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Home on the Range: Ellen Ecker Ogden's Rhubarb Pie With Ginger and Lemon


Published April 20, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated April 21, 2021 at 9:01 a.m.

Rhubarb pie with ginger and lemon from The New Heirloom Garden by Ellen Ecker Ogden - MATTHEW BENSON
  • Matthew Benson
  • Rhubarb pie with ginger and lemon from The New Heirloom Garden by Ellen Ecker Ogden
I am both inspired and a wee bit intimidated by Manchester garden designer and author Ellen Ecker Ogden's latest book, The New Heirloom Garden: Designs, Recipes and Heirloom Plants for Cooks Who Love to Garden.

Ogden's designs are gorgeous but require more advance planning than this fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants gardener can muster. For me, that part of her book is aspirational and dreamy.

On the other hand, I can totally see myself cooking all of her recipes through the season. Their organization by plant family is an informative, fresh approach and every recipe makes me itch to get into the kitchen.

I eagerly anticipate hosting a multi-course dinner party (inside!) starting with elegant, warm spinach and cheese custards. Summer can't come soon enough for me to make Ogden's fennel, watermelon, heirloom tomato and feta salad. I love her idea of sautéeing grated kohlrabi in butter with herbs and anointing it with a touch of cream. And I've got to grow ground cherries again to try her husk ground-cherry clafouti — if I can restrain myself from popping all the little tart-sweet fruits straight into my mouth.

Reading Ogden's book, chatting with the author on the phone and learning more about the Charlotte Library's seed library project did inspire me to try to save some of my own seed this year.
During our conversation, I realized that saving seed can help someone like me — always running and thinking about the next thing — to slow down and appreciate the moment.

Rhubarb emerging in April - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Rhubarb emerging in April
As Ogden said: "Especially for people who haven't really paid attention to seed, you know, often we just rip the seed packet and just throw it in the ground. But when you really look at those seeds, it's extraordinary — the shapes and the size and the variations in how they grow is wonderful."

My little backyard garden doesn't look like much yet, but the garlic I managed to get in the ground last fall is sending tall, green shoots up from its straw bed, and the rhubarb is unfurling  dark green leaves and pushing pink stalks upward.

Eager to make Ogden's rhubarb pie, I gave my three plants an early trim, pulled some Vermont cranberries from the freezer and, pressed for time, skipped the pie crust to make more of a crisp-style version of the recipe.

With every delicious bite, I reflected on the seeds and plants that lay deceptively quiet and dormant before they emerge again with vigor.  As heirloom seed historian William Woys Weaver said in an interview with Ogden included in her book: "Seeds are food waiting to happen, because you can't eat without seeds."
Crustless version of rhubarb pie with ginger and lemon - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Crustless version of rhubarb pie with ginger and lemon

Rhubarb Pie With Ginger and Lemon

Yields a 10-inch single-crust pie; serves 8

Ellen Ecker Ogden writes, "A good slice of pie to start the day in the garden begins here. A light crumb topping and subtle bite of ginger will bring you back into the kitchen for a second slice."

Ingredients for a single pie crust
  • 1 1⁄4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1⁄4-inch chunks
Ingredients for the filling
  • 8 medium rhubarb stalks, leaves removed and discarded
  • 1 cup whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1⁄4 cup dark rum
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1⁄2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (see testing note below)
  • 1⁄3 cup sugar (see testing note below)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Ingredients for the topping
  • 1⁄4 cup (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1⁄2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup pure maple syrup
  • Vanilla ice cream or fresh ginger-infused whipped cream, for serving
  1. Make the piecrust: In a cup or a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup water with several ice cubes and let sit for 5 minutes to completely chill until icy cold. Meanwhile, combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and whir to combine. While pulsing the processor, add the butter to the flour piece by piece until all has been added and is well blended.
  2. With the machine running, slowly pour in 3 tablespoons of the ice water and whir until the dough begins to form a ball. Stop the food processor and remove the dough with your hands, shaping it into a disk. Press it together to gather all the bits and slightly flatten it before wrapping it in wax paper. Refrigerate for an hour or so to chill into a cohesive disk.
  3. When ready to roll out the dough, remove it from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and allow it to sit on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes. With a rolling pin and starting from the center, roll the dough out in every direction to make an even 12-inch circle; it should measure an inch or two larger than the pie dish. Fold the dough in half and gently transfer it to a pie dish. Fold and crimp the edges.
  4. Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.
  5. Chop the rhubarb into 1-inch chunks; you should have about 6 cups. Place it in a large bowl along with the cranberries, dark rum, ginger, lemon zest and juice, and toss to blend. Add the flour, sugar and cinnamon and gently stir to completely blend.
  6. Prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and maple syrup. With a fork, blend the ingredients together thoroughly; it will be a crumbly mixture.
  7. To make the pie, pour the rhubarb filling into the crust and sprinkle evenly with the crumbly topping. Set the pie dish on a baking sheet and bake about 45 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the rhubarb is bubbling. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature before serving with ice cream.
Source: The New Heirloom Garden. Copyright © 2021 by Ellen Ecker Ogden.
Published by Rodale Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Testing note: I made this without the crust in a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan and it worked great. To my taste, it needs a bit more sugar (about ½ cup) to balance all the rhubarb, cranberry and lemon acidity, and a little less flour (about ¼ cup) to let the fruit shine through.

Got cooking questions? Email pasanen@sevendaysvt.com.