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British sweet rationing 1940-1953 - Make your own sweets (candy) from wartime recipes.

Updated on September 27, 2016
Ration book for sweets - not used
Ration book for sweets - not used
Childs ration book
Childs ration book
Jam thermometer
Jam thermometer
Toffee apples
Toffee apples
Cinder toffee
Cinder toffee
Coconut ice
Coconut ice
Peanut brittle
Peanut brittle
Turkish delight
Turkish delight
Treacle toffee
Treacle toffee
Making butter in jars from milk/cream
Making butter in jars from milk/cream
Using butter pats to shape and finish homemade butter
Using butter pats to shape and finish homemade butter
Lyle's Golden Syrup
Lyle's Golden Syrup
End of sweet rationing Thursday 5th February 1953
End of sweet rationing Thursday 5th February 1953
Powdered milk and eggs
Powdered milk and eggs

Confectionary was on ration in the UK from 1940 until 5th February 1953 with each adult allowed just 3oz per week dropping to 2oz per week as the war progressed. In 1949 sweets came off ration but the demand was so overwhelming that after just 4 months it had to be re-imposed again.

With life during the war so bleak, no-one worried about sweets being bad for you or your teeth. They offered a brief moment of luxury and normality in an otherwise mad frightening world. The ration was obviously considered too little, although the Government was sympathetic to the needs of children and the armed forces at times of stress.

Many households would closely manage their sugar ration of 8oz per adult per week in order to make jams, cakes and homemade sweets. To make a small batch of sweets the average household would have to pool their sugar allowance for some weeks. Where the recipe calls for butter, the 2oz weekly ration allowance would not be used, rather homemade butter would be made.(The recipe and method is shown towards the end of the article.)

We now take a look at some of the homemade favourite sweet recipes, some of which are still popular now, albeit to a modified commercial recipe:

Toffee apples

This is the standard recipes for this popular treat. Many exist using various ingredients although the somewhat suspect fairground version is unknown.

Ingredients

6-8 Medium Sweet Eating apples, wiped dry.

1lb Demerara sugar or whatever you have available.

¼ pint Water

3oz Butter

1/4 Teaspoon Cream of tartar

4oz Treacle (Molasses)

4oz Golden syrup (made by Tate & Lyle) If not available you could try doubling up the molasses.

Push a large wooden cocktail stick firmly into each apple core, making sure they are in tightly.

Put the sugar and water into a large heavy-based saucepan and monitoring with a sugar thermometer heat gently until dissolved. Add all the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil.

Boil until the temperature reaches the “soft crack” stage 290 °F, when a little of the syrup dropped into cold water separates into hard but not brittle threads. Brush down the sides of the pan occasionally with a pastry brush dipped in cold water to stop the toffee sticking. Do not stir. Dip each apple into the toffee and twist the stick around for a few seconds to allow excess toffee to drip off. Transfer to a buttered/greased baking sheet or waxed paper. Eat within 24/48hrs (Not that they would last that long anyway !).

Cinder toffee

Ingredients

8oz caster sugar

4oz golden syrup (Or molasses if golden syrup is not available (It’s a UK thing !)

1 tsp vanilla

1½ floz water

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Prepare an 8in x 12in tin by lining the bottom and sides with baking parchment, making sure the parchment sides are at least 2in above the sides of the tin. Grease the parchment with a little more butter or oil.

To a deep, heavy bottomed saucepan, add the sugar, golden syrup, vanilla and water stir briefly with a wooden spoon, just to evenly distribute.

Bring the mixture to the boil, but do not stir. Continue boiling until it reaches the hard crack stage (the temperature on a sugar thermometer reads 300 – 310 degrees F), for about 10 minutes. During boiling, brush any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan, with a clean pastry brush dipped in water. Make sure the caramel doesn’t burn otherwise it will taste horrible and you will have wasted a week’s sugar allowance. At this point remove from heat and quickly whisk in the Bicarbonate of Soda. The whole mixture will bubble quite strongly so ensure you are not splashed with hot toffee. Immediately pour into the prepared tin. Allow to cool and set completely before touching. Break into pieces and serve. This can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container otherwise it will absorb moisture from the air and turn sticky.

