In late spring and early summer, pie plate real estate is a highly sought-after commodity. When a relentless winter finally gets its walking papers, we look away from lopsided mesh bags of citrus and focus on the first stalks of rhubarb, aka pie plant. Berries follow pie plant in hot pursuit, and our initial reaction leads us to the dream pairing of strawberries and rhubarb. How did blueberries elbow their way into the rhubarb party?
College freshman dorm assignments are most often random, with roommates becoming fast friends or seen running to the Dean of Housing demanding a single. Based on their appearance, it’s hard to imagine blueberries and rhubarb borrowing clothing, sharing a mini fridge or opting for matching twin bed comforters. Blueberries and rhubarb tend to travel in different circles, the former more comfortable with fruit, the latter seeking out vegetables. Yet, the berry and the pie plant, the fruit and the vegetable are more than happy to share a pie plate.
My earliest introduction to the term ‘Bluebarb” was on page 279 of the Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook, a comprehensive tome originally published in 1959. Bluebarb was not listed amidst the pie recipes but instead was sequestered in the depths of Chapter 10, entitled, ‘Relish Sampler.’ The opening paragraph states, “Relishes do for meat and poultry, what strawberries do for shortcake, fudge frostings for cake.” Bluebarb followed obediently behind Spiced Apple Glacé, Blushing Peaches, and Refrigerator Spiced Prunes. The recipe for spiced prunes should have propelled this baker far and away from Chapter 10, but persevering proved fruitful. Quick-cook Jellies and Jams boast a number of offerings including a concise recipe for Bluebarb Jam. Composed of 3 cups finely cut rhubarb and 3 cups unsweetened, frozen blueberries, the recipe adds a mere 7 cups of sugar and 1 bottle of liquid fruit pectin to the mix. My teeth hurt just thinking about it. Today, Bluebarb has evolved into a popular pie filling with a happily balanced co-mingling of sweet and tart. Thankfully, the sugar component has been toned down considerably.
There are many variations on the Bluebarb theme, some recipes relying on sugar, others turning to honey. The top crust can be lattice-y or crumbly, and I’ve eaten this pie for both breakfast and dessert. I can’t say the same for Refrigerator Spiced Prunes, which are probably better off living in Senior Housing, where dinner is served promptly at 4:30, followed by a rousing game of Bingo.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm