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Category: Survival Food

How To Make HardTack – The Ultimate Survival Food

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Hardtack the History

Hardtack, or “hard tack” is a simple biscuit or cracker made from flour and water, and when salt was available to the makers it was added as well in years past. The recipe has been used for thousands of years. The Romans made hardtack as well as the Egyptians, and usually the flour and water cracker was issued to soldiers. 

The biscuit, or cracker if you prefer, was and still is, used today for sustenance in the absence of perishable foods. The name hardtack is derived, according to historians, from British sailor’s slang for food, which is “tack”, and of course, because it is very hard it is referred to as hardtack.

Hardtack as we know it today has been called pilot bread, ship’s biscuit, sea biscuit, cabin bread, and sea bread. Hardtack became a staple for soldiers fighting in the American Civil War (Colleary, 2013).

Union Troops were rationed nine to 10 biscuits a day and often times they were used as plates for other foods and then consumed as they marched. The biscuit was usually baked twice and this was done up to six months before being issued to troops to ensure it was dried out properly.

Because of blockades in place, flour was in short supply in the Southern States, but when available, flour and water was made into hardtack for the Southern troops as well.

The bread for sea voyages was baked up to four times to ensure it lasted the long trips across the seas, and once cured the cracker lasted for years if it was kept dry. In fact, it was so hard it usually had to be soaked in liquid before eating. Pickle brine, coffee, and even water were used to soften it enough to eat.

There are actual hardtack rations that were issued to troops on display in some Civil War museums that are over 150 years old and still stable by all accounts.

Making Hardtack

Hardtack is an ideal survival ration, just flour, water, and salt if available. The recipe can be tweaked of course, but you have to keep in mind that the reason the cracker can last for years is lack of moisture.

The moisture is literally baked out of the biscuit. Typically it is baked twice, and again, you can adapt this to suit the situation. You may not need the hardtack to last 150 years, so you can add honey or mix some additional grains or spices in with the flour, again keeping moisture levels in mind.

The entire premise was to create a food that did not spoil and, could be carried by anyone under any circumstance and eaten as is, even months or years after the ration was issued.

To make, all you do is add water, a little at a time to flour, (start with 2 cups flour) and add just enough water to create dough, of course if you do add too much water just add more flour. You are not making bread so you would not knead the mixture. It just needs to be pliable enough to press out and cut into squares or circles or frankly whatever shape you want. Use a floured rolling pin to roll out the dough, roll to about 1/4 inch thickness. Preheat your oven to 250° F.

Cut all pieces to the same size so they cook evenly. The biscuits once done are not typically browned like bread or buttermilk biscuits. They should look more like a Saltine Cracker, for example. 

Use a wooden rule as a guide for cutting by laying it across the dough as you cut into squares or use a biscuit cutter or a water glass to cut into a traditional biscuit shape. The typical ration size was a 3 inch x 3 inch square.

Once cut “dock” the pieces. Docking is putting holes in the squares to help them cook evenly and so they do not rise while baking. Use a fork, nail, chopsticks or any pointed object. A 3×3 ration square would have had 16 holes according to original recipes used during the Civil war.

Bake initially for four hours at 250° F. Turn the biscuit over after the first two hours for even baking, and once done cool on a rack. Because the biscuits are made from grain they can become infested with weevils so store in sealed pest proof containers.

Hardtack is still made today and it is the ideal survival food. It may lack taste, but it will keep you alive. The problem is that the biscuits will draw all the moisture from your mouth, so having an ample supply of water is important. You may very well have to soak the cracker in liquid or add pieces of it to stews or gravies to thicken or to add texture to other recipes.

They are very hard and difficult to chew. Break off a piece and let sit in your mouth until softened enough to chew and swallow, or dip/soak in coffee or water to soften.

Soldiers during the Civil War would fry salt pork and save the fat to fry hardtack in, which had been soaked in water.

Colleary, E. (2013). Retrieved 2015, from http://www.americantable.org/2013/06/civil-war-recipe-hardtack-1861/

How to Make Hardtack Recipe


Article and Picture cred: http://prepforshtf.com/how-to-make-hardtack-an-inexpensive-and-long-lasting-survival-food/

Store Your Food the Right Way

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The food most commonly used for long-term storage is whole wheat berries (Winter wheat) so I will use it as an example. Below is how I do it from start to finish:

I purchase organically grown whole wheat berries (Winter wheat) from a natural foods grocery store that sells in bulk. Whole Foods Market is a national chain that sells bulk foods but there are others including local sources. Rather than buying from the bulk department of the store, I place my order with the store manager and receive my wheat berries in 50 lb bags. They give me a discount of about 10% when I order by the bag. I also purchase other grains and beans for long-term storage in this manner.

