Make hardtack?

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Don't bother making hardtack and here's why...

Hardtack: hard to eat and not so tasty.
If you visit some prepper sites, they're fascinated by hardtack
and suggest making it. Why are preppers so fascinated with
hardtack? Because it's what the soldiers packed and ate during
the civil war and what sailors kept in the galley.

Just because soldiers and seafaring men ate hardtack, doesn't
mean preppers should. For starters, hardtack is hard and it's not
very palatable. Moreover, hardtack could crack your teeth! Below
are nine reasons not to make hardtack!

Should You Make Hardtack for Hard Times?
Soldiers and seafaring men ate hardtack, but preppers don't
need to bother making hardtack and here's why...

What is hardtack?
Basically, hardtack was the first cracker. Hardtack is an
extremely hard biscuit, flat bread or cracker, made from three
ingredients: flour, water and sometimes salt. The closest thing
commercially available is
Pilot crackers, like the ones from
Mountain House pictured right.

Why did the ancients make hardtack?

  • Sourcing ingredients was cheap and easy. It required
    hardly any ingredients to make. If you had salt, water and
    flour, you had the makings of hardtack. If you were short
    on salt, you could reduce or eliminate. Essentially you
    needed only flour and water.

  • Hardtack was a ration. Hardtack had a much longer shelf-
    life than bread because it was dry and it was much thicker
    than a modern-day cracker to make it a hearty ration.
    That's exactly what it was: a ration. It was cut into
    squares to divvy it up equally among the men.

  • It was easy to carry. Hardtack was a highly portable food,
    just like bread, but not very palatable. Because hard tack
    was used for sustenance during long sea voyages, land
    migrations, and military campaigns ~ thickness was
    integral. Hardtack had to be thick to avoid crumbling.

  • It could be made ahead. Soldiers didn't need to bake
    bread along the route, which was very impractical during
    war times. The military could make large batches ahead to
    feed the troops who carried it themselves.

Should you make your own hardtack?

#1: You don't have to make hardtack yourself!
One of the main reasons not to make hardtack is that someone
has already done the work for you. You'll find Mountain House
makes hardtack in a #10 can and so does Saratoga Farms.
You'll also find EasyPrep Pilot bread, immediate right.

#2: Hardtack can't last 25-years.
Hardtack can last through the winter or for months at sea, not
for years or decades whereas
Pilot crackers in a #10 can from
Mountain House is scientifically guaranteed last 25-years and
has a 30-year taste guarantee.

#3: Hardtack is not very palatable.
When you think of it, really you're just eating flour that's been
baked. There's very little seasoning and it's very bland. There's
no egg, butter or vanilla and there's very little seasoning of
salt. Think of hard tack as a flour brick. If you think of hardtack
as a "jawbreaker" or "worm castle" you may not want to make

#4: Hardtack is weevil food.
Back in the day, cooks stored hardtack in galleys and military
kitchens ~ and it was a breeding ground for weevils and other
pests. A rat may have nibbled your hard tack and you may have
the added protein of some live critters who burrowed into the
baked dough. If you make homemade hardtack then be sure to
use a food saver to vacuum seal your homemade hardtack ~
otherwise you're asking for pests to get to it before you.

  • How did soldiers and sailors get rid of these pests?
    Before eating, common practice was to first knock out the
    weevils. Another method was to dunk the hardtack in
    coffee ~ the pests and bugs would float to the top and
    with fingers you could remove them before consuming the
    coffee-drenched hardtack. This softened the biscuit as it
    removed the unpalatable pests. If you were a lucky soldier,
    you'd get fresh hard tack with a soup or stew that you
    could dip into to help soften.

#5: Hard tack is tooth-cracking hard.
Another reason you dental pain is perhaps the most significant
reason not to make hardtack. It was by design! Hardtack was
made hard to sustain travel, last long and ration the food. It
was cut into squares.

#6: Try another ancient food.
There are other more interesting ancient foods you can make ~
such as
no yeast breads, pemmican or even pasta. These are
delicious ancient foods that are fun to make. (Pemmican is an
acquired taste, but more interesting than hardtack.)

#7: Storing Wheat Berries is better!
It's more practical to store wheat berries and have that for the
larder than it is to have hardtack. With wheat berries

You know that bucket of wheat berries in your prepper's pantry
reserved for making flour for your pizza and breads? Well, those
wheat berries are great for other meals, too, like soups, stews,
salads, stews and side dishes!

#8: You can watch someone else make Hardtack.
If you're still itching to make hardtack, first have a look at the
video below. It may suffice and appease your curiosity so you
won't have to make hardtack yourself:
Prepper secrets about Neosporin
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Above is the hardtack created from a recipe.

Happy endings...
Know how to make hardtack and experiment with it, but for your
food storage, just get pilot crackers. Hardtack is hard and may
crack your teeth! That's the last thing you'll need in an
emergency. Instead, get some pilot crackers. They will have a
much longer shelf life and aren't so hard as to crack your teeth.

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A Taste for War, The Culinary History of the Blue and the Gray
by William C. Davis observes the focal point of the day for a
soldier in war was mealtime. "Armies march on their stomachs"
as Napoleon famously said. If you're interested in the mundane
foods offered in the field, in prisons and in hospitals during the
Civil War, then this book is for you as a prepper. The obstacles
the soldiers faced included trying to catch a rat to sustain the
constant hunger or even resorting to stealing farm animals.

The biggest, single killer for these solider, according to William
C. Davis, was disease attributed to their food.

Another good book tracing the interactions between food and
strategy, is
The Taste of War by Lizzing Collingham, right. This
book establishes how control of food and its production is
crucial to total war. Limited access to food was a driving force
of Nazi Germany and contributed to the decision to murder
hundreds of thousands Jews, as well as handicapped individuals
and prisoners of war.

Different Kinds of Hard Tack
It has many names ~ pilot bread, pilot crackers, sea biscuits.
Easy to transport, filling and long-lasting, this hardtack could
be kept all winter in dry places without spoiling.

  • Hardtack. Technically, hardtack is a hard biscuit or bread
    made with only flour and water. Also sometimes called a
    sea biscuit, sea bread, or ship biscuit there are some

  • Sea Biscuit. Sea biscuit, the name also given to a popular
    horse, is most closely related to hardtack. It was the same
    hard cracker served on long sea voyages.

  • Ship Biscuit. A ship biscuit is similar to hardtack, but it's a
    very hard unsalted biscuit or bread. It was a ship's staple
    food. Technically, a biscuit is a small round bread leavened
    with baking-powder or soda.
A Taste of War by William C. Davis
The Taste of War by Lizzing
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