Introduction: Hard Tack

Picture of Hard Tack

Going on a long sea voyage anytime soon? Needing a little more realism in your monthly civil war reenactments? Want to show your students how life was hard?

Then whip up a batch of hard tack. From Wikipedia:

Hardtack (or hard tack) is a simple type of cracker or biscuit, made from flour, water, and sometimes salt. Inexpensive and long-lasting, it was and is used for sustenance in the absence of perishable foods, commonly during long sea voyages and military campaigns.[1] The name derives from the British sailor slang for food, "tack". It is known by other names such as pilot bread (as rations for ship's pilots[2]), ship's biscuit, shipbiscuit, sea biscuit, sea bread (as rations for sailors) or pejoratively "dog biscuits," "tooth dullers," "sheet iron," "worm castles" or "molar breakers".[3] Australian military personnel know them as ANZAC wafers.

Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients

You don't need much to make some hard tack

2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. Water
1 tsp salt
1 nail (clean of course!)

Step 2: Mix Ingredients

Picture of Mix Ingredients

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees

Then mix the flour, water and salt until you get a nice ball of dough that doesn't stick too much to your hands. It should be kinda like pie crust.

Step 3: Cut Crackers

Picture of Cut Crackers

Once you have the dough, flatten it out and cut into 3" x 3" squares. Then poke holes into the squares and lay out onto a cookie sheet. 

Step 4: Bake

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Next you want to bake the crackers, about 30 minutes each side, just watch them so they don't burn.

Once brown, let them cool.

Step 5: Serve (and Break Your Teeth...)

Picture of Serve (and Break Your Teeth...)

Once they are baked, they are ready to serve. Note, these are VERY hard, please soak them in liquid a bit before trying to eat one.

These will last a very long time as long as they are kept dry, perfect for getting lost at sea!


Zero Drift made it! (author)2016-10-10

After I boffed the first attempt i got a batch in that turned out great. I added 1/2 tsp ofalmond extract for a bit of flavour. Not sure how the extract will affect the shelf life tho. Also made a jig with some toothpicks and an elastic to speed up making holes.

jacepouncey (author)2011-05-23

if you want authentic hardtack, then add sawdust and iron filings. im not kidding, they really added that to it back in the day

Javin007 (author)jacepouncey2011-11-16

I've never read that iron filings were ACTUALLY added (particularly since there's a very high likelihood that they would become embedded in your stomach/intestine, you'd become septic, and this would kill you). However, that was a running joke among both sailors, and soldiers. Because of how hard and flavorless the biscuits were, the joke went along the lines of:

"Hey, Cookie, settle a bet for me. Joe says you use two cups of sawdust, and two cups of iron filings for the hardtack. I say you use three."

This said, sawdust has often been added to foods to "bulk" them up when times were hard.  While I've not actually read of provable accounts of civil war soldiers (my parents were big into reenacting, so I got an education whether I wanted it or not) having hardtack with sawdust added, many letters home would complain about the hardtack *saying* it had been cut with sawdust.  This could have been them just complaining about the flavor, or it could have easily been literal (particularly on the confederate side).  Indeed, the Confederate Johnnycake would start looking more and more like hardtack as the war waged on, with less fat, less cornmeal, and more wheat flour added as time went on.  I'd be more surprised to find out that sawdust never WAS used for hardtack.

During the great depression, there were even "sawdust soups" that were made when things got really bad.  

Considering the corners that ship's owners (not to be confused with the captains) would cut when sending a ship out, I wouldn't be even a little bit surprised to find that they purchased sawdust "bulked" hardtack to supply the ships with, as if the hardtack itself wasn't cheap enough.  Indeed, it was known for *years* that a little lemon juice would keep the men from getting scurvy, but due to the cheapness of the ship's owners, it would be quite a while before they started adding it to the rum rations to prevent it. 

Man, I have way too much time on my hands...

Didymus_James (author)Javin0072012-08-14

By the by, would you happen to know the shelf life of said hardtack? The 'able says "long" but how long is that? years? decades?

I read on Wiki that there is a piece of hardtack in a museum over 150 years old and still apparently edible. Yuck but at least we know it can last forever.

PatriotVal (author)Didymus_James2015-10-29

The last of the Union "War of Norther Aggression" Hardtack stores, were used-up during the Spanish-American War... That should give you some idea! Of course- PROPERLY made hardtack, should last almost forever, if kept a cool, dry, insect/vermin free environment (Mason jars).

jackq7a (author)Javin0072012-02-07

I have no doubt that they added sawdust to original hard tack. It's added to foods these days and called cellulose.

Javin007 (author)jackq7a2012-02-08

*heh heh* Don't even get me STARTED on all the crap that's added to foods now days. I think 100 years from now we will be looking back saying, "What the F*@$! were they THINKING?"

