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Hardtack: The Survival Bread of History

Howdy, folks. This evening I thought we'd explore some basic survival foods recipes that can be made with your long term food storage. When we thought about practical, basic and historic recipes that have stood the test of time, we immediately thought of good ol' hardtack.

Hardtack, a simple and durable type of biscuit, has a storied history as a staple food for sailors, soldiers, and adventurers. Known for its long shelf life, hardtack has been a crucial part of survival kits in situations where fresh food was scarce.

The History of Hardtack

Hardtack’s origins date back to ancient times, with evidence of similar biscuits found in the diets of Roman soldiers. However, it became particularly famous during the Age of Sail and the American Civil War. Sailors and soldiers relied on hardtack because it could withstand long voyages and military campaigns without spoiling.

This simple bread earned various nicknames over the centuries, including "ship's biscuit," "pilot bread," and "sea biscuit." Its enduring nature comes from the lack of moisture and the simplicity of its ingredients: flour, water, and sometimes salt.

Why Hardtack?

The primary appeal of hardtack lies in its durability. Unlike other breads, it doesn’t require refrigeration or special storage, making it perfect for long journeys and emergency rations. While it may not win any culinary awards, its practicality is unrivaled.

Hardtack can be eaten as is, but due to its hardness, it’s often soaked in water, coffee, or soup to soften it before consumption. Despite its tough texture and bland taste, hardtack remains a fascinating example of historical food preservation.

Hardtack Recipe

Making hardtack at home is simple and requires just a few ingredients. Here's a basic recipe to try:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup water

  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)

  1. Preheat the Oven: Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).

  2. Mix the Ingredients: In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Gradually add water, mixing until a dough forms. The dough should be stiff but not crumbly.

  3. Roll Out the Dough: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness.

  4. Cut into Squares: Cut the dough into 3-inch squares. Use a fork to poke holes all over each square to allow even drying and prevent puffing during baking.

  5. Bake: Place the squares on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, then flip the squares and bake for another 30 minutes. The hardtack should be dry and hard.

  6. Cool and Store: Allow the hardtack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container to keep it dry. Properly stored, hardtack can last for years.

Hardtack is more than just a historical curiosity; it's a testament to human ingenuity in food preservation. Whether you're a history buff, a prepper, or just curious about trying foods from the past, hardtack is an easy and fascinating bread to make. Enjoy it as part of a historical meal or keep it in your emergency supplies. But whatever you do, stay calm and keep on preppin'.

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