Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Praxis: What do you do when your freeze-dried runs out? Hardtack and other recipes.

Hardtack (or hard tack) is a simple type of cracker or biscuit, made from flour, water, and sometimes salt. Inexpensive and long-lasting, it was and is used for sustenance in the absence of perishable foods, commonly during long sea voyages and military campaigns. The name derives from the British sailor slang for food, "tack". It is known by other names such as pilot bread (as rations for ship's pilots), ship's biscuit, shipbiscuit, sea biscuit, sea bread (as rations for sailors) or pejoratively "dog biscuits," "tooth dullers," "sheet iron," "worm castles" or "molar breakers". Australian military personnel know them as ANZAC wafers.

The introduction of the baking of processed cereals including the creation of flour provided a more reliable source of food. Egyptian sailors carried a flat brittle loaf of millet bread called dhourra cake, while the Romans had a biscuit called buccellum. King Richard I of England, (aka Richard the Lionheart) left for the Third Crusade (1189-92) with "biskit of muslin," which was a mixed grain compound of barley, rye and bean flour.

Many early physicians believed that most medicinal problems were associated with digestion. Hence, for both sustenance and avoidance of illness, a daily consumption of a biscuit was considered good for one's health. The bakers of the time made biscuits as hard as possible, as the biscuits would soften as time went on. Because it is so hard and dry, hardtack (when properly stored and transported) will survive rough handling and endure extremes of temperature. The more refined Captain's biscuit was made with finer flour.

To soften it, it was often dunked in brine, coffee, or some other liquid or cooked into a skillet meal. Baked hard, it would stay intact for years as long as it was kept dry. For long voyages, hardtack was baked four times, rather than the more common two, and prepared six months before sailing.-- Wikipedia.

What do you do when your freeze-dried runs out? Well, assuming you have already downloaded and printed out this handy 31-page guide entitled A Long-Term Survival Guide: How To Make Basic Survival Foods, you can eat hardtack, damper, parched corn, cornmeal mush, jerky, pemmican, fruit leather, wild yeast, squirrel, possum, raccoon and acorns.

Here are a number of other hardtack recipes.


Anonymous said...

MRE crackers look just like the old hardtack, and the only apparent difference with the crackers in C-rats was they were round. It wasn't broke, so they didn't fix it....probably the only case of the Army following that adage!


Nebraska Sentinel said...

Thank you for this information.

(I hope my previous five month's mail made it to you.)

Anonymous said...

"Well, you can live on it, but it taste like shit." -- Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee

Anonymous said...

I don't care for freeze dried or MREs, either the taste or the cost. I'm going with rice, beans and the like. You ever look at Indian both dot and feather, Mexican, Asian and some European recipes, you'll find a ton of cheap, simple and tasty dishes that can be made with inexpensive staples.

Like this Scotch Broth recipe that claims a year's supply of food for $300.

Another useful website:

Anonymous said...

I have made Hard Tack which was not bad. Made good dog biscuits as well. But recently I have been plaing around with a product called
GOYA snack crackers. Sold in ethinic foods (Mexican foods) inexpensive, each cracker is size of silver dollar, large ones are softer. 11 Crackers are 130 Calories. Wal Mart has them at fair price. Would be intersting comparing them to Hard Tack. Any foodies on board for experimenting.

Allen Kane said...

This seems like a lot of work to get some carbohydrate that will last a long time. Why not just buy Matzah? It lasts damn near forever and, imho, it tastes good. Plus, it is readily available.