|This plant looks much like Mom's plant did|
Everywhere I turn these days someone is talking about rhubarb. Funny things is that growing up I thought we were the only family who actually ate rhubarb...a lot!
I told you about Mom's garden, and all the lovely plants that would bloom in the spring. But there was another special plant that bloomed in the back, right-hand side of the garden, about 3 shrubs past the bleeding hearts - rhubarb! Mom would go out daily to survey and assess the condition of her rhubarb plant's leaves, making sure that the ants weren't getting to it. Just as soon as it was ready, she would cut the rhubarb stalks, then take them inside to wash, cut and freeze them for future use.
|A closer view, to see the rhubarb stalks beneath its leaves|
The rhubarb went into a variety of dishes, but the 2 that stick out in my memory are strawberry rhubarb compote and strawberry rhubarb pie. Both were really delicious, and a huge treat that Mom made, from scratch, for us. The combination of sweet and tart, in a flaky pastry was enough to get us all asking for seconds.
Funny, I really believed that this dish was unique to the Reiters, and never considered that it had to originate somewhere...where else, but the matriarchs?
There are actually 2 books that I am using now...the "famous" Golden Recipes, and a second book, that I bought Mom (I was always trying to organize her!) which holds a slew of recipe cards. Many of the cards in this book originated in Bubbie Lou's kitchen, and were transplanted when Mom inherited her mom's cookbooks in the early 1990's.
I found a recipe for Adele's Rhubarb & Strawberries in Golden Recipes. I then found another recipe for Bubbie Gertie's Rhubarb & Strawberries in the second book - let's call it Mom's Recipes from now on. They were similar, but Adele's recipe had measurements (thank goodness!).
I imagine that this Rhubarb & Strawberry Compote was served at my matriarchs' and relatives' Yom Tov dinners many times over the past 100+ years. It is amazing to think that it all started with Bubbie Clara, who passed it down to Bubbie Gertie and her sisters, who passed it down to Bubbie Lou and her sisters, who passed it down to Mom, who passed it down to me, and now I am sharing it with my daughters. When you put it in those terms, it becomes much more than a recipe...it becomes a legacy.
I think back, a lot, these days, and consider what it must have been like in a turn of the century kitchen, without all our modern appliances and conveniences, as my Bubbie Gertie made these dishes to serve to her family. I can see the compote bubbling on the stove, and envision Bubbie Lou, Aunt Adele and Aunt Etta helping her to serve the family in a room filled with laughter and loud voices (remember, they were a family of 8).
I fast forward and envision my perfectly coiffed Bubbie Lou, in her pressed dress, pearl necklace and apron tied around her waist, serving this compote to her smaller family, who would have been much more proper in a Leave to Beaver kind of way, with Mom helping her serve Zaida Bernie and the boys.
I can actually remember helping my mother to serve this to our family and guests at our own dinner table. The recipe has endured at least 5 generations, likely more.
I made my first batch of strawberry rhubarb compote for Passover this year, and it was delicious! I served it on top of Ruth Heige's sponge cake (recipe to follow in a future post) and everyone loved it.
Now, with all the talk about rhubarb being in season, and everyone making "Mom's" pie, I think it is high time that I take the plunge and try my hand at making pastry. What better time to do it that on the first long weekend of the season, especially given the beautiful weather they're forecasting! So keep an eye out for the step-by-step pictorial of Mom's Strawberry Rhubarb pie, which actually traces back to Bubbie Gertie, later this weekend.
In the meantime, here is the recipe for the strawberry rhubarb compote.
The Matriarchs' Rhubarb & Strawberry Compote
- 4C rhubarb (washed, unpeeled, cut into pieces OR you can use frozen)
- 1½C granulated sugar
- 4C strawberries (washed, hulled and halved OR you can use frozen)
Wash rhubarb and cut in pieces. Do not peel. In medium saucepan, combine 4 cups of rhubarb with 1½ cups of granulated sugar. Cook over low heat (Bubbie Gertie says on a very slow burner) for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the rhubarb is still whole and just starting to break apart, add strawberries and cook gently for a few more minutes. Cool and store in fridge. This recipe can be frozen for later use.