Friday, August 29, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 34 - Pigs In Clover

   Ever since seeing BBC's "Wartime Farm" series, I've been fascinated with the idea of a "pig club" that many rural folks in Britain participated in during WWII. The concept is this: a group of people in a community were given permission to raise a pig, feeding it from their collective food scraps. Then come slaughter time the government claimed a portion of the meat and those in the pig club could divide the rest amongst themselves.

Pig clubs were a great way for several families to benefit from raising a pig together - the responsibility was shared and the meat was shared as well. As far as I'm aware, no rationing was involved for this program. The government did take its share, but still. It was yet another great idea the Brits had for conserving resources, but also making a way for families to have a little extra meat that didn't have to cycle through the rationing system.

Of course, this gets my modern sensibilities working... Many people have heard of a "cow share". This usually just means you split up a cow with a bunch of other people to stock up the beef as food storage in the freezer and to also get a better price per pound. The farmer does all the work though.

I like the idea of this pig club even better. Everyone is more involved and it brings a better sense of community. Everyone pools their food scraps and might even share in the care of the pig and at the end the pig is butchered and you all get to split the meat. You'll know what the pig ate, how it lived its life, and bond with your neighbors. Sounds fun to me! (We've been wanting to raise a pig in the woods behind our house, so you never know. I just may start a pig club myself!)

This week I chose another British recipe, this time using pork sausage. And once again it was chosen purely on the name. Isn't Pigs In Clover the greatest name ever? As the recipe advertises, it is a very "wholesome" and economical dish.

It calls for 6 sausages, cabbage, and 6 potatoes. That's it. I almost couldn't believe it. What supper recipe only calls for three ingredients? Apparently, this one does!

I used sweet Italian sausage, white potatoes (they were on sale!), and a mixture of red cabbage and brussel sprouts which I had in my fridge and which were not aging very gracefully. It felt good to put the cabbages to use instead of wasting them. I don't currently have a pig to feed scraps to, but our chickens enjoyed the wilted cabbage leaves, though.

So, starting off -
Wash and scrub the potatoes until clean.
Core the potatoes with an apple corer. Save the cores! I sprayed them with olive oil, sprinkled them with that garlic salt blend from Trader Joe's and baked them with the other potatoes. They tasted awesome - like really huge, round French fries.

If I had been thinking, I should have made the holes double-wide. I barely fit 3 sausages-worth into the 6 potatoes as a result. So, doubling the hole space, I'm sure, would have fit all my sausages. The recipe wasn't really specific on the hole size...

Split the sausage casings with a sharp knife.

Peel off the casings leaving only the meat.

Breaking off pieces of the sausage, stuff it into the potato holes, packing it in as you can until they are full. If you let them overflow like I did, the sausage ends get really dark and crispy, but I liked that. I thought they tasted good.

Bake in a 400º oven for between 45 minutes to an hour until the potatoes test done with a fork. 
While the potatoes are baking, put the chopped cabbage in a lidded pot with some water (enough to not let it burn) and steam until soft. I seasoned mine with salt and pepper. Then put the cabbage in a dish and lay the finished pork potatoes on top and serve hot.

My husband really loved this meal. I only ate the potato cores and some extra sausage since eating a whole potato will give me a headache, but I felt the meal was filling and nicely simple. Those Brits know how to eat without fanfare, that's for sure! It's a good reminder of how good the basics can be.

Enjoy! Feel free to liven it up. 
I bet stirring in some crispy bacon with the cabbage would be sensational...
From Victory Cookbook by Margeurite Patten

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 33 - Fish Bake

This week I wanted to look into the less common, non-rationed sources of protein encouraged by the government to use during wartime. Fish is a big one.
WWI US Food Administration Poster
I've always liked this U.S. Food Administration poster from WWI. It makes a very good point - cows, pigs, and chickens all needed to be fed and cared for while fish took care of themselves. They used no resources that people could also use. It was wise for the government to encourage people to eat self-sustaining fish.