I use the same technique to store other items that I buy in bulk, including pinto beans, corn, oats, etc. Most other items will not have the 100 year or longer shelf-life that the wheat berries have. If you start with whole foods that have a very low moisture content, most foods will have at least a 10 year shelf-life when stored in this way. Obviously you should label each bucket with its contents and the date it was sealed. It would also be a good idea to put a “Use by” date on the bucket, in case you forget what the shelf-life is or in case it is opened by someone else.
I order my mylar bags online and they come in many different sizes but I have found that the 20 in x 30 in size is perfect for 5 or 6 gallon food grade buckets. I place the mylar bag in the plastic bucket and fill it with the wheat berries. Then I throw in one 2000 cc oxygen absorbing pack, or two or three of the smaller sized packs, squeeze the excess air out of the bag (or suck it out using a plastic hose) and then seal it with a hot iron. You have to work quickly to avoid overly exposing your oxygen absorbing packs to air, which will decrease their effectiveness. Next I trim off any excess from the top of the mylar bag (optional) and firmly seal the lid on the bucket using a rubber mallet. The wheat berries are now ready for long-term storage in my basement.

Sealing mylar bags

Here’s a hint for helping you seal the mylar bags with a hot iron: Take a 30 inch (or 80 cm) 2×4 board and wrap an old towel around it a few times to make an “ironing board.” You can staple or nail the towel on the underside of the board to keep it in place. When you are ready to seal your mylar bag lay this ironing board across the top of the bucket and lay the mylar bag over it to make your job easier (as demonstrated in the photograph above and in the video.) Make sure your seal is complete, and then trim off any excess from the top of the mylar bag. You will have to experiment a little with your iron to determine the ideal temperature. Trim off a small strip from the top of one of your mylar bags and try sealing it with your iron to determine the best setting.

The list below gives the approximate shelf-life for some common bulk items when stored in this manner. These numbers are conservative. It is quite possible that the foods will keep longer. However, all foods lose some of their nutritional value when stored over an extended period of time. The longer they are stored the more nutrition is lost. You should therefore try to rotate these foods out, replacing them with new stock, according to the shelf lifes suggested below. If you open a container and find that the food is moldy, it will most likely be because it contained too much moisture when you sealed it, or else it was exposed to air due to a faulty seal. Throw it in your compost.

If you are wheat intolerant then obviously you will want to store other grains. But keep in mind that most other grains will not have the shelf-life of wheat and so you will need to rotate your stock.

Hard Grains (wheat, corn, kamut millet, dry flax spelt, triticale) 15-20 years
Soft Grains (rolled oats, oat groats, rye, barley, quinoa) 8 years
Rice: White rice will store for 8 – 10 years. Brown rice will only keep for 1-2 years
Beans (soy, adzuki, blackeye, barbanzo, kidney, great northern, lentils, lima, mung, pinto, etc.) 8-10 years
Dehydrated vegetables (broccoli, carrots, celery, cabbage, onions, peppers, potatoes, etc.) 8 – 10 years
Dehydrated fruit 10-15 years
Dried dairy (powdered eggs, powdered milk, whey powder, cheese powder, cocoa powder, powdered butter or margarine) 5-10 years
Flours and ground products (All Purpose Flour, unbleached flour, whole wheat flour, white flour, cornmeal, cracked wheat, gluten, wheat flakes, mixes, etc.) 5 years
Pasta (Macaroni noodles, spaghetti, etc.) 10-15 years
Pure honey, salt, sugar, and sorghum molasses can be kept indefinitely as long as they are kept free from moisture. (Make sure that your honey does not contain additives. Sometimes water or sugar are added to honey. Pure honey will crystallize when stored for a long time. Impure honey will not.)
Garden seeds or sprouting seeds will remain viable for 2-3 years (The exception is alfalfa, which will keep for at least 8 years.)

Article Credit: http://www.thenewsurvivalist.com/long_term_storage_of_special_survival_foods.html

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