Carrot Fudge

Ingredients

4 tablespoons (2oz) of finely grated carrot

1 gelatine leaf

Orange essence or squash

Put the carrots in a pan and cook them gently for ten minutes in just enough water to keep them covered, add a little orange essence, or orange squash to flavour the carrot.Melt a leaf of gelatine and add it to the mixture.Cook the mixture again for a few minutes, stirring all the time.

Spoon it into a flat dish and leave it to set in a cool place for several hours. When the "fudge" feels firm, cut it into chunks and it is ready to eat.

(Recipe from Colleen Moulding's "Frugal Recipes from Wartime Britain").

Vanilla Fudge

Ingredients:

1lb granulated sugar or whatever is available.

2oz butter

¼ pint single cream or the top of full cream milk.

¼ pint full cream milk

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

Add all the ingredients except the vanilla essence into the pan

Heat gently, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, and then keep it on a good, rolling boil stirring from time to time

Using a sugar thermometer when the mixture has reached 240degF or soft ball, remove the pan from the heat. Place the pan on a cool surface and add the vanilla essence. Beat the mixture vigorously until it becomes thick and creamy and starts to develop a slightly grainy crystalline texture round the edges. Pour it immediately into a shallow 10in x 8in buttered tin and leave until cold. Cut it into squares, when set.

Coconut Ice

Ingredients:

1lb granulated sugar

¼ pint full cream milk

5oz desiccated coconut

pink food colouring

Grease a 10in x 8in tin with a little butter

Put the milk and sugar into a heavy base pan on a low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, then continue on a rolling boil, stirring frequently and using a sugar thermometer until the mixture reaches soft ball* or 285degF

Ensure it does not burn or scorch otherwise the flavour is ruined and your sugar ration is lost. Take the pan off the heat and add the coconut, mixing it in well

Pour half the mixture into the 10in x 8in tin and refrigerate or stand on cool shelf until cool. Add a little chosen food colouring to the remaining mixture and stir well in. Pour the coloured mixture over the first, white half in the tin

When cool, mark into bars or squares with a sharp knife

Peanut brittle

Ingredients:

12oz raw peanuts or raw cashew nuts

6oz sugar

6oz Golden syrup (Tate & Lyle) or molasses

2floz water

1½oz butter (at room temperature)

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking powder

Method:

Blend the sugar, syrup, water and butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring this mixture to a boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Boil for 3 minutes then continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240°F, as measured with a sugar thermometer. Add the nuts then cook over moderate heat with constant stirring until the mixture reaches 300°F on a sugar thermometer. Take care not to burn or scorch the mixture, otherwise it is useless. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly add the vanilla and baking powder, stirring constantly. Immediately pour the mixture onto a buttered or oiled baking sheet and spread evenly. While still pliable, lift and shape the mixture with two forks to form a rectangle. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely, then break up into pieces.

Turkish Delight.

Ingredients

1oz powdered Gelatine

2lb Granulated Sugar

2 x ¾ cup of Water

½ teaspoon Citric Acid

3 teaspoons Rose water or Lemon Juice

Food colouring of choice.

Soak the powdered gelatine into three-quarters of a cup of cold water for two hours. Put 2 lb. of sugar into a saucepan with three-quarters of a cup of water, and bring to the boil. Add the soaked gelatine, a little citric acid, food colouring and the rose water and/or lemon juice. Simmer for 20 minutes, skim well, and then pour into a shallow damp dish. Allow to stand for 24 hours, then cut into squares and roll in castor sugar.

Coconut Dainties.

This is a very simple recipe that your children can help with or make on their own.

Ingredients

2oz Granulated Sugar

4oz Desiccated Coconut

2 egg whites (or use dried egg)

Beat the whites of the eggs to a froth, add the sugar, and continue to whisk until it thickens, stir in in the coconut.Drop teaspoonful’s of this mixture on to a greased baking tray and bake for about 10 or 15minutes in a moderate oven.

