Here's a brain teaser for radio, baseball, food and Americana buffs:
In the early days of radio, what word was voiced repeatedly in the studio to simulate the sound of an angry mob of people? Or, what is baseball slang for an argument? Lastly, what is known as the pie plant?
If you guessed "rhubarb," advance to Jeopardy show auditions.
You never know what you'll discover when you start poking around. That's what I love about the food beat.
Rhubarb is an old plant that likely originated 5,000 years ago in central or northern Asia. Seeds made their way to New England by the late 1700s and within a quarter century, rhubarb was being sold in markets.
A vegetable classified as a fruit, rhubarb is a sign of spring, "the earliest ingredient for pies, Lydia Maria Child wrote in "American Frugal Housewife" (1833, 12th edition). Rhubarb also was known and appreciated for "spring cleaning" the digestive system. Remember, there wasn't a pill for every malady in those days.
The use of rhubarb remains strongest in New England, then stretches westward where migrating pioneers carried the seeds. I checked but didn't see it in several Southern cookbooks, yet it fits right in with our love of sweets and "make-do" sensibilities.
The plant has thick, celery-like pinkish or red stalks that can grow up to 2 feet long. The stalks are the only edible part of the plant, as the leaves contain oxalic acid and can be toxic. Rhubarb is tart, needing a good bit of sugar to make it sweet for pies, cakes, jams and the like, and cooking makes it tender and soft.
Thanks to the Charleston reader who asked for rhubarb dessert recipes. It made my day interesting and fun.
We heard from several folks offering recipes. Harriet Little of Summerville was one.
"Having married a man from the Midwest, I was introduced to rhubarb years ago. We tried unsuccessfully to grow it here, even to the extent of putting dry ice on the plants in the winter to induce low temps! Anyhow, I am delighted that some of the local grocers carry it occasionally.
"My favorite prep is to cut it in 1/2- to 1-inch slices, add a little sugar and microwave to soften. It can be served over cake or ice cream, or with whipped topping.
"However, my very favorite is Rhubarb Upside Down Cake. More than 40 years ago, I saved a recipe from a Peoria, Ill., newspaper, and modified it somewhat." (See cook's note at end.)
Rhubarb Upside Down Cake (Original recipe)
3 cups raw cut rhubarb
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
2 well-beaten eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
Arrange cut rhubarb in bottom of buttered 10-inch skillet. Add marshmallows and 1 cup sugar. Set aside while mixing cake batter.
Cream together thoroughly the shortening and 3/4 cup sugar. With electric beaters, mix in beaten eggs. Add vanilla to milk and add alternately with sifted dry ingredients to egg mixture.
Spoon batter gently over rhubarb. Bake in 350-degree oven for 1 hour. Cool 5 minutes. Invert serving plate over skillet and turn upside down. Remove skillet.
Serve slightly warm with whipped cream or pour half-and-half over the servings.
Cook's note: "Over the years, I have generally used 6-7 cups as my family liked rhubarb. Also, to save time, I have used a cake mix, placing about half the batter over the rhubarb and using the balance to make a small cake to use for other purposes. Also, remember to add pure vanilla to cake mix, as it masks the artificial vanilla."
Pat Frey of Charleston writes, "This is my favorite recipe for Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie. I adapted it from Farm Journal's "Complete Pie Cookbook" by reducing the amount of sugar."
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or mace
3 cups cut-up rhubarb (1 pound in 3/4-inch pieces)
2 cups strawberries, halved
Pastry for 2-crust pie
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Mix sugar, flour, salt and spice in a prep bowl.
Combine rhubarb and strawberries in a bowl. Sprinkle on dry ingredients. Mix gently.
Pour into 9-inch, pastry-lined pie pan. Dot with butter. Cover with lattice crust.
Bake at 425 degrees for 50 minutes or until crust is browned and juices bubble.
Cool on a rack.
Judy Campbell of Summerville sent a generous four recipes. Here's one:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup melted margarine
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups fresh rhubarb
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla
Mix all crust ingredients together and spread half of mixture in bottom of greased 9x13-inch dish. Add 4 cups fresh rhubarb on top of crust. Mix together the sugar, water and cornstarch. Cook until thick. Add vanilla. Pour mixture over rhubarb. Sprinkle remaining half of crust mixture on top of rhubarb. Bake at 300 to 325 degrees for 1 hour until done.
"As a transplant from New England, I have a number of rhubarb recipes that have been passed around our family for years," writes Louise Cain of Summerville, who shares one of her favorites.
Makes 18 small muffins
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons oil
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (see cook's note)
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups diced rhubarb
Cook's note: To sour milk, put 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup and fill to 1 cup with milk. Let it set until thickened. It thickens more quickly at room temperature, so it can be put in the microwave to warm it up a bit.
