A while back I mentioned hardtack in the article Foods That Last Forever and several people have asked what it is and how to make it. Basically, hardtack is a hard cracker made from flour, salt, and water. The great thing about hardtack is that as long as you keep it dry, it will last for years.
Because it’s inexpensive to make and lasts so long, it was once taken on long sea voyages and was called things like pilot bread, ship biscuit, sea biscuit, or sea bread. It was also carried by soldiers on long military campaigns and was referred to as tooth dullers, molar breakers, or sheet iron. I know that sounds bad, but it’s easier to eat when soaked in coffee, crumbled into soup, or fried with other foods.
Some hardtack recipes include sugar, milk or butter, but that will significantly shorten the shelf life, so I recommend making it the traditional way. Here’s what you need:
- 3 cups of white flour
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 cup of water
- A cookie sheet
- A mixing bowl
- A knife
- A common nail
Here’s how to make hardtack:
1. Preheat your oven to 375°.
2. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.
3. Gradually mix in the water until you form a dough that doesn’t stick to your hands.
4. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough into a square. Make sure it’s no more than half an inch thick.
5. Cut the dough into 9 squares.
6. Using the nail, make a 4×4 grid of holes in each piece.
7. Put the pieces on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
8. Turn the squares over and bake for another 30 minutes.
9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. They should look something like this.
Ideally, the hardtack should be just a little brown on each side. Adjust the baking time if necessary. Once it’s cool, it should almost be hard as rock. Each piece is about 150 calories.
Like I said, the great thing about hardtack is it lasts for years without any special storage techniques. I would put it in Ziploc bags and add it to your food cache, bug out bags, and vehicle survival kits. It makes a great source of energy in emergency situations. And if you don’t like how hard it is, smash it up and mix with with other foods such as soup.