Cooking with Collections: Vegetable Turnover

For the past three and a half years, we have had a Facebook Live show called Cooking with Collections every month where we make a recipe from our collection and have staff taste test it.  It has brought about some surprising recipes and tastes.  During our Meet Me at the Fair exhibit a few years ago, we made several different recipes that were in cookbooks from World’s Fairs and shared them with you on the blog.  During this time of quarantine, we wanted to bring to you some other recipes on our blog and decided to branch out a little bit.  For this quarantine series, we will not be focusing on recipes in our collection or an exhibit at the Museum, but we will be focusing on recipes from times of hardship in the United States and throughout the world.  Today we have a recipe from World War II – Vegetable Turnovers!   

During World War II many of the foods that people would normally use were scarce and rationed.  Rations were placed on many different products, but one that affected people every day was food.  The government gave ration points to everyone, including babies.  Those points had to be turned in along with your money to purchase rationed items.  For example, a pound of bacon cost around 30 cents but to purchase it, a person would have to turn in 7 ration points along with their money in order to purchase the bacon.  As you can see from the table, many items were rationed on the home front to help aid in the war effort.  Because of this, people had to make do with what they had or what they could save up their rations for.  They had to plan, be frugal, and use what they had on hand in order to feed their families. 

Rationed Items  Rationing Duration 
Tires  January 1942 to December 1945 
Cars  February 1942 to October 1945 
Bicycles  July 1942 to September 1945 
Gasoline  May 1942 to August 1945 
Fuel Oil & Kerosene  October 1942 to August 1945 
Solid Fuels  September 1943 to August 1945 
Stoves  December 1942 to August 1945 
Rubber Footwear  October 1942 to September 1945 
Shoes  February 1943 to October 1945 
Sugar  May 1942 to 1947 
Coffee  November 1942 to July 1943 
Processed Foods  March 1943 to August 1945 
Meats, canned fish  March 1943 to November 1945 
Cheese, canned milk, fats  March 1943 to November 1945 
Typewriters  March 1942 to April 1944 

To help with the war effort and to help make food last longer many people planted victory gardens.  Victory gardens were originally started during World War I but started to emerge again with the US entered World War II.  Commercial crops were diverted to the troops and transportation was redirected to troops and munitions.  These factors led to some food scarcity and when rations hit in 1942, Americans had a greater incentive to start their gardens.  They were even prominent in advertising during the time.  Even Dr Pepper got in on these advertisements.  (insert Victory Garden pictures) Americans planted their gardens wherever they could.  They even planted them in flower boxes and Eleanor Roosevelt planted one on the White House lawn!  Carrots were one of the most popular vegetables grown in the gardens. 

Given these factors, it makes sense why a vegetable turnover would be an ideal dish.  It used vegetables, which people had on hand from their gardens, and it did not contain meat, which was rationed and sometimes scarce.   


Crust  Filling 
12 oz flour (about 3.5 cups)  10 oz scrubbed diced potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes) 
Large pinch of salt  4 medium carrots diced 
3 oz margarine (or any type of shortening) – about a half stick  1 large onion or leek finely chopped and sautéed  
Water  Salt, Pepper, other seasoning  


I initially thought this recipe would also be quick and simple, but it took a lot longer than I thought it would.  There are quite a few parts to it, which made it move slowly.   

To make the filling you dice up all your vegetables.  Sauté the onions.  Then cook the carrots and potatoes until medium soft.  You could do this on the stove with a little oil (which is what I chose to do) or by boiling them in water.  Mix the carrots, potatoes, and seasonings together gently in a bowl and then mix in the onions. 


To make the crust, rub your shortening into the flour using a fork or pastry blender and add water to bind it.  This is just a standard pie crust!  You could even use premade crust if you wanted to.  Once your crust is mixed, divide it into 4 and roll each section out into rounds like you are making a small pie.  If you are using a premade crust, just cut both crusts in half. 

Now fill each section with an ample amount of filling.  Wet the edges of the pastry with water and fold one side over and press the edges down together.  Prick the top of the pastry with a fork.  Brush the top with a little milk.  If you do not have milk, you can use cream or egg. 

The recipe calls to bake the turnovers in a hot oven.  That is between 400° and 450° F.  Bake them between 25-30 minutes until crisp and brown.  The recipe says you can serve these hot or cold, so of course, I tried both. 

So what did we think of it?  They were really big and filling.  Alex thought they were a little bland Although I didn’t mind the flavor, I found it somewhat dry.

It was definitely like a pasty (handheld meat and vegetable pie that originated in England and is popular in Michigan).  If I made it again, I would add more seasoning and maybe a sauce to mix the vegetables in, but it wasn’t bad.  It was a good dish that I could make with what I had on hand though.  I think it worked fine served either hot or cold as well.

2020-04-28T17:22:47-05:00April 28th, 2020|

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