Rhubarb Bars from a ‘Culinary Time Capsule’

Weston picnic 188When the town of Weston, Massachusetts celebrated the 300th anniversary of its founding in 2013, the Friends of the Weston Public Library asked people for their recipes and recollections. The result, Flavors of Weston, is filled with stories about traditions from times past. There’s a picnic in the woods in the 188os (right) showing ladies in white dresses and fancy hats and an ad from a family store describing “exquisite” sugar peas for 15 cents a can.

rhubarb bars 1These rhubarb bars come from a matriarch who lived from 1870-1968. She kept her recipes in a wooden box, which her great-grandson described as a “culinary time capsule.” Her descendants dug up and transplanted her rhubarb plants at their home and still harvest some every year. After reading this story, I knew what to try with the rhubarb growing in my yard. It turned out a crisp with the topping on both sides — too crumbly for bars, but a nonetheless a good balance between sugar and tart rhubarb. Here’s another recipe for A Book of Cookrye, who had not tasted rhubarb until I sent her a recipe for the Pieathlon!

Rhubarb in bowlRhubarb Filled Bars (early 1900s)

Makes 24 bars

3 cups cut rhubarb [sliced 1/2 inch thick]
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2/3 cup shortening [I used butter]
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
2. In a mixing bowl, mix the cut rhubarb with the granulated sugar and orange rind. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the brown sugar, flour, salt, and baking soda. Cut in the shortening until it is evenly distributed. Mix in the oatmeal.
4. Pat 2/3 of the flour mixture into the prepared pan. Spread the rhubarb mixture evenly over the mixture. Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture over the top.
5. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is browned. Cool before cutting into bars.
Variation: Double the amount of rhubarb and serve like a cake.


About heritagerecipebox

I am named after my great-grandmother, who only prepared two dishes, according to anyone who remembers. Somehow I ended up with a cooking gene that I brought with me from Richmond, Virginia to my current home in Boston, Massachusetts. I have worked as a journalist and published three cookbooks plus a memoir and a novel. This blog gives me a chance to share family recipes and other American recipes with a past.
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