Hard Tack




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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.

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Step 1: 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

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

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

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...)

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!

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134 Discussions


8 years ago on Step 5

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

9 replies

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

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...


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

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.


Reply 4 years ago

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).


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

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


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

*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?"


Reply 4 years ago

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!).


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

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


5 years ago

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


5 years ago

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!

14, 6:32 PM.jpg

6 years ago on Introduction

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

1 reply

Reply 5 years ago

yes it says it's hard...

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.