Hard Tack! [Archive] - Glock Talk

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Bolster
02-21-2012, 20:41
I've been looking for a long-lasting emergency food I don't have to rotate often, that can sit in my GHB for months or years and still give nutritional value. So I finally got off my duff and made THE classic survival food, a batch of Hard Tack. To me it tastes like Grape Nuts cereal, in a solid form. Nothing obnoxious about it (other than being excessively hard); just doesn't have much flavor.

Reportedly, if kept from moisture & air, tack can last for 50 years or more, although that may apply to double or quad-baked crackers, not sure. There are reports of CW soldiers being issued Tack made for the Mex-Am war, 20 years previous. Custer's men didn't like their Tack, which was 6 years old. Today we get to "cheat," mine's vacuum packed (via a FoodSaver) and in the GHB. Should afford about 120 carb calories for each 3x3" cracker.

The ol' timers didn't try to eat them as crackers, they're too hard--they were generally crumbled up into coffee or broth. I've also read you can soak them overnight and then fry them in butter for a "hard tack waffle" but haven't tried that yet.

http://i1085.photobucket.com/albums/j435/Bolsterman/hardtack.jpg

Recipe if you're interested, dead simple to make, virtually impossible to screw it up:

1-1/2 c flour
1/2 c water (or less, if you can get a dough ball with less)
1/2 t salt

Cut each to 3x3” size and poke with sixteen holes, either while whistling Dixie, humming the Battle Hymn of the Republic, or singing a sea chanty while occasionally pausing to yell "YARR!", your choice.

Bake a half hour at 375 F, flip, and bake another half hour on the other side.

To double bake (getting out any remaining water, which improves shelf-life), let the biscuits cool and then put them in the oven again at a lower temperature to banish the last traces of moisture.

If you add shortening, butter, or sugar, you'll get a tastier, more edible cracker. But the shelf life will be much reduced.

RedHaze
02-21-2012, 20:55
And, as an added bonus. You can throw them like ninja stars and kill your opponent.

TN.Frank
02-21-2012, 21:06
Dixie Gun Works catalog use to have a good recipe for hard tack in the back of their catalog. :whistling:

Bolster
02-21-2012, 21:24
Shore nuff!

http://www.6thtx.org/Making%20Hardtack.htm

SFCSMITH(RET)
02-22-2012, 06:48
Another good thing about them is the ingrediants keep forever, so even if you don't make and store them now.. you can make this simple bread in the future, no problem as long as you store wheat/mill/salt and have water and heat. I have made them as an experiment straight from storage goods and on top the wood stove. I personally think the singing thing is optional.. I mean, you have to sing, but I did just fine with some good old blues and railroad shanties..

Oh, and DGW's catalog still has the recipe, (as of the '10 issue) as does Track of The Wolf..

And if you just don't bake at all... "Pilot Crackers (or biscuits)" are exactly the same thing. They are still made by a company in Oregon or Washington, and can be ordered in bulk. They are VERY popular in Alaska. Very popular. "Sailor Boy" is the brand.

Grayson
02-25-2012, 16:01
Mmm, tried the OPs recipe, not bad at all.

However, given that the middle had the consistency of a biscuit (albeit a slightly tough one), I don't think I did something right. May have spread the dough too thick. Also self-rising flour was all I had, is that a no-no?

Trust me, if there's something involving cooking that's "virtually" impossible to screw up, I will find a way! ;)

Bolster
02-25-2012, 16:10
My understanding is that any civilized softness is the result of moisture still in the biscuit. Many hard tack biscuits are twice baked, some quad baked, although the subsequent times at lower temperatures. The only goal of additional baking to get the last of the moisture out. I don't think you screwed anything up, I think it's typical for a single bake.

glockeglock
02-25-2012, 16:55
.....

Bolster
02-25-2012, 16:57
Yes, see post 5, "Sailor Boy Pilot Bread" is most famous. However it has shortening and a little sugar in it, making it tastier, but with a much reduced shelf life. Still a long shelf life, compared to other victuals, tho.

http://www.vermontcountrystore.com/store/jump/productDetail/Food/Pilot_Bread/58570?searchid=7SSEAMAZ&feedid=amazon&jt=1&js=100&jsid=20926&jcp=Amazon%20Product%20Ads&utm_source=Amazon%2BProduct%2BAds&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Amazon%2BProduct%2BAds&gdftrk=gdfV21961_a_7c336_a_7c1130_a_7c58570_d_77293

Good article here:

http://tundratantrum.blogspot.com/2007/11/sailor-boy.html

Grayson
02-26-2012, 08:06
^ Ah, got it!

Mountain House sells pilot crackers too, but not sure what the shelf life is compared to their other canned offerings (which is 25-30 years mostly).

Ronaldo
02-26-2012, 11:18
If you buy the Sailor Boy biscuits be aware that they contain a lot more moisture than traditional hardtack. Being softer, they can be eaten as-is with no detriment to your teeth. Not bad if consumed with peanut butter, jam or honey.

However, a true hardtack biscuit is the consistency of a brick and MUST be softened in some manner before being consumed. I made a batch years ago and cracked a molar foolishly trying to eat one without softening it with water, coffee, or breaking it up and cooking it.

No joke, it happened to me. So use caution if you experiment with making hardtack.

Ronaldo

ratf51
02-26-2012, 12:00
Tagged.

