Weekday Vegetarian: Make An Old-Fashioned Rhubarb Cobbler Just Like Your Grandma Did


Photo: Kelly Rossiter

In his book In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan suggests that we eat more like our grandparents. This weekend I felt like I was channeling my great-great grandmother in her 19th century farm kitchen.
.I know that rhubarb is grown all over the place, but to me it has always seemed like the quintessential Ontario plant. It's one of the earliest plants to be harvested here in our harsh climate and I can imagine my forebears pouncing on it in relief at the end of a long winter and baking something akin to this cobbler. It's tartness seems like the perfect thing for my Presbyterian background - you can have dessert, but it better not be too sweet because it's not right to enjoy it too much.

When I was a kid, my mother always had a bowl of plain stewed rhubarb in the refrigerator during spring and I can remember the astringent quality of it on the teeth and they way it would make your mouth pucker. Whenever I eat rhubarb now, or indeed just see the stalks on sale, I always think of my childhood.

As we started getting more and more exotic fruits over the years, rhubarb seemed to be relegated to the realm of the boring and old fashioned. Now people seem to be appreciating rhubarb and it's wonderful distinct taste all over again.

I had some strawberries on hand so I added them to this cobbler, because the combination of strawberries and rhubarb is classic. I didn't do the first 12 minute baking of the rhubarb because, ahem, I didn't pay enough attention to the recipe, but it was all cooked through with just the 30 minute baking of the crust. I did not find that the juice thickened when it cooled, but it didn't bother me. Not only was this totally delicious, it made the house smell fantastic while it was baking.

This recipe is from the website Circle B Kitchen.

Rhubarb Cobbler

8 stalks of fresh rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle.

2. Place the chopped rhubarb in the bottom of a 2-qt. baking dish. In a small saucepan, heat together the sugar and the water to create a syrup and pour that over the rhubarb. Place this in the oven for about 12 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Add milk and stir until dough just comes together.

4. Remove baking dish from oven and drop the dough into little mounds onto the hot rhubarb. Bake the cobbler until the topping is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes to an hour. The juices will thicken as it cools.

More About Rhubarb
Preserving the Harvest: Rhubarb Mustard
How to Grow Rhubarb, A Cultural Tradition
A Skillet Rhubarb Raspberry Crumble

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