Pilot bread, ship’s biscuit, shipbiscuit, sea biscuit, sea bread , “dog biscuits”, “tooth dullers”, “sheet iron”, “worm castles” or “molar breakers”.
Hardtack has had many different names throughout the years but its importance has never changed.
Hardtack has actually been around since the time of Egyptian Pharaohs, but if you have heard of it, you probably know it better from the Civil War period.
During the war, squares of hardtack were shipped to both the Union and Confederate armies, making a staple part of a soldier’s rations.
Typically made 6 months beforehand, it was as hard as a rock when it actually got to the troops.
To soften it, they usually soaked it in water or coffee. Not only would this soften it enough for eating, but any insect larvae in the bread would float to the top, allowing the soldiers to skim them out.
Soldiers and sailors the world over have used hardtack as a way to stave off hunger. It was one of the main sources of food used when Christopher Columbus set sail and eventually landed in America.
It is such a basic item that I am amazed that no one I know under the age of 50 understands its importance, let alone how to make it.
Hardtack is simple, it has three basic ingredients and takes roughly a 1/2 hour of cook time to prepare.
This is one of the most cost effective long term survival foods that you can make.
It just isn’t very carb friendly…
Check out the recipe below:
You can make hardtack almost identical to what sailors, troops, and pioneers have been eating (minus the weevils!) by following this simple recipe:
4-5 cups of flour
2 cups of water
3 tsp. of salt
Mix the flour, water and salt together, and make sure the mixture is fairly dry.
Then roll it out to about 1/2 inch thickness, and shape it into a rectangle. Cut it into 3×3 inch squares, and poke holes in both sides. Place on an un-greased cookie or baking sheet, and cook for 30 minutes per side at 375˚
As far as cooking goes, your done!
the next step is just to walk away.
You’ll want to let it dry and harden for a few days.
When it has roughly the consistency of a brick, it’s fully cured. Then simply store it in an airtight container or bucket.
To prepare for eating, soak it in water or milk for about 15 minutes, and then fry in a buttered skillet. You can eat it with cheese, soup or just plain with a dash of salt.
This basic hardtack should keep for years as long as it is kept in an airtight container.
If it ever gets soft I would recommend tossing it and making a new batch.
Do you have any suggestions for hardtack or recipes for other lost or forgotten survival foods?
Leave them in the comments below.