My Grandma Mildred was a down-to-earth person, literally. She was happiest when she was digging in the dirt, tending to her garden.
She passed her love of growing things down to her children and grandchildren. She also left behind actual living things, including a small rhubarb patch and an orchard of fruit trees.
The rhubarb patch and one of the old cherry trees sit near the edge of what was once the barnyard and is now home to my parents’ ever expanding garden.
Every year, I vow to make a trip to harvest some of the rhubarb for pie. Most years, I forget or another relative gets to the patch first. This year, the patch suffered some trauma. The folks who rent the old house inadvertently mowed over the patch a few times. Later, a storm sent a honey locust limb crashing into it.
Even so, I managed to pluck just enough rhubarb to make not pie, but one precious loaf of rhubarb pecan orange bread. After my husband and I ate some, I delivered slices to my brothers and parents.
As for the old cherry tree, it had a good year this year and filled many bellies. By the time I got to it, the low-hanging fruit was picked over. I was determined, though, to make a cherry pie for Father’s Day. My brother Ben backed his pickup truck under the tree and, from a ladder in the truck bed, I got what I was after.
It took an hour to sort the good cherries from the overripe ones and remove the pits. By the time all was said and done, I spent four hours making that pie a reality, and it was worth every minute.
As I made, ate and shared the fruits of my labor, I thought about Grandma doing the same long before me and gained a new appreciation for her “living legacies.”
Rhubarb Pecan Orange Bread
A friend of mine shared this recipe with me. The bread is moist, crunchy, tart and sweet, all at the same time.
1/3 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange zest from 1 large orange
2/3 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing pan
1 large egg, beaten lightly
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped coarse
Preheat oven to 375, butter a loaf pan. Mix together OJ, zest, butter, buttermilk and egg. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. Stir in wet ingredients until just combined. Don’t overwork the dough or it will get tough. Fold in nuts and rhubarb. Scrape into loaf pan, smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350. Continue baking until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, roughly 45 minutes more. Cool completely before cutting.
Father’s Day Cherry Pie
I used this recipe for the first time this summer. I had only 5 cups of cherries (instead of the 6 cups the recipe calls for), but it turned out just fine. Usually, I pride myself on making my own crust, but sometimes time constraints trump pride. I used pre-made pie dough from a tube and went for a fancy presentation with the lattice top.
Pastry for 9-inch two-crust pie
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
6 cups fresh or frozen pitted tart or “pie” cherries
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare pie pastry.
In a large bowl, combine sugar and tapioca. Add cherries; stir until well blended. Pour into pastry-lined plate; sprinkle with almond extract and dot with butter or margarine. Cover with remaining pastry and flute. Cut slits in pastry so steam can escape.
Cover edges of crust with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning.
Place pie on a baking sheet. Bake approximately 45 to 50 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and juice begins to bubble through slits on crust. Remove aluminum foil during last 15 minutes of baking.
Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack before cutting and serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with or without a scoop of ice cream.