Sift together flour, sugar and salt into mixing bowl. Add egg, oil, milk and soda mixture. Beat well. Dough will be stiff. Add vanilla and rhubarb. Pour into greased muffin cups and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from pans.
Ruth Carter of Mount Pleasant is a rhubarb fan and sends her own recipe for pie. She included a crust recipe that she's been making for years.
Recipe for 2-crust pie (recipe follows)
3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar or part Splenda
1-2 tablespoons cornstarch or 2-3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon finely minced crystallized ginger (optional)
5 cups rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces or slightly larger
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice and/or 1 teaspoon lemon peel (optional)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare pie dough. Roll out bottom crust and put into 9-inch pie pan.
Mix sugar, cornstarch or flour, salt and ginger, if using. Add rhubarb and mix thoroughly. Add to pie pan. Dot with butter and sprinkle with lemon juice or peel and vanilla.
Top with second crust either whole or cut into lattice strips. Bake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove, let cool, eat and enjoy!
Note: If desired, add/substitute 1/2 cup chopped strawberries. Use higher amount of cornstarch if using strawberries as they have a lot of moisture.
Ruth adapted this pie crust recipe from a Wesson Oil cookbook published in 1955. She notes that the dough can be made using part whole wheat flour (up to 1/4 the amount of flour).
"The dough usually makes a flaky pastry and the use of a healthy oil and 1 percent or 2 percent milk makes for a heart-friendly pie dough that tastes good, too."
Pie Crust (Stir and Roll)
For double crust
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola or light olive oil
1/4 cup milk (1 percent, 2 percent or whole)
Heat oven as directed in pie filling recipe.
Mix flour and salt. Pour oil and milk into one measuring cup (but don't stir); add all at once to flour. Stir until mixed. Press into smooth ball. Cut in halves; flatten slightly.
For bottom crust: Place one dough ball between 2 sheets of waxed paper (12 inches square). Dampen table top to prevent slipping. Roll dough out gently to edges of paper. Peel off top paper. If dough tears, mend without moistening. Place paper side up in 8- or 9-inch pie pan. Peel off paper. Fit pastry into pan. Add filling.
For top crust: Roll as above and place over filling. Press down firmly at edges and trim to even with edge of pan. Seal by pressing gently with fork or by fluting edge. Snip at least three or four small slits near center for steam to escape. Bake as directed in filling recipe.
Lattice top crust: Roll out between wax paper. Lift off top paper and then slice into 8 to 10 strips approximately 3/4-inch wide. Gently lift strips off paper (sliding a knife under them may help), place on pie in lattice pattern (4 to 5 strips each direction and patching strips together if necessary.)
Also thanks to Eleanor Troutman of Moncks Corner.
Hot dog helpers
We didn't have success finding the recipe for hot dog chili made by the long-gone Roy Hart's sandwich stand, as requested by Carol Atwater of West Ashley.
However, Grace Mitchum of Cross, offered one that may interest Carol or other readers. It was served at the old Edwards dime store in Pinehaven Shopping Center, and Grace clipped it from this column almost 15 years ago. She says the recipe can easily be cut in half and that the chili freezes well.
Grace likes to add chopped onions, cooking them with the meat. She simmers the chili for several hours as well.
Edwards Hot Dog Chili
5 pounds of hamburger
2 cups water
1 bottle ketchup (24 ounces)
3 tablespoons salt or to taste
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons black pepper
Simmer hamburger and water together until the hamburger is brown. Add the bottle of ketchup, then rinse the bottle, fill it half full with water and pour into the hamburger mixture. Add salt, chili powder and black pepper. Simmer until thick, at least 1 1/2 hours.
Who's got the recipe?
--A Daniel Island reader loved the salad dressing served by the former Coco's Cafe in Mount Pleasant.
--Zonda Crabtree of Reevesville wants to find a recipe for a family favorite that her mother once had. It was for an eggplant casserole made with hamburger, tomatoes, cheese and seasonings. Zonda believes the recipe was given to her mother by Willie, who may have been connected to the old LaBrasca's restaurant in Charleston.
--S. Salmon of Summerville writes, "I know it's hard to get recipes from businesses still in operation, but I sure would love to have the recipe for a Jalapeno-Cheddar Cream Cheese Spread from Bagel Nation in Mount Pleasant. Has anybody been able to duplicate it?"
--With the change of seasons, Jean Powell of Goose Creek is interested in canning recipes using fresh veggies and fruit.
--A Goose Creek reader loves anything lemon, and asked for readers' favorite lemon cake recipes.
--Glenda Long of Bonneau says her mother used to make a Japanese fruitcake. It was a dark cake with nuts, fruits and coconut and a thick and creamy coconut icing.
Looking for a recipe or have one to share? Reach Teresa Taylor at 937-4886, firstname.lastname@example.org.