Texas357
02-27-2012, 22:09
Any variations on the recipe, seasonings to consider?

Bolster
02-27-2012, 23:01
That's going beyond my expertise, but I do recollect cinnamon being suggested in one recipe. I don't think of tack as something you try to make delicious in and of itself, it's sort of like rice in that respect...satisfying by itself, but what makes it unusual or exciting is the stuff you put on it. So I'd be more prone to use my savory seasonings for a broth to dunk it into. Kenanderson.net has several variations on the basic recipe. Adding some fat (oil, crisco) helps make it more edible, at the cost of shelf life.

Tack is about as basic as baking gets, as far as I know.

bdcochran
02-28-2012, 07:23
The last commercial hardtack bakery closed about 5 years ago. Brent.

Travclem
02-28-2012, 09:12
Why not just eat a handful of flour?

bdcochran
02-28-2012, 10:13
Why not eat a hand of flour?

Ok, the shelf life of flour is about 3 months. Hardtack lasts more than 3 months.

Despite the best efforts to keep insects out of flour, through the processing effort and the types of bagging used in supermarkets, inevitably many units are infected with insect eggs and pantry moths. By baking, the eggs killed - and then it is up to the individual to protect the hardtack through better packaging.

Lastly, take a handful of flour and stick it in your mouth. It is somewhat hydroscopic. I have never known a person attempt to eat a handful of flour. You may be the first.

Travclem
02-28-2012, 10:27
Why not eat a hand of flour?

Ok, the shelf life of flour is about 3 months. Hardtack lasts more than 3 months.

Despite the best efforts to keep insects out of flour, through the processing effort and the types of bagging used in supermarkets, inevitably many units are infected with insect eggs and pantry moths. By baking, the eggs killed - and then it is up to the individual to protect the hardtack through better packaging.

Lastly, take a handful of flour and stick it in your mouth. It is somewhat hydroscopic. I have never known a person attempt to eat a handful of flour. You may be the first.
Fair enough.

glockeglock
02-28-2012, 14:00
.....

glockeglock
02-28-2012, 14:02
.....

SFCSMITH(RET)
02-28-2012, 15:47
According to the link, Sailor Boy's shelf life is only 9 months.

Don't believe it. Maybe if you leave them in the wax paper and cardboard box on the shelf in your pantry in Mobile..

I have eaten them that were properly packed (#10 can, O2 absorber) that were at least 7 years old. They were fine. C rats had them in them, I ate those that were 30 years old.

glockeglock
03-07-2012, 14:24
.....

SFCSMITH(RET)
03-07-2012, 15:41
Just bought three boxes of Sailor Boy Pilot Bread at QFC.
The store clerk asked, "Do you know these are unsalted?" Kinda funny.
I guess QFC regularly stocks it. I tried one and it was tasty and easy on the teeth.
That is all.
GeG

What is "QFC" ?

NM.. googlefu says it's what we call a Kroeger, only 1900 miles away.

bdcochran
03-07-2012, 19:00
A dyslexic KFC?:rofl:

M1A Shooter
03-07-2012, 20:48
hardtack is one of thos things thats good to know, imho, but if my goal is long term storage in huge heat swings, i would go with lifeboat rations or similar.

and i too read the QFC as KFC without thinking about it. read it too quickly i guess but the story wasnt making sense about KFC having pilot bread :)

bdcochran
03-07-2012, 23:33
Quality Food Center

1
QFC6411 SE Milwaukie AvePortland, OR 97202Store: (503) 231-5595
Distance 596.7 miles

jason10mm
03-22-2012, 14:14
However, given that the middle had the consistency of a biscuit (albeit a slightly tough one), I don't think I did something right. May have spread the dough too thick. Also self-rising flour was all I had, is that a no-no?

Self-rising, and I believe "all purpose" flour have chemical risers in them (stuff like baking soda, IIRC) so there is gas production which forms bubbles in the bread, which makes it soft. Those gas pockets undoubtedly trap moisture as well, or at the very least would make a dry biscuit with a very crumbly texture, so use regular old flour.

I'm no expert, but I suspect using whole wheat flour would improve taste/nutrients, but reduce shelf life due to the oils. So for maximum longevity use plain white flour. Remember, hardtack is just an ultra cheap long term diet supplement, trying to make it into anything else is going to reduce storage life.

I use this basic recipe for sourdough bread, adding in the sourdough "starter" which is really just water and flour colonized by yeast and lactobacilli that keep it acidic and free from mold/nasty stuff. Takes a long time since without chemical risers you have to let the yeast do their thing, but it is cheap and tastes oh so good! Keeping a starter is easy enough as it lasts for a month or more in the fridge before I have to freshen it with more flour and water, without electricity I imagine I'd have to feed it much more often, but then again I'd be baking bread almost constantly so that probably wouldn't be an issue.

Anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying that if you are storing wheat then learning the basics of bread making NOW probably ain't a bad idea. Hard tack and sourdough are probably the two easiest ones to do.

Bolster
03-22-2012, 14:32
I'm no expert, but I suspect using whole wheat flour would improve taste/nutrients, but reduce shelf life due to the oils.

Exactly correct. You always have the option of adding various forms of fat/oil for improved taste/texture, but always at the expense of longevity. If you are making 'tack for near-term consumption, by all means, live a little, and add some fat (and maybe also sugar) to your recipe.