Hardtack is a hard biscuit made of flour, water and salt. It is a long-lasting food that’s perfect for long-term emergencies. In fact, the oldest surviving hardtack was baked in 1851 and remains edible to this day. A Civil War staple, hardtack is a survival food that deserves a spot in any prepper’s food stockpile.
There are several recipes for making hardtack, but when it comes to the basics, all you need are the following:
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup water
- Oven tray
- Rolling pin
- Baking pan
- A small stick such as a bamboo skewer or match
Follow the steps below to make hardtack:
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- Dissolve 2 teaspoons of salt into 1/2 cup of water.
- In a bowl, mix the saline water and flour using a fork and then with your hands. Add a tiny bit of water if needed. Be sure not to add too much water so that the dough has barely enough moisture to hold itself together. Add more flour if the dough sticks too much to your hands.
- Fold and knead the dough until it has the consistency of modeling clay. The dough should be a little on the dry side.
- Spread the dough out on a floured surface using a rolling pin until it is just a little less than 1/2 inch thick.
- Cut squares roughly 3 inches wide and 3 inches long. Arrange these squares on an ungreased baking pan.
- Poke 16 evenly spaced holes into each cracker using a stick. Make sure you have roughly 1/8-inch holes that go all the way through to the other side of the squares. Each square should have four rows of holes across and four rows down. The holes are important as they help the dough cook and dry evenly without rising.
- Bake for 2 hours at 250 degrees.
- Turn over all of the squares and cook for another 2 hours.
- Once done cooking, allow the hardtack to cool in the oven.
- Turn the oven on again 250 degrees and leave the squares cooking for an hour. Open the oven door slightly.
If you’re making a lot of hardtack at once, rotate your trays on the upper and lower racks so the biscuits cook evenly. Add another 30 to 40 minutes to the cooking time to compensate for the temperature changes caused by opening the oven door. (Related: Prepper food: Two breads you can stockpile and make in your own home.)
Culinary tips for a more appetizing hardtack
Bland and hard, hardtack can be unexciting for a meal. Fortunately, there are many ways to make this biscuit more appetizing. Take a look at the following:
- Dip hardtack in a liquid before eating. Hardtack is very hard, so do not break dry hardtack with your teeth. Soak hardtack in coffee, tea, milk, soup or stew to soften the biscuit and enhance its taste.
- Roll pieces of hardtack inside the mouth. If liquids are unavailable, you can process pieces of it in your mouth like a piece of gum. Be sure it has softened enough before chewing.
- Add crumbled hardtack to soups. Hardtack crumbs can thicken soup and enhance the nutritional value and taste of your meal.
- Use softened hardtack to make another food. Softened hardtack can be used to make pudding, cooked in meat juices or fried in fat until brown. It can also be toasted over a campfire.
Be sure to store hardtack in pest-proof, odor-free containers. Though the biscuit is durable, it can get infested with worms and weevils and its flavor can get sullied by its surroundings.
Hardtack ranks as one of the most essential emergency foods thanks to its long shelf life. With just flour, water and salt, you can cook up this survival food that can last for a long time.