World War II was no different. Even more than before, the country's resources needed to be used in the most efficient way possible and fish was still an excellent self-sustaining protein.
Here's a poster from WWII encouraging the catching and use of fish as a wartime staple.

WWII U.S. government poster

Rabbits were a great protein choice too since you could feed them off scraps, they reproduced quickly, and their protein is the densest by ratio of how much food they consume - much better than cows or pigs. I had never seen any wartime posters encouraging the raising of rabbits for meat, though. So then I just did a search and look at what I found!
British WWII poster
Read this fascinating British rationing article.
Horse meat was even used. Even though automobile use was hampered by the rationing of gasoline during the war, the advance of the car and truck continued to overtake many jobs previously done by horses. So what else can you do with a surplus of horses?...
I can't even imagine what horse would taste like. Is it much like beef, I wonder, since they eat similar things? 
Check out this photo:

I chose this week's ration recipe for Fish Bake from the British Victory Cookbook by Margeurite Patten. I didn't have rabbit or horse on hand, but I did have a large haddock I purchased mostly out of surprise that I found it. Haddock is a very difficult fish to find in the states for some reason.

When I was in Scotland I had the most amazing soup called Cullen Skink that was made with haddock, a common fish for over there. I always wanted to try making Cullen Skink, but I never got around to it because I wanted to make it with haddock which I could never find. I finally got the haddock, but still didn't get around to making the soup. (Sad isn't it?) Since I had the fish and I haven't tried a fish-based ration dish yet I thought I'd give it a try this week.

Fish Bake is a typical, simple-fare British dish. Fish, potatoes, onions, parsley, milk, and salt & pepper. That's it! It's one of those recipes where you could bake the fish in advance and make the casserole later, which is pretty convenient.

1 1/2 lbs. haddock, potatoes, onions, parsley, milk, salt & pepper
 Grate the onions and potatoes (keep the peels on the potatoes). Chop the parsley. Put a layer of potatoes in the bottom of a greased casserole dish. Season well with salt and pepper. Layer in the onions, parsley, and then a layer of fish. Repeat layers, ending with potato.
potato layer

onion & parsley layer

fish layer

completed Fish Bake casserole

Cover with a greased paper or even aluminium foil. Bake in a moderately hot oven (375ºF) for 30 minutes.

This recipe was pretty good! I don't know if I seasoned it enough, though. I'm always shy with salt because I'm afraid I'll over salt things. So, it was a little bland, though filling and hearty.

Our family is used to eating fish with my homemade tartar sauce, and so we tried it with that on there and I thought it improved the flavor a bit more. I just feel it needed something acidic like lemon juice or malted vinegar.

Overall, it's a nice light casserole for a summer dinner. It would be easy to include other vegetables or herbs that you have on hand, grated/chopped and added in with the onions. The recipe is a fairly blank canvas for creativity!
Fish Bake
Fish Bake from Victory Cookbook by Margeurite Patten

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 32 - Scones

Ack! This is the first time I've been late in posting my ration recipe. Not bad for 32 weeks and not being late once until now, even while on vacation! (Yeah, that's pretty awesome, huh? haha!)
I did do the ration recipe, so I didn't technically miss. I do have excuses and because it's my blog I get to list them:
1. I'm working on a book right now and it sucked a lot of time this week. That's pretty exciting!
2. Did I mention that I'm a homeschooling mom? Yeah, we started school this week.
3. Procrastination. Mostly born out of the fact that this week's recipe was, in my opinion, a bust, and that's a little depressing.

Okay, enough of that. Here we go.

Remember the ration week for Knox Gelatine Spread? Well, this week I decided to give the spread a try in one of their recipes. I was worried about it going bad just sitting in my fridge and wanted to use it up in one go. I went back to the Knox Gelatine booklet and decided on Scones since they sounded interesting and it's been awhile since I've baked something for my ration recipe weeks.