PatriotVal (author)Javin0072015-10-29

Naww- they will be too stoopid by then- dumbed-down by a hundred years of GMO & heavily-processed, nutrient-poor food! (Fight TPTB, grow your own organic, dehydrate/can it yourself. Your Family will thank you (make harvesting/storing a "family project!).

aseaheru (author)Javin0072012-04-30

and then theres the royal navy verson....
and you do see alot about sawdust bread in autobiographys

hi111 (author)jacepouncey2012-04-06

Cool but diskusting...

emoryanissa (author)2014-10-01

Can I use all purpose flour

harter112 (author)2014-07-21

broke all my teeth. 10/10

steampunkpotato (author)2014-05-28

what measurements would I use to make one or two crackers? I want to make some just not a lot.

Fishyfish123 (author)2014-05-20

I am making them for class cause we are studying the civil war, and I am into the navy part. Only thing is I used gluten free flour cause someone has allergy. They look great!

dim20 (author)2012-12-23

is hardtack,hard? i mean is it like a cracker or something that would break your teeth.
please awenser xD

joyonna (author)dim202014-05-02

yes it says it's hard...

Computothought (author)2011-05-12

You can make biscuits in 10 -12 minutes, I would have to think about that to have something in the oven for an hour..

First of all, the temperature you bake hardtack at is pretty low. Secondly, the idea is that you want to remove ALL of the moisture from the hardtack before storage. That is why a lot of time is needed.

Do you use some other temperature than 375?

jacepouncey (author)2011-05-23

lol can you add chocolate chips?

devianttouch (author)jacepouncey2013-12-24

Try this first: put an unopened bag of chocolate chips in the same place you expect to store your hardtack for a year. That will most likely give you an answer.

The Locksmith (author)2011-05-17

Would adding a small amount of sugar compromise the shelf life?

Yes, but it depends largely on your storage process. Using vacuum seal bags and storing at room temperature or cooler (for example) is going to get you a longer lasting product than something bagged in a ziploc bag and stored in the trunk of a car in summer for example.

genaio (author)The Locksmith2011-06-05

No but it might attract bugs.

KR Unlimited (author)2013-06-22

I have some in the oven they look good!!

Misac-kun (author)2013-02-06

I made some at home and man, this things is as hard as wood.

mcaliber.50 (author)2011-01-23

they used to soak these in rum mixed with fruit, and they would ea tthat. also helped prevent scyrvy, becuse they used orandges, limes, lemons, ect

aseaheru (author)mcaliber.502011-02-07


mcaliber.50 (author)aseaheru2011-02-08

my computer doesn't have an auto spellcheck feature

aseaheru (author)mcaliber.502011-02-18

neather douse mine [ is mad about inabilaty of self to spell dose]

KittyF (author)aseaheru2011-03-10

you're trying for "does". I made that mistake once and my fingers are dyslexic so i do it often when I'm typing to fast. LOL

aseaheru (author)KittyF2011-03-12

Thanks. i have a verry od thing that one finger goes before the other now...................

KittyF (author)aseaheru2011-03-12

LOL yeah, me too. I call it dyslexic fingers. my head knows what I want, but my fingers do their own thing. I do have spell check, but that doesn't help when they've managed to actually SPELL a WORD. just not the one I wanted.

aseaheru (author)KittyF2011-03-17

exactly. maby its our subconchinse talking......... I NEED A SPELLCHECK BUILT INTO MY BRAIN!

zac_9687 (author)aseaheru2011-11-16

anyone else think its kind of odd that there is a HUGE discussion about spellcheck and spelling errors in an instructable about hardtack? i just thought that was kinda funny lol. carry on

aseaheru (author)zac_96872012-04-30

its excedingly funny because i think that this is the longest chain of comments ive seen.

h8864 (author)aseaheru2012-06-10

and now its longer


aseaheru (author)h88642012-06-13

please do.

KittyF (author)aseaheru2012-06-13

LOL now we're getting silly

h8864 (author)KittyF2012-06-25

no were not

aseaheru (author)h88642012-08-03

whaqts silly?

KittyF (author)aseaheru2012-08-04

trying to extend this thread with inane comments and questions, of course. LOL

aseaheru (author)KittyF2012-08-16

no its not.

aseaheru (author)aseaheru2012-08-16

its really quite nice

h8864 (author)zac_96872012-06-25

itsw weird but it happens

The text box for adding comments of instructables has a built in spellcheck.

it doesn't work on mine. then again, a lot of stuff is screwed up on my account, so it wouldn't surprise me it it's just another thing.

frenzy (author)mcaliber.502011-02-14

Try using firefox.

Civicalized (author)frenzy2011-05-10

I just typed the same thing, then saw you beat me to it. Nice instructable BTW. I'm going to try this.

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