Honeycomb brittle:

Similar to Cinder toffee except that honey, not sugar, is the sweetening agent

Ingredients

8oz clear honey

1/4 pint water

generous pinch of bicarbonate of soda

Mix the honey and water in a heavy base saucepan and heat slowly to boiling point. Boil hard, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 280-285degF as shown on your sugar thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda taking care that the hot foaming honey does not splash on your skin. Pour the toffee into a greased 8 inch square tin and leave until hard. Break into pieces when it has cooled and store the honeycomb brittle in an airtight tin, otherwise it will absorb water from the air and go sticky.

Simple fudge:

Ingredients

1lb granulated sugar

½ pint full cream milk

2oz butter

Add all the ingredients into a heavy base saucepan. Heat gently on the lowest heat setting and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved. You can simply check for this by ensuring there is no crunch under the spoon. Boil very gently and try not to stir, this stage can take 15-20min. Remove from the heat and stir with a wooden spoon (careful it is very hot) until the mixture starts to thicken. It is now beginning to set and will do so rapidly, immediately pour into a prepared tin greased with butter or vegetable oil and when set but still soft cut into pieces.

Treacle toffee:

This is a traditional home made toffee, made when sugar became a little more available and commercial sweets had not resumed full scale production.

Ingredients

4oz butter

8oz granulated sugar

3 tablespoons black treacle

2 tablespoons malt vinegar

Using a heavy base saucepan, melt the butter then add the other ingredients. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, stirring with a wooden spoon and boil gently for about 10 minutes. Drop a little of the mixture into a saucer of cold water, when it’s ready if it forms a hard ball. Pour into a shallow, greased tin and break into pieces when cold.

Sometimes in place of sweets or if the sugar ration was low, households would make sweet snacks from scraps or left-over ingredients.

Bread Pudding

Ingredients

10oz of stale bread (any type of loaf)

2oz of margarine or butter

1oz of sugar

2oz of dried raisin sultanas (make sure they are stoned)

1 egg (mostly dried egg as fresh was a luxury)

milk (fresh or powdered)

cinnamon - to taste

extra sugar or honey for topping

Put bread into a large basin and add a little water, leave to soak for 10 minutes. Squeeze bread out in a cheesecloth or muslin, until fairly dry. Return bread to empty basin and add all the other ingredients (except spice) adding a little milk to make a sticky consistency and cinnamon, a little at a time to taste.

Place mixture into a greased pan and cook at 320degF for an hour or so until edges are browned and centre is hot. Sprinkle sugar or honey on top 10 minutes before end of cooking. Allow to cool a little, slice and serve. This will serve 8 to 10 people.

Mock Marzipan

Ingredients

4oz soya or plain flour

4oz sugar

2oz margarine

2-3 teaspoons of almond essence

2 tablespoons of water

Using a heavy base pan melt margarine in the water, add almond essence and sugar and stir with a wooden spoon. Add flour and mix in bit by bit and then turn out soft paste onto a floured board and knead well. Roll out thickly and cut into cubes for eating as a sweet. This can also be used rolled thinly in cake icing.

Homemade butter

This is quite easy to make and indeed many chefs always make their own butter - it’s also good for keeping the kids quiet and an educational experience.

Ingredients

2 pints of single or double cream (during wartime the top of whole milk would be accumulated over a day or so in the jars)

2 large clean kilner jars with lids or clean jam jars.

Pinch of salt

To give the best results leave the cream to reach room temp beforehand.

The jars are half filled. Divide 2 pints of the cream into 2 x 2 pint jars or into 4 x 1 pint jam jars. Tighten lids and shake. After 4 or 5 minutes the cream will start to thicken then will begin to turn rapidly into the butter solids and the buttermilk. The butter solids will begin to clump together and the thin milk remaining is the buttermilk.