A quick note about rationing, though. I was reading on the National WWII Museum's website about rationing and it struck me that I haven't discussed the reasons for rationing completely. I thought their website gave a great summary. I'm still learning about rationing so I was glad to find such a great, straightforward website that talks about it. Here's a quote from their site:

"Food was in short supply for a variety of reasons: much of the processed and canned foods was reserved for shipping overseas to our military and our Allies; transportation of fresh foods was limited due to gasoline and tire rationing and the priority of transporting soldiers and war supplies instead of food; imported foods, like coffee and sugar, was limited due to restrictions on importing.

"Because of these shortages, the U.S. government’s Office of Price Administration established a system of rationing that would more fairly distribute foods that were in short supply. Every American was issued a series of ration books during the war. The ration books contained removable stamps good for certain rationed items, like sugar, meat, cooking oil, and canned goods. A person could not buy a rationed item without also giving the grocer the right ration stamp. Once a person’s ration stamps were used up for a month, she couldn’t buy any more of that type of food. This meant planning meals carefully, being creative with menus, and not wasting food. More than 8,000 ration boards across the country administered the program."

So, in other words, you still had to pay for the food with money, but you also had to have the correct corresponding ration stamp. I love that they mentioned the limited use of gas and tire rationing as well as the priority in transporting soldiers and not food... It was just a totally different world back then. Interesting, isn't it?! Man, it makes me want to go back to being a girl and playing store, and we could use ration stamps as well as money. Wouldn't that be fun? :-)

Okay, so for this week's ration recipe you need cake flour, Knox Gelatine Spread, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk or light cream, and sugar.

Cake flour, Knox Gelatine Spread, salt, milk, baking powder, salt, and eggs.
Those eggs came from our chickens! We're just starting to get 3 eggs a day.
 Sift the dry ingredients together. (Only put in 2 tsp. of the sugar though and reserve the rest.)

Cut in the Knox Gelatine spread until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Separate one of the eggs and add the other egg to the yolk.

 Add the egg + egg yolk and the milk to the flour mixture until it comes together to form a ragged dough. If there's still a lot of flour left, though, definitely add a little extra milk.

Now this is where the recipe wasn't clear. Normally with biscuits and the like, you'd knead the dough for a few strokes to get it to come together more, but with scones you definitely don't want to do that. Unfortunately, I did and they made my scones turn out tough. It wasn't until later that I remembered my experience making scones some years ago and you pretty much just patted the dough together to avoid kneading it at all. On top of that when you added the cream you mixed it gently by hand. Well, I tried to follow this ration recipe the best I could so... Oh well.

Roll out the dough to a 1/2" thickness.

Cut dough into 3" squares and divide each square into two triangles. (I didn't measure, and just eye-balled it. So, I'm not sure if the portions are correct. The recipe didn't mention how many portions, so I wasn't as careful this time.

Put the triangles on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Brush on the egg white, then sprinkle on the reserved sugar.

Bake at 450ºF for 10 minutes. Serve hot or serve the next day by cutting in half and sandwiching a spread between.

The booklet also had quite a few ideas for spreads using the Knox Gelatine Spread. So, for a bonus I thought I'd post some of those recipes too.

I opted for the orange marmalade and spread mixture since I had some marmalade to use up.
 The recipe said to blend the two ingredients together.

 And then it said to warm it over a pot of water on the stove to get the gelatine to dissolve. This step confused me, but I did as it said. Then I put the mixture in the fridge and it never set up again. It's still soupy. That is so weird and frustrating! So if you make this with marmalade and plain butter, skip the warming part!

The scones were unfortunately not very tender. And the spread was soupy. So I was bummed about this week's recipe. It just didn't turn out. Not to mention I'm not fond of straight white flour recipes. I just think they taste pasty and lacks depth. Can you tell I grew up eating whole wheat bread? :-)

I guess now is as good a time as any to mention, too, that for health reasons I'm having to eat gluten-free. It looks like it might be a permanent change in my life and it was really depressing to face this change smack in the middle of this project. It was devastating, actually. I've been trying to be creative and choose ration recipes that don't involve flour, especially since I did a lot of baking recipes toward the beginning of this project. I decided to cheat a little this week, but it's just not fun for me when I can't (or am not suppose to try) the recipe I make! I thought I could get by with others being my proxy for eating, but that's no fun either and my family doesn't have the same palette as me and it's hard to comment on their experience. *sigh* 

I'm still debating about approaching ration recipes involving flour with gluten-free flour and xanthan gum, but the historian in me is fighting against that idea. I have to think about it for awhile longer. So, I'm going to continue to be creative in this project. Finishing the project is the most important thing right now to me, so we'll see how it goes!

