I have talked about rationing in Britain in WW II on a number of occasions in the past, but there is always more to explore on the subject. I am thinking of cheese today. Cheese rationing began in May 1941 and remained rationed until 1954 – nine years after the war finished. At its most severe, the amount allowed for most folk was an almost-negligible one ounce per person per week (vegetarians and workers in some industries got more.) Over the next thirteen years the most common allowance was four ounces a week, with a glorious period in July 1942 when it was the luxurious amount of eight ounces a week.
Methods of making the most of the cheese ration were regularly included in the Food Facts leaflets published weekly by the British wartime Ministry of Food, and in newspaper columns across the land. Today I bring you an article from The Manchester Guardian published a few weeks in advance of the formal beginning of cheese rationing.
THE CHEESE RATION
The cheese ration can be made to go much farther, and, incidentally, it will be more digestible of cooked or grated than if eaten raw. It should be remembered that cheese is a highly concentrated food as it takes approximately a quart of milk to make a quarter of a pound of cheese. As cheese contains natural protein of high value, to get the most out of the ration it should be used as a main dish on a meatless day. In warmer weather it can be well used in a salad. The following, eaten with brown bread and butter or margarine, makes a perfectly balanced meal of high nutritive value. At the bottom of a dish put some cold sliced potatoes. These should be well seasoned and mixed with some salad cream or oil and vinegar dressing. Put round the dish some heaps of grated raw carrot and tufts of whatever green stuff is available. While lettuces are dear, shredded cabbage makes a good substitute. Grate the cheese into a mound in the centre.
When cooking cheese, remember that great heat will harden it and render it indigestible. A nourishing dish for four people can be made with two ounces of cheese; it makes an excellent substitute for meat or fish. Grate the cheese and put in a bowl with three and a half ounces of breadcrumbs and a tablespoonful of margarine. Add a pint of milk just off the boil, salt and pepper, and two beaten eggs. A teaspoonful of made mustard can be added also. Mix all well together, put in a greased pie-dish, and cook in a very moderate oven until just set. Cheese turnovers are very savoury. Just stir the grated cheese into a very little thick white sauce and put portions on rounds of thinly rolled out pastry. Turn over and fasten down. Bake in a moderate oven and eat hot or cold. Here is a simple cheese toast. Take a breakfast-cupful of milk and blend a teaspoonful of cornflour with some of it. Boil the rest and add the cornflour to it. Stir, and cook for a few minutes slowly. Season with cayenne, salt, and a little made mustard. Stir in some grated cheese, and pour over slices of toast when the cheese has melted. Sprinkle more cheese over the top and brown lightly under the grill.
Potato cheese is an excellent dish. Boil the potatoes in their skins, peel, and cut into small chunks. Make some ordinary white sauce and stir in some grated cheese. Pour over the potatoes and bake in the oven for about half an hour. Stale slices of bread or bread and butter can be used up with cheese. Cut into fingers and place a thin slice of cheese on one finger. Cover with another piece of bread, press together, and dip in well-seasoned beaten egg and milk (use one egg to about a teacup full of milk). Fry in bacon fat or dripping until golden brown.
Previous posts on wartime cheese rationing can be found here: