Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Makeshift Cooking, German Army, WW2

Makeshift Cooking (behelfsmässiges Kochen), German Army, WW2

     Having recovered from a recent bout of influenza, and after a long period of acquiring and translating much research material, I'm finally ready to begin writing about German military cooking of World Wars 1 and 2. In this post we'll take a look at Wehrmacht makeshift cooking, and how to make goulash without the Gulaschkanone ("goulash cannon", German slang for a rolling field kitchen). I'll be posting more German Amy recipes in the near future.
     German Army publications recommended the pooling of resources and cooking fuel, as opposed to cooking individually. Mess kit cooking was recommended for groups of about 5 men. With makeshift cooking appliances, groups of 10 to 20 men could be accommodated.
     When using the mess kit, cover while cooking to protect against contamination by dust or soot from the cooking fire. If using the mess kit lid as a cover during cooking, do not place the lid tightly on the body of the mess kit as it can make removal difficult from a hot mess kit. If using the lid for other cooking (such as frying), cover the mess kit body with a temporary cover of wood or metal.
     Depending on the recipe, the volume of the mess kit is sufficient to prepare a dish for one or two men. For example, the meat or stew component of the meal for two men could be prepared in one mess kit, and the starch food (potatoes, pasta, rice, etc.) cooked in another. 
The Kochgeschirr 31 type mess kit. 
 In a field environment, measurement by volume becomes a necessity. The body of the mess kit had a capacity of 1.71 liters and the lid, 0.54 liters. The indentations on the side were marks for 1/2 liter measurements. Most wartime production models had no measurement marks. 
A full mess kit lid was calculated to hold the approximate weights of the following ingredients: legumes or groats=425 g; rice=500 g; sugar=425 g. 
      The capacity of the mess kit spoon was approximately one US tablespoon (1/2 fluid ounce, or approx.15 ml.). The mess spoon could hold: flour=15 g; liquid fat, milk, sugar=20 g; salt=25 g. 
Kochgerät 15 (Cooking Equipment 15)  for feeding units of  up to 15 men.
It consisted of 3 nesting pots of 9, 10½ and 12 liter capacity, plus lids,
 chains and hooks for suspending over a  fire, and other accessories. 

The spoons had a 20 ml capacity.
Using wooden sticks or iron rod, a makeshift apparatus
can be created  for cooking in several mess kits at one time.

(In case you were wondering what the notch at the top of the handle was for)
In this example, I have fashioned a spit from iron rods bent into shape.
It also allows one to pick up and carry several mess kits at one time.
  For mess kits, a trench may be dug in the ground or constructed above ground with stones or bricks to shield the cooking fire from wind. For larger cooking implements, two pieces of angle iron would be laid across a cooking pit to hold the pan, as shown below.

Fire pit dug into the earth    Fire pit built of stone
Pan for small quantities   Metal can as a makeshift pot
Roasting pan for large quantities
Goulash (with fresh meat), German Army, 1942
Beef or pork, or a combination of the two, were the normal meats utilized for German Army goulash. However, any foraged meat could be utilized (including mutton, veal, or wild game), although German Army manuals cautioned that any locally procured animals needed to be inspected by a veterinary officer prior to preparation. There was even a version using canned meat (see below). The amounts given in the recipes are scaled for one serving. These amounts may of course be adjusted as necessary.

US                              Metric             Ingredients
4½ oz                          125 g               beef, pork or a mix of half beef and half pork
1 oz                             30 g                 yellow onion
1/2 oz (1 tbsp)             15 g                 flour
1 fl oz (2 tbsp)             30 ml               fat (vegetable oil, lard, etc.)
to taste                        to taste             salt
to taste                        to taste             pepper
to taste                        to taste             paprika

1.      Wash meat and trim excess fat.
2.      Cut into 1” (2.5 cm) pieces.
3.      Season the meat with salt and pepper.
4.      Cut the onion into small pieces.
5.      Heat the fat in the mess kit lid.
6.      Add the meat to the hot fat and cook until the meat is browned. Add a little water now and then to prevent scorching.
7.      Meanwhile, in the mess kit body, heat the rest of the fat. Add the onions and cook until golden.
8.      Add the browned meat and juices from the cooking.
9.      Add enough water to cover the meat.
10.  Simmer until the meat is tender (1½-2 hours for pork, 2½-3 hours for beef*). Add additional water if necessary.
11.  Mix the flour with a little water to form a batter.
12.  When meat is nearly cooked, add the batter and stir.
13.  Cook until thickened.
14.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
15.  Accompany the goulash with boiled potatoes or boiled pasta.

 *German Army recommended cooking times. 

Goulash (with canned meat), German Army, 1942

US                              Metric             Ingredients
4½-6 oz                      125-175 g        canned meat
1 oz                             30 g                 yellow onion
1/2 oz (1 tbsp)             15 g                 flour
1/2 fl oz (1 tbsp)          15 ml               fat (vegetable oil, lard, etc.)
14 fl oz**                    425 ml**         water or broth
to taste                        to taste             salt
to taste                        to taste             pepper
to taste                        to taste             paprika

1.      Cut the onion into small pieces.
2.      Heat the fat in the mess kit body.
3.      Add the flour and onions and cook until light brown.
4.      Add the water or broth and stir well. Heat to a simmer, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened.
5.      Add the canned meat and cook only until the meat is heated.
6.       Season to taste with salt, pepper and paprika.
7.      Accompany the goulash with boiled potatoes or boiled pasta.

Der Feldverpflegungsbeamte, Dr. Hohne, Verlag Bernard & Graefem Berlin, 1939

Merkblatt 61/15, Kleines Feldkochbuch für behelfsmässiges Kochen, vom 20.7.42

Der Unteroffizier als Küchenbuchführer, Küchenunteroffizier und Offizierheimfeldwebel, Oberfeldzahlmeister Deickert, Berlin, 1941

H.Dv.86, Feldkochbuch, vo 16.8.1941, Berlin, 1941, English Translation by John Baum

For those wishing to engage in further research of Wehrmacht cookery, I highly recommend John Baum’s excellent English translations of the Feldkochbuch (Field Cookbook) and Feldkochbuch für warme Länder (Field Cookbook for Warm Countries), available for purchase at
There you will also find English translations of many German manuals on weapons, tactics and equipment.