Here are the recipes:

Recipes from Knox Gelatine Booklet

Have fun with these! Some of them sound pretty good.
Just use regular butter if the Knox Gelatine Spread freaks you out. :-)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 31 - Beet & Onion Salad

Our garden is in the throes of harvest bounty - such as it is with my lackluster watering habits. If I had a serious Victory Garden, I couldn't afford to be so lazy in watering my plants or to not do succession planting - this would be our winter eating we're talking about! Gardening is something I love, but I am still learning to be better at it and to be more attentive.

Many times when we look back at our grandmothers we assume they all knew how to garden, can, and bake their whole lives because that is just what you did back then. But during my research I found that that was not always the case. Even some of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had a steep learning curve. Wartime conditions asked women to do all sorts of things they'd never done before, including improving skills they had or learning entirely new skills of baking, canning, and gardening. Managing a small kitchen garden was not the same as managing your entire yard turned into a garden - imagine processing all that produce yourself! Countless classes and workshops were offered during the war to support the homemaker in the monumental task of keeping their homes and the homefront running.

As for the ration recipe -  I was trying to find a ration recipe this week that used what I had on hand and was happy to find an interesting little salad called Beet & Onion Salad. I had just picked some beets from the garden and we had recently pulled out all our onions to clean and cure. I even had a batch of boiled eggs in the fridge, so it was a perfect match as the recipe calls for beets, celery, a small onion, a boiled egg, and a recipe of the French dressing from the Pineapple Toss Salad I posted a few weeks back.

One interesting note - All the menu plans in the Westinghouse Health For Victory guides, like the one this recipe comes from, emphasize making as many meal components in advance as you could to save time for when you made dinner later. This week's recipe is a good example of that. The boiled egg and cooked beets require the biggest time commitment and can be done beforehand. (Cooking the beets, though, not cutting them.)

These days I've heard a lot of advice for making it easier to eat your veggies by encouraging you to cut veggies in advance and store them in the fridge for a quick snack. In the 1940s, though, cutting veggies in advance was a big no-no as they felt many valuable vitamins were lost as the veggies sat there. So, while many things could be made in advance, like the salad dressing or the dessert, cutting veggies was something you waited to do until you were actually preparing dinner. It's an interesting food preparation difference between then and now and I wonder who is more right?

With that question in mind, let's get on to this simple little recipe:
Beets, boiled egg, onion, celery
If you haven't pre-cooked the beets, wash them thoroughly, but do not cut off the stems or root tail. (This causes the flavor to leech into the water.) Boil the beets until tender all the way through. Run cold water over them; then cut off the ends and slip off the skins. 

Meanwhile, chop the cup of celery and three tablespoons of onion.

Dice the 2 cups of beets.

Combine all ingredients together.
Aren't the beets pretty?
 Pour the dressing over the salad (you can use mayo instead if you wish), and stir to combine.

Put the servings of Beet & Onion Salad on a leaf of lettuce or a small salad. Peel, wash, and slice the boiled egg and add to the salad plates.
My husband and I love beets, so we really enjoyed this salad. The French dressing pairs well with the brightness of the celery and onions and the earthiness of the beets. I was a little wary of those boiled eggs on there. Even though I love boiled eggs I just didn't know if they went with beets.(Which is a bit silly since pickled eggs and beets are an old, classic combination.) I needn't have worried, though. They were delicious! It all worked well together and it was quite filling. Yum! Huzzah for another 1940s salad recipe!