We then move on to the second stage. As soon as you have butter solids and buttermilk in the jar and the butter solids are clumped together it is time to drain the contents of the jar through the fine mesh sieve. The buttermilk passes easily through the sieve leaving the butter solids in the sieve. Leave to drain for a few minutes and store the buttermilk in the fridge or cold shelf as you can use this for cooking, or drinking.

Take the sieve and very swiftly run under a gentle flow of cold tap water, just for the count of 2, to wash the outside of the butter. Then place the clump of butter into a large bowl. Now is the time to add some fine salt tiny amounts at a time to taste. Using the back of two wooden spoons, or proper butter pats, begin to shape the butter to form a pat. As you squeeze the pat, further buttermilk will come out. Drain away frequently into your buttermilk jar and continue to reshape and squeeze gently.

When no further buttermilk is draining from the pat, wash the pat with a little cold water, drain and move it onto a flat surface with cling film or wax paper underneath before finally shaping or embossing. Finally wrap loosely in wax paper or a cling film covered dish and allow to cool in the fridge or on a cool shelf. As a guide roughly 2 pints of cream makes 1lb of butter.

Footnote.

Finally the day came - Thursday 5th February 1953, children all over Britain stood in queues outside the sweetshops with the contents of their piggybanks in hand. Behind them stood their fathers smiling in anticipation of their wife’s face when he comes through the door with a box of real chocolates something rarely available for over 12 years.

Toffee apples were the biggest sellers, with sticks of nougat and liquorice strips also disappearing fast.

Confectionary manufacturers wanted to regain their pre-war position in this very profitable business. - One confectionary company in Clapham Common donated 150lbs of lollipops to 800 children during their midday break from school; and a London factory opened its doors to hand out free sweets to all comers.

The government and manufacturers were quick to reassure the public that there would be no repeat of the first attempt to take sweets off ration. In April 1949, it was tried but demand far outstripped supply and they were put back on ration after just four months. This time, the Minister of Food, Major Gwilym Lloyd-George told the House of Commons that he has no doubt that stocks are sufficient. He confirmed that he has ordered a one-off allocation of extra sugar for delivery to manufacturers to help them meet the anticipated increase in demand.

Sugar itself, however, still remained rationed, and manufacturers complained that the Ministry of Food should have freed more sugar supplies as well as those of sweets and chocolate. As it is, they will have to manufacture enough sweets to meet the demand of a free market, but with only a little over half of the sugar supplies they had before the war.

However, overall the industry was happy with the news. Because the price of confectionery had nearly doubled during the war, combined with many not having been taking up their full ration, after the initial surge, demand should settle down quickly and supplies should be sufficient.

Have you ever tried making your own sweets or butter?

See results

© 2013 Peter Geekie

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    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 4 years ago from Cape Cod

      Great job on this. Thanks for the photos of the ration book. You wrote about this topic as though you lived it. If so, I would love to see you publish some articles about wartime Britain....the blackouts, the bombings etc. I was a very small boy in the States during the war but I still remember that we had to blacken our windows at night and we had to stay in a small room until the air raid warden gave us the all clear. That said, no bombs ever fell on Boston in the new England, but I know that many thousands did fall on the UK and I cannot imagine the stress of that.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Billrrrr,

      Thanks for your comments. I was born right at the very end of the war but was 8 when rationing finally finished.

      I saw the effect the war had on the towns and cities and the thousands of bomb sites and ruins were my playground. If Britains ever needed their stoicism they certainly did then. To imagine living every night and sometimes during the day in shelters or tunnels and emerging each morning to see more devastation, death and fires - then picking your way over the rubble to work - perhaps to find it no longer there. Many of my playmates had no fathers or relatives, people walked the streets with horrific injuries and everywhere was make do and mend.

