At this time of year, my rhubarb crop is just about ready for harvesting. This activity always brings delightful memories for me and my family.
In 1982, I was 30 years old and the mother of three, but I had never tasted rhubarb. Then I attended a party at a dear friend’s home and was introduced to a delicacy beyond compare. It was the perfect balance of tart and sweet, with a crispy crust and lusciously creamy center. For my husband, it brought back memories of his grandma’s farm in Iowa and her delicious rhubarb pie. So I asked Roberta for the recipe.
Fast forward twenty years or so, when our eldest son invited us to a birthday celebration for our first granddaughter. In typical Midwestern fashion, I asked what food I could bring to the feast. He replied, “Is your rhubarb ready? Could you bring Auntie Roberta’s Rhubarb Crunch?” It was at that moment I realized this recipe had become a true “family favorite.”
It is important to know that “Auntie Roberta” is not a blood relative. She is a friend who had become as close as a sister, and my children became very comfortable referring to her by that appellation. My husband and I firmly believe that the term “extended family” has nothing to do with pedigree.
Making rhubarb crunch has taught me many deeper life lessons. Some years my rhubarb “is ready” in early June. Other years the plants don’t mature until later in the month. The experience has taught me patience. When the weather cooperates and the harvest is plenty, the recipe is truly “rhubarb” crunch. When the harvest has been sparse, I have added strawberries to fill the pan and Rhubarb-Strawberry Crunch is equally yummy. This was a lesson in flexibility. I have recently read that apples are another very tasty complement to rhubarb desserts. The lesson is, always be willing to learn something new! I may give that a try this year. I will let you know how it turns out!
For now, here is the original recipe, a picture of my “sister from another mister,” and the recipe (adjusted for a larger batch). The original was in a 9 x 9 pan. I increase the amounts by half and make it in a 9 x 13 pan.
Auntie Roberta’s Rhubarb Crunch
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
3/4 cup melted butter
1 1/8 cup rolled oats (oatmeal)
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
Mix all together and press half into a 9 x 13 pan. Save other half for topping.
Pour 6 cups rhubarb (cut into 3/4 inch chunks) over pressed crust. You may also mix in strawberries to make the 6 cups if you don’t have that much rhubarb.
In a medium saucepan mix together
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. corn starch
Cook until bubbly and thick. Pour over the rhubarb. Then sprinkle remaining oat mixture over the top and pat down gently. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour until bubbly and lightly brown. Serve hot or cold with whipped cream or ice cream on top.