View Full Version : Anyone Ever Eaten Hardtack?

01-17-2013, 10:53 AM
Got this in my email today from survivallife.com. Anyone ever eaten any or made it? What do you guys think about making some and storing it for long term storage?

Pilot bread, ship’s biscuit, shipbiscuit, sea biscuit, sea bread , “dog biscuits”, “tooth dullers”, “sheet iron”, “worm castles” or “molar breakers”.

Hardtack has had many different names throughout the years but its importance has never changed.

Hardtack has actually been around since the time of Egyptian Pharaohs, but if you have heard of it, you probably know it better from the Civil War period.

During the war, squares of hardtack were shipped to both the Union and Confederate armies, making a staple part of a soldier’s rations.

Typically made 6 months beforehand, it was as hard as a rock when it actually got to the troops.

To soften it, they usually soaked it in water or coffee. Not only would this soften it enough for eating, but any insect larvae in the bread would float to the top, allowing the soldiers to skim them out.

Soldiers and sailors the world over have used hardtack as a way to stave off hunger. It was one of the main sources of food used when Christopher Columbus set sail and eventually landed in America.

It is such a basic item that I am amazed that no one I know under the age of 50 understands its importance, let alone how to make it.

Hardtack is simple, it has three basic ingredients and takes roughly a 1/2 hour of cook time to prepare.

This is one of the most cost effective long term survival foods that you can make.

It just isn’t very carb friendly…

Check out the recipe below:

You can make hardtack almost identical to what sailors, troops, and pioneers have been eating (minus the weevils!) by following this simple recipe:

4-5 cups of flour

2 cups of water

3 tsp. of salt

Mix the flour, water and salt together, and make sure the mixture is fairly dry.

Then roll it out to about 1/2 inch thickness, and shape it into a rectangle. Cut it into 3×3 inch squares, and poke holes in both sides. Place on an un-greased cookie or baking sheet, and cook for 30 minutes per side at 375˚

As far as cooking goes, your done!

the next step is just to walk away.

You’ll want to let it dry and harden for a few days.

When it has roughly the consistency of a brick, it’s fully cured. Then simply store it in an airtight container or bucket.

To prepare for eating, soak it in water or milk for about 15 minutes, and then fry in a buttered skillet. You can eat it with cheese, soup or just plain with a dash of salt.

This basic hardtack should keep for years as long as it is kept in an airtight container.

If it ever gets soft I would recommend tossing it and making a new batch.

01-17-2013, 11:32 AM
Flour and salt... Sounds pretty blah. Off to Google to see if there is a better hardtack. ;)

01-17-2013, 11:47 AM
I always thought of hardtack as that ancient candy glass my grandmother kept on the coffee table.

01-17-2013, 11:47 AM
Yes, tastes like crap.

01-17-2013, 11:49 AM
I had the chance to eat some when I visited Colonial Williamsburg years ago. It was incredibly bland and hard. We then tried it after soaking in soup for awhile. After that it only was bland!

That being said, it is supposed to last for years.

01-17-2013, 11:49 AM

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01-17-2013, 11:50 AM
They have an actual civil war era square of hard tack at the Gettysburg museum. What's that tell you?

01-17-2013, 11:56 AM
Of course I've had hardtack. I don't associate with many people who haven't.

01-17-2013, 11:58 AM
What is the expiration on a saltine crackers?

01-17-2013, 12:32 PM
Funny post. Interestingly, when I was in elementary school and learning about these time periods, the idea of hardtack and salt pork always sounded good. Whatever, I was a weird kid.

01-17-2013, 12:53 PM
I do Civil War reenacting and have made and eaten Hardtack aka "Army Bread'

Sent From The Telegraph Office

01-17-2013, 1:40 PM
Yep - tried it. It would seem there are better ways of preserving food nowadays. No real need to go back to 16th century technology to solve a basic problem.

01-17-2013, 2:33 PM
Good hardtack

2 cups fresh whole wheat flour (Best if you grind it yourself)
2 cups fresh corn meal.
½ cup wheat germ
½ cup rolled oats
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1¾ cups water

Mix dry then add a little water till the mix isn't sticky. roll out about 1/2 inch thick, bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

It will keep for years if you keep it dry.

01-17-2013, 3:03 PM
Good hardtack

2 cups fresh whole wheat flour (Best if you grind it yourself)
2 cups fresh corn meal.
½ cup wheat germ
½ cup rolled oats
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1¾ cups water

Mix dry then add a little water till the mix isn't sticky. roll out about 1/2 inch thick, bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

It will keep for years if you keep it dry.

Now that sounds decent with the brown sugar & oats. Could probably make it into a type of oatmeal by re-constituting it in hot water.

01-17-2013, 3:36 PM
The hardtack that I have tried required 3 days of soaking to bite through it... My jaw has never been the same. Additionally, it's been over a year since i've had it, and im not entirely sure i've passed it?

01-17-2013, 6:35 PM
Make pemmican instead. Tastes better.

