On the top of my mother’s food list:
floating islands (which she always talked about, but I never saw her eat)
tomatoes grown outside her kitchen window
My mother loved her sugar. I don’t ever remember her buying anything baked in the beginning; she had a rule that if we wanted dessert we could make it. Penuche and donuts were the only thing we would pile in the car for.
“Once every five years” she’d say, when we’d ask when we could stop as we were driving past Hilliard’s.
And then, “Has it been five years?”
And from the beltless back seat,”It’s been twenty years!”
When it came to rhubarb, there wasn’t a choice if we wanted one. Nobody sold anything rhubarb by us; everybody made stewed rhubarb or upside down rhubarb cake or rhubarb pies with their own two hands. We never used cornmeal in a crust but it’s a crunchy, sassy addition.
Stew 3 cups of rhubarb for a bit on top of the stove w/1/2 cup of sugar, a piece of lemon zest with the pith removed, a whole clove and a piece of cinnamon stick until it goes a bit soft, about 5 minutes. Toss w/4 peeled or unpeeled sliced granny apples, a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of flour, a pinch of ground clove and 1/4 cup of sugar.
Pour into a prepared crust (double this for the pie):
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
7 tablespoons cold butter cut into small cubes
big pinch sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of yogurt or sour cream and enough water
Rub the butter into flour, cornmeal, salt and sugar until just before you think it’s ready. Stop. Add sour cream and ice water a few drops at a time, moving the dough with your hand, until it comes together. Freeze for half an hour. Roll out and press into a pie tin. When your filling is in, cover with the second piece of dough, tucking the top edges into the bottom, and the bottom edges up and over the bottom to crimp. Brush with beaten egg and dust with sugar. Cut vents in the center. Bake at 400 degrees, setting the pie tin on a cookie sheet, until the crust is golden and the apples are tender.