The beginnings of hardtack go all the way back to the 1100’s. It was and is still is known by a variety of names, such as- pilot bread, sea bread, ship biscuit or cabin bread. Sailors used the bread because it would stay good during long sea voyages. Civil war soldiers carried hardtack with them as part of their food ration. Today, it is a standard staple for those who live in Alaska. In the mainland, it is rare to find it in grocery stores. You can order it online here.
Aside from the very long shelf life, hardtack can be used in a variety of ways. Coffee was often used in the past to soak the hardtack in. It can also be crumbled into bacon or sausage grease and fried. Learn more about hardtack and the benefits of adding them to your pantry. Watch this informative video! Below is the basic recipe for hardtack, along with some alternatives to hardtack.
The basic recipe is-
- 1 cup of water
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 3 cups of white flour (do not use self-rising)
What you will need-
- 1 Cookie sheet
- Mixing bowl
- Rolling pin
- A skewer or clean nail
Preheat oven to 375°. Mix flour and salt in a bowl together. Slowly mix in the water until you can form the dough into a ball that doesn’t stick on your hands. You may or may not use all of the water. Roll out the dough into the shape of a square, no more than ½ inch thick. Cut the square of dough into 9 pieces. With a skewer or nail, make a grid of 4×4 holes in each square. Bake for 30 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flip the squares over and bake for another 30 minutes. Each square is approximately 167 calories. The hardtack squares should be a bit brown on each side when they are finished. Ovens vary, so keep a close eye on them until you know how they bake in your oven. It may be necessary for you to adjust the baking time. When the hardtack has cooled off, they will be hard.
The hardtack will last for many years. It is recommended that it be stored in a Ziploc type bag to protect it from moisture. Hardtack contains enough carbohydrates to provide energy and can provide food in an emergency. Hardtack can be dipped in a warm drink or soaked in a bowl of soup. It can also be crushed into small pieces and mixed with other foods you may prepare.
If you’re planning on storing it for months, or longer, I recommend using a food vacuum storing system, and the one I use is a Food Saver, like this one. I’ve found that it’s versatile enough to vacuum seal canning jars and different size plastic bags. (If you haven’t heard of vacuum sealing canning jars, this video demonstrates the simple technique.)
If you prefer your hardtack not so hard, you can try the recipe below. Just remember, that this recipe will not provide the same shelf life of regular hardtack.
- 2 cup of water
- 4 teaspoons of salt
- 4 cups of white flour (do not use self-rising)
- 2 tablespoons of shortening, cold butter or margarine
Preheat oven to 375°. Mix flour and salt in a bowl together. Crumble shortening (or other fat) into bowl, add water. Slowly mix until you can form the dough into a ball that doesn’t stick on your hands. Press or roll out the dough into the shape of a square, no more than ½ inch thick. Cut 3×3 inch squares. With a skewer or nail, make a grid of 4×4 holes in each square. Bake for 30 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Remove and allow time for cooling. This can be stored in a Ziploc bag, preferably in the fridge.
Chose one of the above recipes for your ingredients.
- Mix water, salt and melted fat into a bowl.
- Add flour slowly until you are able to form dough, without it sticking to your hands.
Take the desired amount of dough, roll and flatten in your hand. Fry the flattened dough at a low temperature in olive oil, preferably. You may need to increase the temperature, depending on your stove. Flip until golden brown and place on a paper towel lined plate. You can sprinkle it with powdered sugar or drizzle with honey if desired. Store in a Ziploc bag or airtight container.
TIPS: You can soak hardtack overnight in water and use for waffles the next morning. Fry them in a pan with a little bit of butter.
Sugar and/or cinnamon can be added to hardtack dough to give it a tasty sweetness. This will decrease it’s longevity.
To give broth a more soup consistency, hardtack can be shaved or crushed and added to broth. If you know how to make soup from scratch and without a recipe as described in this article, then you’re well on your way to having the skills to make well-rounded meals under duress.
If you have tooth problems, fragile teeth, crowns or braces, don’t eat hardtack.
Spend some time this summer and experiment with some hardtack recipes. The recipe is easy enough to include kids in the making process. Poking dough is usually what they enjoy the most! Have fun with it. Involve your family and find different ways to incorporate hardtack in your storage and also in some of your meals.