Westinghouse Health for Victory booklet - December 1942

I just saw a recipe in the same book for "Sunshine Salad" and I want to try it, but am a little afraid. It's one of those Jello salad recipes... I shudder to think, but something inside me says I have to try it because it is so scary! haha!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 30 - Mint Tinkle

Mint Tinkle
The minute I saw this drink recipe for Mint Tinkle in Grandma's Wartime Kitchen by Joanne Lamb Hayes, I had to try it! I'll admit it was mostly because of its funny name. Could you really offer this drink to some party guests with a straight face? Would you really be able to take yourself seriously while sipping on an icy cold glass of Mint Tinkle? I had to try it to find out; if anything to just experience Mint Tinkle!

This recipe calls for corn syrup. I usually avoid using corn syrup, but as it was a staple in wartime kitchens to help save on sugar ration points, and because the ginger ale called for in the recipe has corn syrup in it anyway, I thought I'd make an exception this time. 

I really love that sugar was rationed during the war. Our society then and now were so dependent upon sugar, and wartime shortages forced them to go back to their roots from their grandparents' time when sugar wasn't so plentiful or affordable and to get creative. As for corn syrup, it wasn't born out of WWII. It had actually been around for quite some time. (See here for a history of Karo Corn Syrup.) However, it gave housewives another option besides honey or molasses. (Sweetened condensed milk was another interesting option.) 

For some perspective, I found a cool little article about sugar rationing during the war published in Wisconsin in 1942:

"World War II Sugar Rationing Notice,
Humbird Enterprise, Clark Co., Wisconsin
2 May 1942"
Sugar Ration Points 
This is a neat little British wartime rationing chart with the mention of sugar rationing. The British had a much harder time getting sugar than Americans. Many recipes from Britain use golden syrup which is similar to corn syrup.
Now, on to the recipe! The drink is simple and straight-forward.

Ginger ale, warm water, light corn syrup, lemon juice, mint extract, green food coloring, and crushed ice. I'd normally say the food coloring is optional, but it really adds to the whole, fun Mint Tinkle experience! :-)

Blend all the ingredients together until well combined. Or if you want to make it in advance mix everything but the ginger ale and ice. When ready to serve combine the syrup with the ginger ale and ice, then serve.

I was confused as to why you would need corn syrup for the recipe at all when you have the ginger ale to sweeten things, but because it calls for 1/2 cup of straight lemon juice it suddenly made sense! It's also nice to use fresh lemons so you get some of that pulp in the drink.

 Pour into a glass and enjoy! (I only had mini ice cubes instead of crushed ice, but they obviously work just as well.)
Mint Tinkle
All it needs is a little sprig of mint leaves for a garnish!

I have to say that this is one seriously complex little drink! I am continually amazed by these wartime recipes.

I was a little concerned about mint with lemon juice and ginger ale - what a strange combination, right? Well at first sip you immediately get that awesome sour of the lemon with the bubbly spicy ginger ale and then at the very end you get this wonderful minty freshness. I was surprised that the lemon and ginger ale overpowered the mint so it wasn't apparent until I swallowed my mouthful. Such an interesting experience.

In two words: lovely! refreshing!   My whole family loved it, especially my kids. We pretty much drank the whole pitcherful that day.

Not only does this make a great summer time refresher, I think it would be highly appropriate for St. Patrick's Day or a party, of course. I would love to make this with ginger beer with extra ginger, but then again I love ginger. Ooh! And just imagine if you used this drink for a lime sherbet float? Yum!

I strongly encourage you to give this one a try. And then you can say that you've drunk the very enjoyable Mint Tinkle! Haha! :-)

Mint Tinkle
1 1/4 cups warm water
3/4 cup white corn syrup
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp. mint extract (I used peppermint)
Several drops green food coloring
1 (24) oz. bottle ginger ale = 4 cups
Crushed ice

Combine water, corn syrup, lemon juice, mint extract, and food coloring; chill until ready to serve. To serve, combine with ginger ale and ice. Serves 6.

(So keep in mind that you're making the drink syrup ahead of time and mixing it with the ginger ale and ice when you're getting ready to serve it.)