Rachel's Table

Mill Street Memories

When I was in third grade my parents bought a house on Mill Street in the sleepy town of North Easton, Massachusetts. The previous owners were either master gardeners or had too much time on their hands. Every square inch of the tree-lined property grew with some sort of fruit-bearing or flowering plant. The long brick walkway burst with daffodils and tulips in the spring and the five-tiered garden flourished in a sunny spot right next to the raspberry bushes. Along one of these tiers, strawberries grew. Early summer promised sweet berries, picked and enjoyed as a snack while taking a break from a Wiffle Ball game.

These strawberries are from my CSA and Bayberry Farm (which I bought at the Newark Farmers Market).

These berries were perfectly ripe and slightly tart

Thinking back on it now, some of my favorite childhood memories sprouted while adventuring among the trees and plants of that property. The yard was sizable enough to get lost in and provided secret hiding spots. I could go to my favorite place – a weeping willow-sheltered, flat rock – and read a book in blissful peace away from my little brother and his friends. (I quite literally named the rock “Rachel’s Reading Nook” and made a map to mark the spot. I was REALLY into Anne of Green Gables at the time.)

Not too far from my Nook, a jungle flourished. An endless row of giant-leafed plants grew on red-tinged stalks. The leaves were about as big as my torso and looked like they belonged in the humid climate of the Amazon, not here in my New England yard.

I would sit among these plants, armed with a notebook and pen, writing the exploits of a new civilization of little people struggling to survive in a wild, pink-tree-trunk land (I was also into The Borrowers).  That’s why I was completely caught off guard when my mother came down the back porch stairs with a kitchen knife and cut the pink stalks right from the ground. I was even more surprised to see these alien stalks show up in an after-dinner pie that smelled of strawberries. In my culinary experience, there was no way this celery-like vegetable could combine with my favorite fruit. Never one to turn down pie, I took an apprehensive bite. Upon realizing tart-yet-sweet strawberries balance seamlessly with what my mother called “rhubarb,” I was careful not to disturb any stalks while writing my stories and made sure to save some strawberries for pie.

Strawberries and rhubarb - both from my CSA

Strawberries and rhubarb – both from my Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Topping:

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons Sugar in the Raw

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Strawberry Filling:

2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 quart plus 1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced in half (or quarters depending on the size of the strawberries)

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour (you can substitute corn starch here if you’d like a thicker filling)

Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make topping: In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugars. Add the melted butter and mix until clumps form. Set aside.

Make filling: Toss rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, flour and a pinch of salt in a 9-inch pie plate (or small-ish casserole dish like I used).

Cover fruit evenly with the topping. Place the pie plate on a foil-lined baking sheet (you’ll thank me for this step later when the foil, and not your oven, is covered in strawberry goo). Bake until topping is golden and fruit is bubbling underneath, about 45 minutes. Allow crumble to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Strawberry and Rhubarb - still a perfect combination

Strawberry and Rhubarb – still a perfect combination

So tell me, what’s your favorite kind of pie, cobbler or crumble? And more importantly, have you ever competed in a backyard Wiffle Ball Tournament?

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36 comments

  1. Your childhood yard sounds amaaaaaaazing. I was obsessed with quite a few books, and the movie My Girl, which prominently featured a weeping willow – I would’ve lost my shiz having a hiding spot like that!

    I think blueberry pie with crumb topping has got to be my favorite. And there were definitely some legit baseball/wiffle ball games at the Schnedeker household. I was a total tomboy.

    • There are GIANT weeping willows in Newport, Rhode Island. Big enough to have a party under. If you stalk my facebook, you’ll find a photo. I nearly lost my shiz when I saw these trees. A.MAZE.ING.

      Joe loves blueberry, too! I can’t decide – cherry, peach – I love them all.

      Our next outing: wiffle ball and beer.

  2. I LOVE strawberries. Rhubarb? Not so much.

    I love a good apple pie, especially warm with some vanilla bean ice cream, but my favorite is probably peach cobbler. Peach and strawberry together might make me pass out from joy. I’m just saying . . . aren’t we planning another brunch soon? 😉

    I am currently planning my son’s birthday party. He wants a “sports” party. What sport does he want to play? Wiffleball (it’s indoors). So . . . yeah.

  3. We love the strawberry/rhubarb combination and that cobbler sounds wonderful! My favorite of all time, though, is peach cobbler. Warm peach cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream…YUUUUUMMMM.

  4. Oh this takes me right back to my childhood. We grew up in my Gram’s old house and she had huge rhubarb plants outside she’d use for pie. She was known for eating pretty much anything and everything that could grow in our yard (including fiddleheads, yum!)

    I would have to say blueberry or apple cobbler, both big time popular up here. Your recipe sounds/looks divine. I wish you lived closer so you could make it for me.

    Oh and Anne of Green Gables? LOVED it.

    • I could watch the movies right now, D! They are so, so good!

      I’ve never had fiddleheads, but I know they grow around here, too. What do they taste like?

      I would LOVE to make it for you – I wonder if crumble ships well…

  5. I like me some apple pie and cherry only if my grandma makes it. I’ve tried to duplicate her recipe to master it before she goes to heaven, but even with her standing right next to me, it’s never the same. I don’t know if her dead skin cells fall into the crust and that’s what makes it so good or what!?

    • Ha ha ha! Sometimes it’s just so hard to replicate a recipe. It’s all in the “feel” of it – or the dead skin.

      I still haven’t mastered a pie crust, but I hear Jules makes a really good one. Maybe she could teach you…

      • I’m fairly certain that would end with her weeping in the paws of her effeminate dog while I’m passed out with my head on the kitchen table and a half made pie crust protruding from my ass. But it’d be fun for a little while.

    • Third Hub says he makes the best pie crust in the land, but I’m happy to disprove that claim by gathering as many witnesses as possible to sample my goods (giggity).

      I’m sorry, Rache, for bringing your blog down to my level with this comment.

  6. That’s a nice story, Rach. I made a stellar cherry cobbler the other night, served with sweet cream ice cream. I’m not typically one for cobbler, but the topping was rich, light and almost scone-like.

  7. THIS is my absolute favorite pie. Our strawberries do fine but the rhubarb never gets beyond anemic little stalks that won’t grow.

    Love your memories. I sooo identified with Anne of Green Gables when I was about her age – I yearned for red hair.

    • The Anne of Green Gables movies are so great, too!

      You can find rhubarb just about anywhere right now – and I don’t think they’ll be anemic. Make yourself a pie, Peg!

    • I haven’t had rhubarb since I was a kid, but when I received it in my farm share box I knew I needed to try it again. I liked it when I was a kid, and love it now.. It soaks up the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with and adds a certain appealing texture. Let me know if you try it!

    • Rhubarb when combined with strawberries and sugar tastes like strawberries and sugar. It’s like a sponge.

      I think I’ve seen the Anne of Green Gables movies at least 23 times – probably more times than Jules has seen Clueless.

  8. It sounds like you had a lovely time growing up in that home. It would be a hard choice for me between peach and cherry pie during the summer. I guess it is because that is what I grew up eating when I lived in Texas. Your crumble looks delicious, I just finished a strawberry rhubarb pie last night.

    • Thanks, Karen!

      Until I started writing this post, I had forgotten all the good memories from this house. I remember being outside all day, everyday and loving it.

    • I just realized that I could never pick a favorite pie, because I love apple just as much as strawberry rhubarb just as much as peach just as much as blueberry…

  9. Rhubarb is right up there as a favorite. I love the tangy sweetness. I also love Italian cakes that use heavy cornmeal with peaches and strawberries.

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