#newbook progress – Rabbit stew
On 8 January 1940, food rationing was implemented in Britain.
During my Mother’s early life, everyone in her home had a ration book which allowed her parents to buy a limited quantity of food and clothing for the family.
The Germans tried to make Britain weak by attacking the ships with fast E-boats and submarines, or U-boats, and cutting off supplies of goods to this island nation. Before the war, Britain was importing approximately 55 million tons of food per year. The destruction of the ships resulted in shortages of food, clothing and petrol.
Each person’s ration book contained coupons which shop keepers cut out or signed when people bought food or other items. You still had to pay for these things with money, it just limited the amount one family or person could buy. The reason the British government introduced ration books was to ensure that everyone got a fair share of the food and other items that were hard to get hold of during the war.
My Mother’s family lived on a farm in rural East Anglia. Her Father was able to shoot the occasional rabbit to supplement the family’s food rations. This is an extract from our book “While the Buzz Bombs Fell” about rabbit stew.
“When meat was short, Father would take his old gun and go into the fields to shoot a rabbit that crossed his path.
If he was lucky and shot a rabbit, Mother would slit open the belly and remove the entrails. She would then ease it out of its skin and cut off the parts that were not edible.
Mother had one sharp knife. It had a bone handle and a sharp and well-worn steel blade. Before skinning the rabbit, she sharpened this knife on the concrete scullery doorstep. It was an essential tool and she used it for everything she did in the scullery from peeling the potatoes to cutting up the tiny portions of meat that were sometimes available.
She cut the rabbit into joints using her knife and put it to soak in a bowl of cold water with one tablespoon of vinegar. After thirty minutes she removed the pieces from the water and dried them well with a cloth.
Mother mixed a small amount of flour with salt and pepper and coated every piece with the mixture. In a large pot on the paraffin heater she heated a small amount of lard, a white animal fat, and the rinds of two rashers of bacon, if it was available. She then added the coated rabbit joints and cooked them for about ten minutes until they were golden brown. The meat in the pot sizzled and fried and it smelled so good.
Mother removed the rabbit from the pot and added two rashers of chopped bacon, if she had it, as well as two medium onions, cut into slices, and three medium carrots, chopped into pieces. After she sautéed the vegetables and bacon for approximately five minutes, she returned the rabbit to the pot. She added water and one grated Bramley’s Seedling apple. Beth would help Mother stir the liquid as it came to the boil and thickened slightly. Finally, Mother added gravy salts whole peeled potatoes and allowed the stew in the pot to simmer for about three hours until lunch time. Rabbit stew was heartily appreciated as a mid-day meal.”