British sweet rationing 1940-1953 - Make your own sweets (candy) from wartime recipes.
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:
This is the standard recipes for this popular treat. Many exist using various ingredients although the somewhat suspect fairground version is unknown.
6-8 Medium Sweet Eating apples, wiped dry.
1lb Demerara sugar or whatever you have available.
¼ pint Water
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 !).
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.
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").
1lb granulated sugar or whatever is available.
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.
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
12oz raw peanuts or raw cashew nuts
6oz Golden syrup (Tate & Lyle) or molasses
1½oz butter (at room temperature)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
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.
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.
This is a very simple recipe that your children can help with or make on their own.
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.
Similar to Cinder toffee except that honey, not sugar, is the sweetening agent
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.
1lb granulated sugar
½ pint full cream milk
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.
This is a traditional home made toffee, made when sugar became a little more available and commercial sweets had not resumed full scale production.
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.
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.
4oz soya or plain flour
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.
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.
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.
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.
The ginger beer plant - Wartime recipe
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Old fashioned Treacle tart
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Gypsy tart - 1950 Kentish recipe
- Gypsy Tart - A local Kentish recipe for a cheap but delicious sweet sticky tart from 1950s England.
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Have you ever tried making your own sweets or butter?
© 2013 Peter Geekie