I started with the filling, the easy part of the pie. Most recipes I’ve seen for rhubarb call for LOTS of sugar. Rhubarb is very tart, I mean really really tart. I like tart, but if I just chew on a piece of raw rhubarb my whole face puckers up, kinda like my little brother when he was a toddler and I’d tell him “Open your mouth and close your eyes and you will get a big surprise” then would squirt lemon juice into his mouth. Yes I know, I’ve had to forgive myself numerous times for that one. It’s one of those things you do as a kid that you know in your head now doesn’t really matter, but you still feel terrible about it as an adult and have to learn to just let it go!
My next fun tool I got to use from the gift bag was my Kyocera ceramic mandoline. Oh man, I became a rhubarb slicing machine, my hand flying so fast that I could hardly see it! I LOVE that mandoline, it made slicing the rhubarb a breeze. I’ve wanted one for a while, but just couldn’t afford more kitchen tools, so getting one in the bag was such a blessing. Now, you can definitely pit cherries by hand, and slice rhubarb with a knife, but I really appreciated the speed and convenience and might not ever have used fresh cherries without the pitter. It’s one of those tools you never think you need until you get one and then wonder how you lived without it.
Anyway, now that I’ve raved about my new tools, back to the filling! Did you know that a little salt can help with tartness? That’s another secret for the filling, anytime I make something sweet with rhubarb, I add a little salt and then can use less sugar in the recipe. Then I decided, as long as I’m putting salt in the filling, why not some pepper? One of my favorite chai teas has black pepper in it, I love the spicy kick it gives. So I decided it could work in pie, the pepper flavor doesn’t jump out at you, but I can taste it slightly if I’m thinking about it. Then I just went through my spices, smelling things and decided on nutmeg and ginger.
One of the fun things about skillet pies is working with the crust. It kind of reminds me of fondant (the feel of it not the taste!). It’s sturdy enough that once you roll it out, you simple drape it across your pan, nestle it in there, and fold it over your filling. Alright, alright, I’ll give you the recipe already!
2 cups thinly sliced rhubarb (about 4 stalks)
3-4 cups cherries pit and stems removed
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup milk
1tsp cinnamon sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large bowl mix your filling ingredients well. Let sit while making the crust.
Sift flour and baking powder (optional) add salt and shortening then cut shortening in with a pastry cutter if you have it or a fork if you’re poor like me! Begin adding milk a little at a time, but not all of it, and mixing it in. Stop when you have a dough that’s easy to work with. I had about 3 TBS left.
Use some butter or shortening to grease a 10 inch cast iron skillet. Roll your dough out to a 14-15 inch circle. Place in the skillet and get it nestled into the bottom and sides. Pour filling into the dough. Fold dough over the filling (it shouldn’t completely cover it). Use a spoon or brush (or clean fingers) to spread the remaining milk on the top of the dough, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake 25 minutes, then cover crust with a ring of foil to prevent it from burning. Bake 25 more minutes and remove. It’s easier to cut if you let it cool before serving.
Approximate cost: The whole pie cost me less than $5 to make, we made it into 8 pieces so around 60 cents a slice!
Vegetarian/Gluten free: this can be made vegetarian or gluten free by using vegan shortening and substituting rice flour or brown rice flour.