miss Judy says:

    I’ve never seen a rhubarb pie with meringue. My husband likes it two crusted. If I am going to eat rhubarb it needs some strawberries thrown in! 🙂

  6. Window On The Prairie says:

    MMMMmmmmm…..Love rhubarb pie. But have not seed a recipe before with meringue. Looks very tasty. Thanks for sharing ye olde recipe. :hungry:

  7. Window On The Prairie says:

    whoops….that’s SEEN not SEED. I sound like a hick. 🙂

  8. francico says:

    My Grandmothers in WV baked Rhubarb Pies with regularity each Spring.

    They always used pie crust for the topping and used egg whites to glase the dough and baked until the crust was a golden brown.


  9. JoyceAnne says:

    :sun: I too have never seen a recipe for Rhubarb Pie with a meringue on top. Interesting, but without the original author of the recipe to correct you it could be something completely different. Egg whites brushed on the crust to give it gloss when baking?

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