Hip, Hip Rhubarb!

My Aunt Jeanne made a pie; a rhubarb pie. You’re probably wondering what’s the big deal? Well, as long as I’ve known Aunt Jeanne, she has been on a quest for the perfect pie crust. Her mother-in-law made a magnificent crust that has never been matched – perhaps, until now. Over the years, we’ve tasted and sampled pies that Aunt Jeanne baked, but she always said, “If only I could get that crust just like Harriett’s …” We all thought her pies were great, but Jeanne was not to be dissuaded. My fondest memory of Aunt Jeanne and pies was the precision in which she cut them. One Christmas I watched in amazement as she cut a pecan pie into 17 equal pieces to serve everyone. What began as a joke became family legend.

Back to the rhubarb pie. We were celebrating my uncle’s birthday when Aunt Jeanne announced that we should save room for desert because she had made birthday pie. By the gleam in her eyes, I knew there was something special about this pie. I’m not a rhubarb fan; but I decided to see what the hullabaloo was all about. We all waited anxiously in the backyard while we knew she was inside cutting her pie into 9 perfect slices. But, first, she brought it out to present to us, and with pride, she announced she had reached her pie-making summit, and had her perfect crust! Served with vanilla ice cream, there was silence in the garden as the pie was sampled, and Jeanne waited for the results. Suddenly, there was a burst of jubilee as my uncle led the cheer, “Hip, Hip Hooray, Hip, Hip, Hooray, Hip, Hip, Rhubarb!”

I did not eat a piece of pie that night, and now I’m sorry. Afterwards, I left to ponder what I don’t like about rhubarb. Really, there’s no reason. I used to love it. What had rhubarb ever done to me? Driving down the road, I crossed a railroad track, and a big clump of it sat there staring at me as if I were a criminal. I began to think about rhubarb, and what its purpose was here on earth, besides one great pie I missed out on.

A perennial vegetable from the buckwheat family, I learned rhubarb is native to China and Tibet, and is a high source of Vitamin C. There are dozens of varieties, and it is eaten raw by people in Iraq and Turkey. Wild, European Rhubarb is used for wrapping cheese and pigs love its rhizomes. Himalayan Rhubarb can grow to 7’ tall and has beautiful blossoms.
Rhubarb can be made into a laxative tea, homemade paper, wine, hair coloring, and countless baked goods. It can remove burns on pots and pans. I found the following recipe, and since rhubarb can be frozen, it would make a wonderful dish any time of the year. Use the salsa to accompany a variety of meats or as a side dish.

Roasted Lamb & Aromatic Rhubarb Salsa
1 Leg of lamb (4-6 lbs) Boned and rolled 
4 Tbsp Honey
1 tsp Garlic Salt
1/4 tsp Ground pepper
2 tsp Red wine vinegar
Aromatic Rhubarb Salsa
1 C Chopped onions
2/3 C Golden raisins
1/4 C Yellow Peppers
1/4 C Sweet Red Peppers
1/2 C Honey
1/4  Light Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
4 tsp Chopped Jalapeno Pepper (remove the seeds, please)
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Chopped Green Onion
1/2 tsp Ground Cardamom
7 C Fresh or frozen sliced Rhubarb

LAMB: Combine the 4 tablespoons honey, garlic salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Place meat on a rack in a large roasting pan; and brush with glaze mixture. Roast in 325 F. degree oven for two to four hours or until it is done to your liking, and brush often with  the glaze.

Salsa: In a large saucepan, combine the onions, raisins, brown sugar, honey, vinegar, yellow, red and jalapeno peppers, garlic, green onion and cardamom. Gently stir in rhubarb and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Do NOT stir too much. Uncover and simmer for 5 min. to reduce the liquid. Stir only if necessary so it won’t scorch. Set aside. Serve at room temperature with roast lamb.
*Note, you can add 2 tablespoons of Cilantro at the end if you like.

Next time, I won’t decline a slice of that pie.

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