From Austerity Britain: Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage Great Britain World War 2

During the Second World War, the British Ministry of Food dealt with food shortages by instituting a system of rationing. Each citizen was given a ration booklet, which they had to present to their local shopkeeper. In exchange for money and ration tickets, the customer would receive a set amount of food.

In Britain, as in Germany, rationing was introduced early in the war. By late January 1940 many of the more common foodstuffs required ration tickets. Bacon, butter, marmalade and eggs were just a few of the items rationed by the Ministry of Food.

But the Ministry of Food didn’t leave the citizenry unaided when it came to figuring out how to prepare the sometimes unappetizing rations. Using various media outlets to popularize recipes for making the most of one’s meager allotment, the Ministry of Food helped the British housewife become accustomed to wartime austerity. Its recipes appeared in newspapers, radio broadcasts and postings in public buildings.

Here’s a recipe for stuffed cabbage from the March 29, 1941 edition of The Times of London. The cabbage and root vegetables help extend the meat, which was one of the foods rationed during the war.

Wartime Stuffed Cabbage

1 large cabbage
1 pound cooked meat, minced
4 ounces breadcrumbs
2 or 3 carrots
1 small turnip
1 parsnip
Salt and pepper to taste

Grate the raw vegetables and mix them together with the meat and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Wash the cabbage and dry carefully before stuffing the mixed mince between the leaves. To make sure the leaves do not open, tie a string around the cabbage and then put it into a saucepan with a little boiling water. Put on the lid and cook steadily until tender. Save the water for soup or gravy.


Baumgarthuber, Christine. Fermented Foods: The History and Science of a Microbiological Wonder. Reaktion Books, 2021.

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