Ethan Goetz mug

Ethan Goetz

Rhubarb is a spring treat I enjoy raw, baked or in a jam. I have never cooked or baked with the stuff until a couple of weeks ago. I was not disappointed and neither were my friends.

Recently, my editor in Knoxville gave me a bag of rhubarb from his garden. I was thankful and excited but wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with it.

I set off to brainstorm a bunch of recipe options: a jelly or jam, strawberry rhubarb pie, a cobbler or even a coffee rhubarb cake. Then it hit me–rhubarb custard.

A few years ago, a friend of mine brought over custard with fresh rhubarb. It was sweet, yet tart, and wasn’t masked with other fruits, like strawberries. It was fantastic. This is what I went with.

I found a recipe that was simple. Eggs, sugar, flour and a dash of salt.

As my wife can attest to, I use recipes as a template but I don’t follow directions well. I like to create my own thing. The custard recipe was simple and could easily be modified without destroying the taste.

Prepping and baking took the longest amount of time. I washed the rhubarb, then diced it into little cubes.

I put the fruit in sandwich bags with a little water and sugar, shook it up, then let it sit in the fridge for about half an hour.

Next, I mixed the custard. I had enough rhubarb to make two pies, so I doubled the recipe. I used farm fresh eggs, sugar, flour, a smidgen of salt and ginger—the extra ingredient the recipe didn’t call for.

The recipe then called for a crumbled top made with flour, sugar, water and a pinch of salt. I decided to alter this and made more of an airy, sugar cookie dough to put on in globs over the whole custard.

I cheated a little and didn’t make my own pie crust. It makes a floury mess on the counter and I didn’t want that. I used frozen premade pie shells.

After baking the empty pie shells I pulled them out and poured in the custard, then slapped globs of the cookie dough mixture on top.

I tossed the custards in the oven at a preheated 350 degrees for a little more than one hour and waited with anticipation.

The aromas coming out of the kitchen were amazing. I periodically checked inside the oven, without opening the oven door, to see what was happening.

The globs of goodness on top had all come together to form a light crust. Once the top turned golden brown, I pulled them out.

I let the custards cool, then cut a slice for my wife. She loved it and so did I.

I gave one of the custards to a friend of mine who likes to tinker around the kitchen himself. His father happened to be there and he gave it a try. He seemed to enjoy it.

He tossed a compliment my way while he was heading out the door. Another stamp of approval.

One custard pie disappeared quickly in about 24 hours. I’m ready to make more.

Ethan Goetz is a reporter for the Pella Chronicle. He can be reached in the newsroom at 641-628-3882, or by email at