rhubarb johnny

June 22nd, 2009

Rhubarb has a special place in my heart. Not only is it the first “red thing” (red things are my favorite) to arrive at the market each spring, but it’s also a family favorite. Aaron and I went on a road trip a few months after we started dating and spent a few days with his grandparents up in Northern Minnesota. Rhubarb is one of the few things you can grow up in those parts, but it’s something I’d never even heard of before that trip. Well, lucky for me Grandma Cooky has one heck of a rhubarb recipe that instantly won me over. It took a few more trips up to Minnesota, but on the last one I was handed down the 150 year old family recipe for Rhubarb Johnny.

Rhubarb Johnny is kind of like a crumble, kind of like dumplings, but most of all it’s purely delicious. Rhubarb is actually a vegetable but it’s often used in desserts like crumbles or cobblers. On it’s own is a little tart, so usually recipes include a fair share of sugar to sweeten it up, and this one is no exception.

This recipe uses an egg and sugar base that coats the rhubarb slices and creates a sweet, gooey and slightly crispy layer.

As if that’s not tempting enough, drop biscuits are placed them on top of the fruity layer. Next you simply pop it in the oven prepare for the goodness that it about to take place.

I pulled my Rhubarb Johnny out of the oven and it looked a little different than when Aaron’s grandmother made it. That’s always a little scary… but I think my egg mixture just got a little excited along the way and wanted to play a bigger role. Looks can be deceiving though and quite frankly, I couldn’t see a way that this wouldn’t be delicious, so I soldiered on and scooped a slice for Aaron and I.

Now, here comes the secret. Ready? You have to pour heavy cream over the slice of Rhubarb Johnny. The first time it happened I thought my heart might stop, but it’s so dreamy that you should just not think about that part. Aaron and I each took a bite and instantly smiled. This was it. This is the taste of summer in Minnesota and family traditions that have made stomachs ache with happiness for five generations.

Rhubarb Johnny
from Ray’s (Aaron’s Grandfather) Grandma Sjoberg

can be doubled for a thicker filling

2 cups rhubarb, cut 1/2″ or less
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 T flour

drop biscuits:
1 cup flour
4 T butter
1/4 t salt
2 t sugar
1/2 cup milk

Butter an 8×8 pan and set aside.
Beat eggs til foamy.
Add sugar and beat until thick and foamy. Add flour and stir.
Stir in chopped rhubarb and spread into buttered pan.
In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients for the drop biscuits. Cut in the butter to make a meal texture.
Add milk and drop by tablespoons over rhubarb.
Bake at 375° for 40 minutes.
Serve warm in a bowl with a little bit of cream over top.

Comments: 11 Total

  1. grace

    June 22, 2009 at 8:45 am

    you have such a wonderful way with words, kelly–this was truly an enjoyable read! on top of that, what a dessert! i don’t think i’ve ever had rhubarb without strawberries or some other ingredient, but you’ve convinced me to put this on my MUST try list. such high praise simply cannot be ignored.

  2. The Purple Foodie

    June 22, 2009 at 10:15 am

    This looks gorgeous. I haven never seen a recipe like this. Very interesting!

  3. Maya

    June 22, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Interesting, however, how will grandma Cooky feel when she learns you’ve posted a 150-year-old family recipe?

  4. Erica from Cooking for Seven

    June 22, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Hey, I live in Northern Minnesota! :)

    We grow rhubarb, but I haven’t been very adventurous in my baking with it.

    This recipe looks delicious. That’s so neat that it’s 150 years old.

  5. Dana

    June 22, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    What a nice way to use rhubarb. For those who love it, like my husband, it’s great to see it by itself instead of paired with strawberries.

  6. jillian

    June 22, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    I Love rhubarb, and I have never seen a recipe like this. I love that is has a history.

  7. Laura.

    June 22, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    woot woot for that minnesota rhubarb and family traditions. i better get me some rhubarb!

  8. Kelly

    June 22, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    you are so nice! i’m glad you enjoyed the story.

    i think she’ll be thrilled. this recipe was no secret, it’s been in the family for 150 years but shared in community cookbooks probably for just as long. we like to spread our happiness.

    erica & laura-
    woohoo for minnesota. yes indeed, you should run out and pick yourself some rhubarb!

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    March 31, 2010 at 8:21 am
  10. Liz Sjoberg

    October 9, 2011 at 2:59 am

    My husband, Chris, had often spoken of the awesome Rhubarb Johnny that he used to eat as a kid. When we had a huge crop of rhubarb in the garden, I told him to go online and find me a recipe to make. I was so so excited that he had found a recipe and then stunned to find it was from your blog and thus the actual recipe that his grandma used to make. Thanks Kelly!

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    March 9, 2012 at 10:39 pm

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