An Old-Fashioned Staple: Hattie's Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Although it's nearly the middle of June, warmer weather has only recently arrived in northeast Wisconsin. Temperatures have climbed as high as the low 80s, but evenings and mornings are still cool.

Our ancient rhubarb patches are flourishing, although a bit later than usual, and I have already made two rhubarb desserts and frozen two quarts for fall and winter baking. I will do this as long as the patches produce rhubarb, and give some away, too.

Rhubarb is a cottage-garden staple, an old-fashioned vegetable that conjures up visions of picket fences, weathered barns, climbing roses and cool summer kitchens. It is excellent on its own, or combined with apples or strawberries, and we've enjoyed it in everything from pies and muffins to cakes and crisps. 

Since we have two patches, we freeze a good deal of what we harvest for winter desserts. I plan to try it in savory dishes, too, which will be a first for us. I like this idea as well.

Rhubarb information, history and more recipes may be found here

Two days ago, I made a simple rhubarb-strawberry crisp that yielded six servings. 

For the filling
  • 7 stalks of rhubarb, washed and sliced or diced
  • 15 large strawberries, sliced or diced
  • dash lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of sugar

For the topping
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal, dry
  • 1/2 to 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • roughly 1/2 stick of butter
  • dash sea salt
Once the rhubarb is washed and sliced, place it in a bowl, add about 1/4 cup sugar - enough to lightly coat the rhubarb - and allow to chill overnight in the refrigerator, covered.

When you are ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Toss the chilled rhubarb (you may have to remove some liquid, but do not rewash the rhubarb) with the strawberries, lemon juice and sugar. Place in a greased 8-by-8-inch baking pan.

Use the topping ingredients to make a crumbly topping, as you would with any other crisp. Spread this atop the rhubarb-strawberry mixture. At this point, I sprinkle a small amount of sea salt on the topping to mitigate any overly-sweet taste. 

Bake for one hour, or until crispy top is golden brown. 

This basic crisp recipe can be used with just about any fruit, and I've experimented with it since I first laid my hands on it while a graduate student at Edgewood College in Madison, Wis. It originated with a lovely lady named Clarice, who worked in the continuing education office, and who made it with apples and raisins (another favorite dessert at our house).

I think of the recipe as Hattie's Rhubarb Crisp, because I think the rhubarb was planted about 70 years ago by a woman with that name for whom our 1896 Victorian was a retirement home. Sadly, Hattie's husband died not long after the couple moved here from the country, and then Hattie took in boarders, female students from the nearby county normal school, to make ends meet. She also raised chickens and had a grape arbor on the sunny side of the house. 

I've thought of her a great deal this spring, although we never met, as my husband and I removed layers of wallpaper from our second-floor book room, one of the rooms Hattie rented out to coeds. We got down to the circa-1940 wall paper, removed that, and then patched and re-plastered the entire room. Before and after photos will show up in a later post. Meanwhile, I am rather proud of my prowess with a trowel.

The patch below is the smaller of the two, and is located on the sunny west side of our old horse barn.


Katie Zeller said…
Nice to see you posting again... And the rhubarb crisp - I love it. I can't grow it - tried repeatedly and failed.
Anonymous said…
Hmm. Wonder why, Katie? Does it grow anywhere locally? I cannot recall seeing any on our trips to the Lot...

Anonymous said…
Where are my manners? Thanks for visiting!

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