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The Food of WWII

Discussion in 'WWII Activities and Hobbies' started by Jack B, Jan 29, 2020.

  1. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    When I was at Purdue I sold enough plasma to make my car payments each month. I would have done it anyway, but toy money is essential.
     
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  2. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    I tried to sell plasma, but I'd been exposed to some nasties in Africa and they thought the better of it.
     
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  3. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Hmmmm...I looked through this thread and didn't see any reference to a food dish that my father said was ubiquitous in U.S. Army mess halls: chipped beef on toast. The soldiers called it "SOS" which stands for "s&*^t on a shingle"! It consisted of mini-slices of dried beef in a white gravy, poured over toast.
     
  4. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Mentioned up stream somewhere.
     
  5. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    I've eaten good ol' SOS on several occasions myself. I think even Mom made it when I was a kiddo (Dad was ex-Navy).

    I have a Navy recipe and an Army recipe. There must be a civilian recipe out there somewhere, too. If no one else gets to it, I'll make a batch myself. Hell, just for the nostalgia, I'll do up a batch. (I've got some Armor dried beef on had, even. Nitrite enriched....for goodness. ;))
     
  6. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Now that I'm back on a computer:
    Some ANZAC biscuits tins...
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
  7. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    Outstanding! :thumbup:
     
  8. harolds

    harolds Member

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    My mother made it too when I was younger. I think the Army mostly served it as breakfast staple. Now days, a close relative is sausage gravy over a biscuit.
     
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  9. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I love creamed chipped beef on toast. A restaurant we go to when we're at the shore serves it. I've ordered it several times. My wife usually makes a face when I do, but I don't care.
    Jack, you never cease to amaze me when you make these recipes. Kudos to Mrs. Jack for her willingness to try them.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2020
  10. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Came across this recipe. Sounds pretty straight-forward.

    Ingredients

    • 1 (8-ounce) jar sliced dried beef
    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 1/2 cups milk
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • pinch of nutmeg.
    Instructions
    • Soak dried beef in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and chop into medium to small pieces.
    • Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add beef to butter and saute 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
    • Whisk in flour to form a roux. Cook for 1 minute.
    • Gradually whisk in milk. Increase heat and bring to a simmer.
    • Add beef and pepper and simmer for a few minutes to thicken. Serve with toast.
     
  11. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    Thanks, Lou.

    I've got a Japanese recipe planned. I might be eating alone.....
     
  12. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    I’ve developed a little fascination with the German Large and Small Field Kitchen (Große Feldküche, Heeresfahrzeug 11 (Hf.11) and Kleine Feldküche, Heeresfahrzeug 12 (Hf.12)).

    [​IMG]

    Hf. 11

    These units remind me of a chuckwagon, albeit without the cranky cook, upgraded with a massive pressure cooker and, in the case of the large field kitchen, a 90L coffee pot. What’s not to love?

    I picked up a nice reference book on the field kitchen, aka ‘Gulashkanone’, in addition to a translation of a 1941 edition of a German Army Field Cookbook.

    [​IMG]


    Going through these books I was seized by the urge to make a classic German dish: Sauerbraten.

    [​IMG]


    While the German cookbook recipe seems a bit vague, the rest of the cookbook gives multiple tips, details, and bits of advice on how to butcher meat, prepare roux and gravy, seasoning, etc…. The recipes are left somewhat vague, I think, to allow for some flexibility. This approach is somewhat different from the US Military cookbooks where specific quantities and steps are spelled out.

    Sauerbraten is an interesting option in my mind. Obviously this is a meat dish, a food item not always readily available. It seems the German army placed great value on providing the troops with fresh, frozen, or preserved meat. Obviously the success in doing this varied from place to place and with the field circumstances. Sauerbraten is typically made with beef, but pork and venison are also used. If I were eating aged Stalingrad horse, this is the recipe I’d use.

    Sauerbraten typically requires a long marinade in an acid of some kind—wine, buttermilk, or vinegar. The acid tenderizes and flavors the meat, but also acts like a preservative. I suppose a unit with a new shipment of meat might use a portion immediately, but set some aside in a vinegar marinade to use in a few days. That’s speculative on my part. The combination of sweet & sour seems to be very popular in german cooking.

    I’ve seen examples of German cookbooks from 1913, 1925, and 1930 featuring Sauerbraten, but my lack of German language skills limits my understanding.


    [​IMG]
    Paula Horn, Kochbuch Neuzeitliche Ernährungs, 1933


    Outside Germany, Sauerbraten was popular in the US and Canada. My Joy of Cooking lists Sauerbraten as one of the recipes that has been continuously featured since the 1936 edition. Given the anti-German sentiment of the day, I'm surprised that even during the war Sauerbraten recipes were featured in US and Canadian newspapers:

    [​IMG]

    Windsor Star, 17/4/40


    [​IMG]

    Star Press, 22/8/41



    For my attempt, I started with the basic instructions in the Field Cookbook, using beef in lieu of pork, but borrowed from some older English-language cookbooks that seemed fairly well steeped in tradition.


