Nearby an old rock wall, sturdy but aged and covered with greenery, lies a handful of rhubarb plants. I like to imagine these were purposefully planted so many years ago on our farm when the original house stood on the very hill which those old stones continue to hold up. A house garden, perhaps, providing the old house with a wonderful supply of this springtime favorite. I discovered them intermixed with an overgrowth of nettles and ferns last year when we first moved to the farm. And while preparing the area this spring, I discovered the rhubarb plants were many and even found a couple of berry bushes nestled in front of the stones as well.
Rhubarb is an important part of the Norwegian cuisine. Rhubarb arrived in Norway in the 1700s; cultivated mostly for medical purposes. Yet, during the 1800s, rhubarb began to make its mark in kitchens, as sugar became more available. A favorite pastime, one of childhood memories, in Norway is to take a fresh stalk, dip it into a bowl of sugar and eat it raw.
While predominately used in desserts and drinks, rhubarb lends itself to many savory recipes as well and I’ll be touching on some in the upcoming weeks. It’s a versatile and tart plant that has many friends which complement its flavor profile; one of them being juniper.
Juniper berries have a lovely floral note which work really well with rhubarb. I’ve seen the two paired in jams and cocktails and wanted to give the ‘ol traditional rhubarb pie a little boost. Taking my great grandmother’s pie recipe and the first harvest of rhubarb from the garden, then mixing it with a little juniper berry, resulted in an incredibly flavorful and subtly spicy pie. One I will be making time and time again. As the season carries on and the stalks become more of a vibrant red, the pie will also reflect this and produce a deeper color.
Rhubarb & Juniper Pie (Rabarbrapai med Einebær)
- 2 ½ cups (400 g) flour
- 1 cup (226 g) cold, unsalted butter (or a mixture of butter and lard)
- ½ tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1 Tb sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 Tb vinegar
- 1 ¼ cup (32 g) sugar
- 1 ½ tsp juniper berries
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 4 Tb flour
- 1 Tb lemon juice
- 5 cups (500 g) of fresh rhubarb, washed and cut into ½ inch pieces
Egg Wash (1 egg and 1 tsp water)
Demerara sugar for finishing
To make the crust, combine the flour, salt, baking soda and sugar in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and cut it to the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or the tips of your fingers, working quickly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
In a measuring cup, mix the egg and vinegar, then add enough water to equal ¾ cup (1.8 dl). Add this mixture, a little bit at a time, to the flour and stir together with a round-bladed knife, or your hands, until a dough forms (with some dry pieces remaining). Divide the dough, roll into balls and flatten. Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
When ready, roll out one dough on a lightly-floured surface, making it large enough to hang a bit over the pie dish. Press the dough down into the dish and put it back in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
For the filling, place the sugar, juniper berries, salt, cinnamon and flour into a food processor and blend well. Strain the mixture to catch any large pieces of juniper berry. In a bowl, toss the rhubarb pieces and lemon juice together. Add the juniper berry mixture and fold into the rhubarb. Take out the prepared pie crust and add the rhubarb mixture.
Roll out the second dough and create a lattice, pastry round or other design as desired. Place this on top of the pie and press the edges firmly to seal. Glaze the top with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven and preheat the oven to 220°C/425° F. Bake the pie for 20 minutes then lower the temperature to 190°C/375°F and bake 30-35 minutes longer, until golden brown.
Allow to cool and serve.
Tip: My great grandmother always used a ratio of 2-1 of lard and butter in her pie crust. If you can and so desire, I highly recommend doing this.
You can also try my Juniper Berry Cream served with Krumkaker