Used by soldiers of the American civil war, sailors in the British Royal navy, pioneers, all the way back to the Roman Legions and ancient Egyptians, hardtack has been a staple for survival for hundreds of years. The reason: when kept under the right conditions, it can last indefinitely. Made with only flour, salt, and water, the key to making these biscuits last is removing every single drop of moisture through baking until a rock-hard, toasty brown cake is formed. When it comes to eating hardtack, you can try gnawing on it without any preparation (although it may take you all day to get through a biscuit), but historically they were boiled in coffee or milk, or crushed into pieces with the butt of a rifle and then sprinkled into a cup of coffee. My personal favorite is soaking it for 15 minutes to an hour in milk and then frying it in bacon fat. That is what I call a tasty breakfast!
Making hardtack is a fairly simple process. I’d say the most important part is your selection of flour, as that will determine how nutritious your biscuits are. You can use flour you ground yourself from whole wheat, or you can buy white flour from the store with extra vitamins added in. In either case, going organic is a good idea (I don’t know about you but I’d rather not be consuming trace amounts of pesticides if I have a choice).
Without further ado, here is the recipe:
5-6 cups of flour
1-2 cups of water
3 tsp. of salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
2. Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
3. Gradually add the water, mixing with clean hands or a wooden spoon until dough is formed. The dough should be thick, but not sticky.
4. Lay the dough out on a floured surface and roll to be about 1/2 – 3/4 in thick. If the dough is too sticky, knead in more flour.
5. Using a butter knife, cut the dough into 3×3 in squares.
6. With a bamboo skewer, or similarly shaped object, poke a grid of about twelve holes all the way through each biscuit. This is called “docking” and helps with even cooking and prevents the dough from rising in the oven.
7. Put the squares on an un-greased baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes on one side. Then flip the biscuits over and bake for another 30 minutes. The hardtack should be light, golden brown on both sides.
8. Remove the hardtack from the oven and allow to dry for at least one day.
After your hardtack is prepared, store it in an air-tight container in a dry environment. This could be food storage bins for your pantry, or small mylar pouches for your bug-out bag. Make sure that it is well protected from any pests that might want to infest your biscuits (civil war soldiers often had to skim worms and weevil eggs off the surface of their coffee when soaking their hardtack – yuck!). Each 3X3 in square will have about 75 calories, and is packed full of energy. Enjoy, and try not to break your teeth!