Before there were MREs (and we mean way before) there was a simple survival bar that powered nations. It’s graced the plates of kings and commoners, and it ought to be at the top of your list of SHTF rations.
We’re talking about hardtack—a mixture of flour, water, and salt cooked into a small, dense biscuit. A single piece of hardtack contains about 250 calories, 54 grams of carbohydrates, and has been known to last a century or more.
Read on to learn a little about the history of hardtack and to see how to make your own, for cents on the dollar.
The Food of Kings and Commoners
Hardtack has taken many forms and has been called by many names over the years, but it all boils down to the same basic recipe. Egyptian warrios stowed small cakes of millet flour and water called “dhourra” for long voyages by ship. The Romans had a similar ration called “bucellatum.”
In more modern history, sixteenth-century sailors in Britain’s Royal Navy were allotted one pound of hardtack per day (plus a gallon of beer—yikes!).
The “Molar Breaker”
Hardtack is an interesting substance. Unlike most foods, the ancients discovered that the longer it sat, the softer it got because of exposure to humidity and weather. To leverage this unique feature, the best hardtack was prepared months before it was consumed.
But without that kind of lead time, it was—as the name implies—“hard.” Very hard. Nearly inedible in some cases, until properly palliated. Soldiers gave it nicknames like tooth duller, iron cracker, and molar breaker. They had to get creative in their methods of softening it quickly, often with few resources on hand.
The easiest of these was just soaking it in water, but because so much of the water back then was contaminated, people resorted to other liquids. A favorite of sailors was beer (like we’ve said, they drank an awful lot of the stuff). Civil war soldiers used coffee, which gave it a warm, nutty flavor. Others have used milk, soups, and stews.
Any way you make it, there never has been, nor probably ever will be, an easier way to subsist for months or years on end. If you happen to be at a Civil War Museum you might just see some hardtack from over 150 years ago on display. No joke, this stuff will be there, and it’s still edible.
Do You Enjoy Surviving? Then Hardtack Is for You!
Not an Egyptian sailor or Civil War soldier? Have no fear, hardtack is still for you! If you plan to go off the grid and want something easy to store that packs tons of energy, then hardtack is the answer. It pairs perfectly with stew, soups and other on-the-go camp foods.
A Great Long-Term Bread or Even Flour
Looking to keep bread in your emergency supply? Hardtack works well for that, too. Some preppers even use it as an alternative to storing flour. The logic goes: why store flour, which goes bad after just a few months, when you can bake it into hardtack and store it for a lifetime? (Of course, if you choose the right flour, shelf life isn’t an issue).
How to Make Hardtack
Like we’ve said, making hardtack is as easy as can be. Here’s the recipe:
- 3 Cups Flour
- 2 Teaspoons Salt
- 1 Cup Water
- Mix flour, salt, and 1 cup of water into a dough. Flatten dough to ¼ to ½-inch thick then cut into squares. Poke holes into the squares.
- Cook raw biscuits in the oven for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove from the oven and let sit until dried all the way through.
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