      It may sound trite but this was one of the reasons a few sweets gave a moment of normality even after the war had ended.

      kind regards Peter

    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 4 years ago from Cape Cod

      "the thousands of bomb sites and ruins were my playground." (Peter Geekie on Hubpages)

      What a poignant statement. Great comment Peter. I just wish that the 21st century youths of the world, could experience what you saw and felt. Maybe this would erase some of the anger and hatred that seems to be increasing every day. We fought that war some 70 years ago so that there would be world peace. If only it were so.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Thank you again Billrrrr,

      Some of our youth (primarily those in the military) have experienced similar conditions and what a good example they are. The others are very materialistic and have no idea of what deprived means. However I'm sure parents throughout the ages had said the same thing.

      kind regards Peter

    • Mazzy Bolero profile image

      Mazzy Bolero 4 years ago from the U.K.

      Hi Peter, thanks for those recipes - they were the kind of things I ate as a kid, so they brought back memories! I used to make the chewy kind of treacle toffee every bonfire night but one year I overcooked it and made it so tough that it pulled the fillings out of my teeth:) In the States you see molasses rather than treacle and you can buy molasses candy. It doesn't taste exactly the same but similar. I never tried making butter - but I remember my mother buying 2 - 4 oz at a time at the corner shop and the assistant would cut some off a giant slab - unrefrigerated! It was such a different world.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Mazzy

      Yes it was a far more simple world and in some ways less stressful than life today.

      However tempting it is to look back with rose tinted spectacles, life then was hard, many of my friends walked with callipers after contracting polio, housing was poor (we lived for a while in a Pre-fab built by German POWs) and so on. But families were far more close knit, much less materialistic and in many ways honest.

      I'm tempted to write some stories of Britain in the 1950s and 60s, of how we crawled from the bomb craters and devastation to become a small but potent world power again. How with the help of our American friends we managed to repair our industry and create wealth from the ashes and pay all of our debts. Hopefully I will put something into print soon.

      Kind regards Peter

    • Mazzy Bolero profile image

      Mazzy Bolero 4 years ago from the U.K.

      I would love to read that, Peter. I was born in the fifties and I remember the "bombed houses" - gaps in the Victorian terraces filled with rubble. We knew horror was behind us, and it was a poverty-stricken but optimistic time, when we looked forward to what we believed would be a better future, with fairness, decency and opportunity. What happened to that? I'm not sure we did repair our industry - Germany used its millions from U.S. aid to buy new plant and state-of-the art equipment, while the U.K. struggled with outdated machinery and methods, until in the 80s the Thatcher government decided to give up on British industry and rely on Banking. Germany now stands astride Europe like a collosus and bullies at will. Who actually won that war?

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Mazzy,

      It's a question I often ask myself also. British fair play and honour is all well and good but not at the expense of the people. Without entering into politics it is true that even after the war we still try to be "Great Britain the beneficent ", witness us being the first in with aid to China after their recent earthquake - China ! a country that could buy and sell us ten times over - but we still do it. I am still very proud to be (in my case) English and that's just who we are and what we do.

      kind regards Peter

    • profile image

      Miss Jane Form 2B 8 months ago

      Our class is looking at food and treats through the war years until the end of rationing (a concept my children don't understand)

      We are going to use some of your recipes to make the different sweets and see what the children make of these.

      Thank you

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 8 months ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Miss Jane,

      I hope you and form 2B enjoy the sweets. You will notice a difference as you are cutting out the e-numbers and artificial flavourings.

      kind regards Peter

    • profile image

      Miss Jane Form 2B 8 months ago

      First batches of sweets made and the children love them, interestingly so do their parents and grandparents. These will be top of the list for selling at the summer school fete.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 8 months ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Miss Jane,

      That's great news and I hope it will bring back happy memories to the older ones and a whole new taste experience for the children.

      Kind regards Peter

    • profile image

      Miss Jane Form 2B 8 months ago

      The children spent all week making a huge selection of war time sweets. An hour into the school fete we had sold all of them, with parents and grand parents coming up to us during the remaining 2 hours to see if we had any more. The children were very excited and we raised £87-50p for the school funds.

      I know what we are doing at the next school event.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 8 months ago from Sittingbourne

      Great news Miss Jane and well done to the children.

      It seems everybody got something out of this from the youngest to the eldest.

      kind regards Peter

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