During the summer of 2018, a whole stockpile of (mostly tinned) food from the Second World War was found in a hollow space above a window in a house in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Approximately 100 pots, cans and boxes with asparagus, beans, jam, honey, coffee and oatmeal were found. These finds are not very rare nowadays. Many war and resistance themed museums in the Netherlands have food stock on display. The most beautiful examples to me are the jar with preserved tulip bulbs in the Resistance museum Amsterdam and the jar with preserved bacon in the Liberty Museum in Groesbeek.
Even though there was plenty of food to go around during the war, people prepared themselves for lesser times. Collections in museums show that people hoarded food, mostly canned. The amounts of recipes with tomato puree and condensed milk in cookbooks around that time are remarkable. People also preserved a lot, which we know from the numerous jars of preserved fruits and vegetables in museum collections and still kept by families.
Saving luxurious products
Even imported dried goods were saved, even though these became scarce really fast at the beginning of the war. Foreign products like rice, coffee, tea and chocolate were hoarded by the government before the war officially started. Unfortunately, the Germans took most of those products and shipped them off to Germany rather fast, when they invaded the Netherlands. So, these products, much like spices, were very hard to come by during the war.
There are many remarkable stories about the Second World War. People saved luxurious products for when they had something to celebrate. Someone once told me about their family’s Rampentaart (Disaster cake), a kind of cake that was made by this family during World War Two and consists of scraps of sweet ingredients from different families to make one cake together on a birthday. This family still makes this cake every year.
One product they used a lot during the war was condensed milk. Even during the war, the cans were used to make porridge, puddings and custards. They sometimes added cocoa powder and starch, or even some hazelnuts they got in the forest. This chocolate custard from a wartime cookbook from The Netherlands has a real old fashioned flavour to it and is easy to make. Enjoy!
1 can of condensed milk
600 ml of milk
30 grams of cocoa powder
50 grams of cornflour
2 tbsp hazelnuts
Put the condensed milk and 500 ml of the regular milk in a pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat.
Mix the cocoa powder, cornflour and the rest of the cold milk in a bowl. Add this mixture to the pan and mix well using a whisk. Let is boil for a little while. Pour the custard in one big bowl or several smaller bowls and put them in the fridge. Roast the hazelnuts and chop them op. Serve the custard with the nuts on top