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Hard Tack or (better know as Sea Biscuits by sea goers)
was used during long sea voyages and eaten along side of stews & soups like Bone Soup. To soften, Sea Biscuits were usually dunked in water, brine, coffee, broth (or some other liquid) ; floated on top of soup so it could soak up the liquid of the soup, or placed on top of food cooking in a skillet meal. "You know something similar to our modern day casseroles."
This cracker was nothing more than flour (usually wheat flour) salt and water. Hard Tack / Sea Biscuits is thicker than a cracker but it has holes in it like a cracker. The holes usually didn't go all the way through the biscuit but if it did, that was ok. They were baked so hard that they would last for months as long as it was kept dry which was the general idea of the Sea Biscuit. Pirates sailed the sea for months so Sea Biscuits became a food staple and they ate them with or without the weevils and maggots as well. "Yuk" They didn't let these little hard bites go to waist.
Wikipedia tells us that "Hard tack is a cracker/biscuit flat-bread also used during military campaigns before the introduction of canning as a primary food-source.
Hard Tack Recipe
2 cups of flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup water
6 pinches of salt
1 tablespoon of shortening (optional)
- Mix all the ingredients into a batter and press onto a cookie sheet to a thickness of ½ inch.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F (205°C) for one hour.
- Remove from oven, cut dough into 3-inch squares, and punch four rows of holes, four holes per row into the dough (a fork works nicely).
- Flip the crackers and return to the oven for another half hour.
"Baked hard, it would keep for years as long as it was kept dry. For long voyages, hardtack was baked four times, rather than the more common two, and prepared six months before sailing."
"In 1801, Josiah Bent began a baking operation in Milton, Massachusetts selling "water crackers" or biscuits made of flour and water that would not deteriorate during long sea voyages from the port of Boston, which was also used extensively as a source of food by the "gold diggers" emigration to the gold mines of California in 1849. Since the journey took months from the starting point, pilot bread was stored in the wagon trains, as it could be kept a long time. His company later sold the original hardtack crackers used by troops during the American Civil War. The G. H. Bent Company is still located in Milton, and continues to sell these items to Civil War re-enactors and others."
"During the American Civil War, 3-inch by 3-inch hardtack was shipped out from Union and Confederate storehouses. Some of this hardtack had been stored from the 1846–8 Mexican-American War. With insect infestation common in improperly stored provisions, soldiers would breakup the hardtack and drop it into their morning coffee. This would not only soften the hardtack but the insects, mostly weevil larvae, would float to the top and the soldiers could skim off the insects and resume consumption."
Fun Food Facts:
Pirates & Seamen would tap their biscuits on the table (remember these biscuits were hard) to knock most of the weevils out before eating. If the biscuit was going to be eaten in a broth, they would emerge the sea biscuit in the liquid and wait. "Wait? Wait for what?" They would wait for the maggots to float to the top of the liquid so they could remove them before eating. Some Pirates were so tough, seeing all these maggots and weevils didn't bother them at all. They would eat the food with or without the crawling and wiggling little critters.
Hard Tack is also know as:
sea biscuit, sea bread, hard bread, pilot bread, worm castles or ships biscuits.
Hard Tack Recipe 2
4 cups flour (preferably whole wheat)
4 teaspoons salt
Water (about 2 cups)
Pre-heat oven to 375° F
Makes about 10 pieces
Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add just enough water (less than two cups) so that the mixture will stick together, producing a dough that won’t stick to your hands. Mix the dough by hand then roll the dough out. Cut the dough into squares about 3 x 3 inches and 1/2 inch thick.
Note: if the dough is to thick it will not dry properly.
If dried well it will keep up to a year.
After cutting the squares, press a pattern of four rows of four holes into each square. You can do this by using a bamboo skewer. Do not punch through the dough. The appearance you want is similar to that of a modern saltine cracker. Turn each square over and do the same thing to the other side.
Place the squares on an ungreased cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn each piece over and bake for another 30 minutes. The crackers should be slightly brown on both sides.
Fresh crackers are easily broken but the more they dry the harder they get.
Some recipes say the salt should be added to the water.
Some recipes say the dough should be mixed as dry as possible.
Hard Tack Recipe 3
1 part water and 6 parts flour
pinch salt 6 times
Less traditional: add 1/2 tablespoon sugar
A Sailor's Diet
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned or quick oats
3 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
In a separate container, mix:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk.
3 tablespoons honey.
1/2 cup melted bacon drippings or shortening.
Combine the two sets of ingredients. When the dough is thoroughly mixed, roll it out on a floured board to a thickness of about a quarter inch. Cut out dough with any method you want. cookie cutter, knife, biscuit cutter, drinking glass dipped in flour etc. and put them on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 5 1/2 minutes at 450° F. Let the hardtack cool on a wire rack before serving.
Are you thinking about serving this dish at a party or a dinner?