And you really don't want to break a tooth if civilization gets so bad you're eating hardtack.


01-17-2013, 7:42 PM
What is the expiration on a saltine crackers?

They go bad pretty quickly once opened.
Saltines contain soybean oil and partially hydroginated cottenseed oil. Once exposed to air these oils go rancid within about a month or two.

01-17-2013, 9:38 PM
swedish knackebrod

Love the stuff :D

01-17-2013, 9:43 PM
The trick with hard tac is to eat it with something else... beans... salt pork.

I ate it a lot with my authentic civil war group back in the day (before getting married).

01-18-2013, 7:32 AM
My favorite recipe:
Mix flour +water+salt in a pan and cook it.

When the tac is done, eat the pan. It's softer.
Might be good tactical rifle plate if you bake the tac in big enough sheets.

01-18-2013, 9:32 AM
Another thing we used to have and still make sometimes is corn dodgers.

Corn meal



Just about anything else you can stir into the mix and fry in grease or bake on a flat pan.

01-23-2013, 11:59 PM
tried making it once for fun. Its dense and hard to eat.

try Bannock instead. bannock doesn't have a long shelf life but all the ingredients do.

can be cooked wrapped on a stick over an open flame.

01-28-2013, 7:09 PM
Might be good tactical rifle plate if you bake the tac in big enough sheets.

This just in: manufacturing of hardtack to be declare a felony in 2014.

01-31-2013, 4:51 PM
I subsisted off of hardtack for a week straight on a horribly ill managed college hiking trip.

We had the "good" kind, which mean more then just flour, water and salt.

What I remember most about it was piling the peanut butter on it in small mountains and finding that by the time you had moistened your mouth enough to swallow the peanut butter, the hard tack was pretty much still there.

Crocodile Dundee... "you can live on it but it tastes like dung".

02-04-2013, 8:41 PM
Someone said, "eat the pan it's softer"

Rofl! Awesome

02-04-2013, 9:08 PM
Yep, ate them and make them. But I like them fried up with bacon, told it's called Skillygallee.

03-16-2013, 6:32 PM
Ok, so let me preface this by saying that I can't cook. Not just that I'm really bad at it, but more like this bad:

So I've read a lot here and other forums about hardtack and saw the recipe. With 3 main ingredients: flour, water and salt, I was pretty sure I could pull this off.

So I found a recipe which was:
4 cups of whole wheat flour
just under 1 cup of water
4 teaspoons of salt

So I'm feel pretty confident about this 3 ingredient recipe.

I go to the store and bought a 5# bag of wheat flour for $2.50 and a rolling pin.

The prep:

Two ingredients, check! I got this so far...

Then I added the water and started kneading the dough. I had read that it shouldn't be sticky to your hands and this really was. I kneaded this for what felt like an eternity waiting for it to dry up a bit (I said I wasn't a cook, right?) and it never did.
I had this sticky mess:

So I washed my hands and went to google. Apparently you need a LOT less water than what the recipes I had read called for. So I added a TON more flour till it was no longer sticking to my hands:

Next the recipe said to roll it out to about 1/2" thick into a rectangle.
So pretend for a minute this looks like it is a rectangle:

Ok, time to cut it up and poke holes it in with a toothpick:

Now the recipe I had which had already failed me said to bake for 1 hour at 450 degrees flipping the pieces once.

So I did. I poked it with a toothpick a couple of times and it didn't seem to be done (the toothpick wasn't dry) so I kept it in for another 20 minutes.
I think it was fully done at that point:

I took the little triangle piece and smothered it with some butter and ate it. It actually tasted pretty good.

The pieces set out for the next 3 days. By the end of the first night (only like 2 hours in) they had already started hardening. Now they are pretty solid.

So my next step is to take another misshapen piece and figure out how to make it as tasty as possible.

I plan on using the rest of the bag of flour to make more and perfect this art.

For those of you that make this often, do you have an accurate measurement for the ingredients and also, how long and how hot do you cook it for? The most common recipe I had totally failed me. :)

03-18-2013, 3:10 PM
How long does it last if properly stored? I would add brown sugar and some raisens. You could always make it to fit in 5 gallon buckets and stockup alot of em :cool2:

03-18-2013, 3:46 PM
How long does it last if properly stored? I would add brown sugar and some raisens. You could always make it to fit in 5 gallon buckets and stockup alot of em :cool2:


Hardtack that was made for the Mexican American War was actually served to the soldiers in the Civil War (almost 20 years later). Now bugs were a problem then b/c they didn't have the storage we do.

So if made properly Apparently it lasts a LONG time. I've been doing some reading on it and found that it's also more 'authentic' to bake it twice. Think I'm gonna try that next.

03-21-2013, 10:18 PM
I make it from time to time. It's not the tastiest, but it'll keep you alive.

03-21-2013, 10:20 PM
Yep I've had hardtack. Its good with chili.

03-22-2013, 2:09 AM
does the raisens and brown sugar make it have a shorter life span?