    For the Marinade:
    • 2 cups Cider vinegar
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 onion, sliced
    • 2 teaspoons peppercorns
    • 2 bay leaves
    • pinch salt

    — the marinade ingredients were combined and brought to a boil, then cooled. Once cool, I poured them over a 3.5 pound beef rump roast in a zip-top bag. (A crock with a weighted lid would be the original method.)
    — the bad was sealed and stashed in my fridge for 5 days.


    For the sauce:
    • 1/2 onion diced
    • 1 baby leaf
    • handful of raisins
    • 1/3 bread crumbs.
    • salt and pepper to taste

    — in a Dutch oven I browned the roast and sautéed the onions. The meat and most of the liquids from the marinade was added back into a dutch oven. This was set to simmer and then transferred to a 300ºF oven for 3 hours.


    Note: the field kitchen had the option of browning meat (the cookbook insists on it!) and onions in separate fry pans or trays, then transferring to the main kettle (if needed). There are instructions for either using some of the flat surfaces of the field kitchen or building a fire pit for the purpose. The main kettle acts like a huge slow-cooker. In hindsight I think this recipe would be best prepared in a slow cooker, but I used the oven to simulate the kettle of the ‘Gulashkanone’. Also in hindsight, I think a 250ºF oven would have been a bit better. Think ‘low and slow'.

    — Once the meat was done (fork tender), it was removed from the pot and set aside.

    — I then blended the cooked onion and raisins (which had fallen apart) with the bread crumbs and mixed vigorously to make a gravy.


    Note: The German Field Cookbook emphasizes using cooked roux to thicken sauces and gravies; however using bread crumbs (or gingersnap cookies) is also traditional. I liked the idea of using some old Kommisbrot to thicken this gravy. Again, the German cookbook allows for some improvisation, so I went with rye bread crumbs.

    — I’ve read that German soldiers ‘liked their food spicy’ so I used a fairly heavy hand with the black pepper, then seasoned with salt 'to taste'.


    Results:

    [​IMG]


    This dished turned out to be pretty tasty. Mrs Jack loved it: “One of my new favorites.”


    The sauce was sweet and sour. Fat from the beef had infused it with a nice rich flavor. The bread crumbs all held it together. The sauce turned out to be much darker than I had expected—I think this is from the fond that got built up while browning the beef and adding the dark raisins. I also toasted my stale bread before mashing it in, so that added a little color too. I liked the dark look; it seemed quite appetizing to my eye.

    I think this is a fairly true reproduction and authentic recipe for the war period. In my mind the dish requires some ingredients that may well have been scarce during wartime: beef, onions, raisins, and peppercorns. These are all ingredients that the Field Cookbook uses, but I have to wonder about their availability. Otherwise it is paired down as compared to many modern versions.

    I served this beef with sauerkraut—a regular item in the cookbook—but potatoes would have been a better match with the gravy. Regardless, I think this dish would definitely put a smile on a soldier’s face.


    Leftovers tonight, but be sure we’ll be making sauerbraten again! :D
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2020
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  13. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    There's a thread on Axis History Forums titled "German Field Kitchens in Context."
     
  14. harolds

    harolds Member

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    "...a 90L coffee pot. What's not to love?"

    What's not to love is the fact is that for much of the war they didn't have any coffee to make in it! Someone dreamed up some ersatz coffee that the soldiers called "muckafuck". Apparently it tasted as bad as you would think, given that name!
     
  15. Jba45ww2

    Jba45ww2 Active Member Patron  

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    There have been some great post. Hoping that the thread keeps going. So for Valentines Day I wanted to make my wife something from the WW2 recipe and not tell her. So I decided the easiest thing would be a dessrt. I did a combination of a Devils food cake and a Confectioners Frosting. Now the top is a Chocolate Ganache but in my defense is still using the same ingredients from the two listed below. I also would assume that the chocolate manufactured today might be a better quality than produced during the war? I was very happy with the end result.
    frosting.jpg
    Devils Food.jpg
    WW2 Cake.jpg
     
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  16. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    Ja, it hasn't escaped my attention that the winning side of most major conflicts in the last 200 years or so had regular access to real coffee. :coffee:-:charliebrown:-:thumbup:
     
  17. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    jba.....:eek::_wow:

    That looks exceptional!
     
  18. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    jba made a post earlier (quoted above) about bread and it’s importance as a ‘filler’. My sense is that bread was the crucial form of nutrition and energy in the ETO. Perhaps the potato was king, but people seem to have measured their rations in terms of ‘bread’.


    [​IMG]

    Diary of W. Hoffman, World War II, Edited Holt MacDougal


    When times got hard, bread made the difference between life and death.

