Tuesday, May 24, 2011

24 May 1957 “Rhubarb Blueberry Crumble”

rhubarb I was lucky enough to receive some wonderful fresh rhubarb from Gussie the other day, from the farm where she works.  rhubarbupcloseNever one to miss an opportunity for an ‘artsy’ close up, aren’t these colors wonderful? Now these would be good cues to take to decorate a room. Even a green and red kitchen (though sounding rather Christmas) is indeed a lovely thing. Especially with accents of ice cream pink and pistachio green…ah, can’t you just imagine it?

Well, back to the task at hand, my new found rhubarb. I was lucky to have had in the freezer some leftover fresh-picked local blueberries from last year, so I considered the two and thought, “A crumble!”
Ever since my first adventure in the kitchen back on that fateful day of 1955, I have found such continuing adventures to still be intoxicating. Once having learned some of the basics of cooking and baking, the artist in me took flight. When one knows how a crumble is made, say, then one considers the endless possibility of crumbles to be had.

A crumble is also a good intro into baking for the kitchen newcomer. Though I still contend that good pie crust is not easy but simply the act of keeping your butter cold and working it as little as possible, a crumble is a good foray into that pie-like dessert.

It couldn’t be easier to make and you can, quite honestly, make anything into a crumble. I have not as yet tried a savory crumble (though now typing this my head is swimming with possibilities) I imagine even that would be quite good. The base and the topping are the same mixture. And a mixture of oats, flour, butter and brown sugar is going to taste wonderful, guaranteed. Then place a sweetened (or savory…hmmm) filling and top with the same crumble mixture and bake. Then wait for the ooh’s and ah’s at your wonderful kitchen prowess, for they will come.
Now, for a quick history lesson on our old friend the Rhubarb.
“Rhubarb, botanically-known as Rheum rhabarbarum, comes from a combination of the Greek word Rha for the Volga River, and the Latin word barbarum, for the region of the Rha River inhabited by non-Romans. The popular edible species, Rheum rhaponticum, originated most likely in Mongolia or Siberia. It was introduced to Europe by Italian botanist Prosper Alpinus in 1608 as a substitute for Chinese Rhubarb whose roots were used medicinally.”
It was Ben Franklin we have to thank for bringing rhubarb seeds to the East Coast of America in 1772. No one really cared much for them until the early 1800s when it became a choice for pies.
The Russians used rhubarb in Alaska in the later 1800s against scurvy. By the mid-1900s it had become a popular staple for desserts in the New England states and was also a popular choice for wine making.
As many know, and all should, the leaves of the rhubarb plant are quite poisonous and should not be eaten. I do not give them to my chickens and I don’t even compost them, though that might be a bit excessive. But, better safe than sorry, I always say.

Now for the recipe. This is what I used:

50’s Gal Rhubarb Blueberry Crumble

3 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
2 c. fresh rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces (Or frozen rhubarb would work as well)
1/2 c. sugar
2 TBS flour

1 1/2 c. regular rolled oats
1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. sugar (You can use brown sugar and omit the molasses if  you wish)
1 TBS molasses
1/2 c. butter, cold and cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 350 F.
berriesnbarb Mix berries and rhubarb with sugar and flour, set aside.
crumble mix crumble ingredients. (I always make my own brown sugar. Some people make it ahead a time and store it, which does impart a nice flavor to the sugar. But, in a pinch, I will simply add regular sugar and the right amount of molasses. It is usually about 1 TBS per cup sugar. Here I used a bit more, as I like the flavor. Of course you can simply use pre-made brown sugar, its up to you.)
Using a pastry mixer or a fork or pair of knives, mix the cold butter into the other ingredients until it forms a nice crumbly texture. You want the butter to be mixed throughout as that is what makes it tender and flaky and wonderful.

Take out 2/3 cup of the crumble if you are using one 9 x9 pan or take that amount twice if you are using two smaller pans, as I have done. This will be the crumble for the top.
crumblecrust Next take what is left and press into the bottom of your pan or pans and bake for 10 –15 until brown. I like to sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on it before I bake it. You will be rewarded with the heavenly scent in your kitchen.

Now I always make my crumble in two of my Vintage Pyrex covered dishes that measure roughly 7 x 9, but I think you could use one 9 x 9 pan. I use these two because I like how they look, they have covers and I can freeze one for a later date or give one out to a friend.
crumblemix After they have browned, let cool a bit (maybe 5 minutes) and then simply scoop the fruit mixture on, sprinkle the crumble and bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes. berrybardcrumble
It is heavenly served warm with whipped cream or ice cream. This also sets nicely for a good lunch box dessert or pic-nic take along.

Enjoy and Happy Homemaking.


  1. I think rhubarb was used to treat rhumatism.

  2. The recipe I use for a crumble doesn't have the bottom crust, but I'm going to have to try that. I don't think you could have too much crumble!

  3. I agree, bring on the crumble! I suppose this could also be considered a 'crisp' as well. Either way, it was SO delicious. And there really isn't that much sugar, as I like to taste the berry and a bit of the tart rhubarb.


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