    [​IMG]

    “The population had nothing to eat but potatoes. Smoked meat and Kommisbrot.”

    Der Feldzug der Division Lecourbe im Schweizerischen Hochgebirge 1799, Reinhold Günther (Campaign in the Swiss Mountains)


    Even early in the war bread was rationed:

    [​IMG]

    The Armies March, A Personal Report, John Cudahy, 1941


    The British had ‘the National Loaf”, the Russians has their Black Bread and Borodinsky bread, and the Germans had Kommisbrot (Kommißbrot).

    [​IMG]

    Hygiene and Sanitation: Gesundheitsbüchlein : a Popular Manual to Hygiene, 1904, Germany Kaiserliches Gesundheitsamt


    In actuality, the Germans had a hundred or more types of bread, but Kommisbrot was the ‘official’ bread of the army. It translates to ‘soldier’s bread’ or ‘army bread’. The term goes back to the war of 1870, maybe earlier. It became popular, in an upscale version, with civilians, too. During WW2 Kommisbrot was a staple. Units in the field might source bread from local bakeries (especially in France), but bread was made by army bakers in mobile bakeries as well.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    Times Colonist, Victoria, BC, 13/11/41


    I don’t think the vegetarian comment above is accurate—too many memoirs recall eating tinned meat, sausage, and stews, even later in the war—but the reference to Kommisbrot seems accurate.

    I’ve seen a few recipes for Kommisbrot on-line and in various books, but I’m not sure I’ve found a definitive recipe for Kommisbrot. I suspect that this reflects changes in supplies of wheat and rye flours. It seems potato flour was used as well, when supplies were scarce. POW’s are rumored to have been fed bread enriched with sawdust. There maybe an official standard recipe, but I haven't found it, and I suspect that in practice the recipe varied along with the grain available.

    Fighting in the Crimea, outside Feodosia, in 1942, G.H. Bidermann notes the effects of using captured Russian grain when a food runner hauls some rations up to the front:


    [​IMG]
    In Deadly Combat, G.H. Bidermann



    [​IMG]

    The modern baker, confectioner and caterer; a practical and scientific work for the baking and allied trades. Edited by John Kirkland, 1908.


    I’ve made some modern ‘rye breads’, but these often have a relatively low proportion of rye flour to wheat flour. Rye doesn’t have as much gluten, so it tends to make a less airy and structured bread. But from looking over references to Kommisbrot, it seems a high proportion of rye, maybe 100%, was typically used. I went with a 50/50 mix of whole wheat and whole rye for this experiment.

    The other consistent thing I noticed was that kommisbrot was made with a sourdough technique. Perfect for me because I love sourdough. A portion of the previous dough was kept as a starter. Not only is this simple, but it saves needing to supply the field bakeries with dried yeast.

    So here’s what I did:

    Ingredients:

    • 300 gm sourdough sponge
    • 420 mL water
    • 325 gm whole wheat flour
    • 325 gm whole rye flour
    • 13 gm salt
    -- All the ingredients got mixed and the dough got kneaded for several minutes. It was quite sticky and I add a little extra wheat flour to get a stiff, but less sticky dough.

    -- The dough was allowed to rise overnight (@ 60ºF). It had more than doubled in size by morning.

    -- I then folded the dough a couple of times and transferred it to a baking tin. It was left to rise all day, but only became about 1.5x it’s original size. I was surprised that it hadn't risen a bit more.

    -- The dough got baked in a hot oven (475ºF) until the crust was well browned and the bread sounded 'hollow' when tapped.


    Here’s my loaf:

    [​IMG]


    During the second proving period, it didn’t rise as much as I thought it might and it ended up being a bit more squat than I expected. It weighed about 1.3 Kg, pretty close to the specified weight in the Kirkland reference. Overall I was happy with it.


    The ‘crumb’ is pretty tight and the bread is fairly dense.


    [​IMG]


    While it's a squat shape, the flavor is excellent. The rye flavor is unmistakeable and the sourdough process gave it a tangy flavor. That flavor is generated by the production of lactic acid by the sourdough starter, which retards molding.

    It seems one of the reasons the Germans valued Kommisbrot is that it was found to keep well. This is typical of rye breads and sourdough breads. So it makes a lot of sense to me to make a bread this way.

    In addition, an examination of a sample of Kommisbrot after the First World War revealed it to be high in nutrition.

    I think there is a lot to be said for this bread: dense (compact), nutritious, and keeps well. It feels like the kind of bread to keep you marching.

    I always have to Mrs Jack’s observations: “I love it!” And with that, I’ll be trying to make this again, perhaps with more rye. But no potato flour....
     
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  19. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I'm happy you and Mrs. Jack are adventurous enough to try these recipes. It's even better that you post pictures and commentary.
     
  20. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    Thanks, Lou. So far it has been fun, interesting, and fairly tasty.
     

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