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Old 02-21-2012, 21:41   #1
Bolster
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Hard Tack!

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.

Survival/Preparedness Forum

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.
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Old 02-21-2012, 21:55   #2
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And, as an added bonus. You can throw them like ninja stars and kill your opponent.
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Old 02-21-2012, 22:06   #3
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Dixie Gun Works catalog use to have a good recipe for hard tack in the back of their catalog.
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Old 02-21-2012, 22:24   #4
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Shore nuff!

http://www.6thtx.org/Making%20Hardtack.htm
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Old 02-22-2012, 07:48   #5
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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.

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Old 02-25-2012, 17:01   #6
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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!
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Old 02-25-2012, 17:10   #7
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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.
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Old 02-25-2012, 17:55   #8
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Old 02-25-2012, 17:57   #9
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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/s...c58570_d_77293

Good article here:

http://tundratantrum.blogspot.com/20...ailor-boy.html
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Old 02-26-2012, 09:06   #10
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^ 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).
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Old 02-26-2012, 12:18   #11
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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.

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Old 02-26-2012, 13:00   #12
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Old 02-27-2012, 23:09   #13
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Any variations on the recipe, seasonings to consider?
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Old 02-28-2012, 00:01   #14
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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.
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Old 02-28-2012, 08:23   #15
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The last commercial hardtack bakery closed about 5 years ago. Brent.
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Old 02-28-2012, 10:12   #16
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Why not just eat a handful of flour?
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Old 02-28-2012, 11:13   #17
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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.
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Old 02-28-2012, 11:27   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bdcochran View Post
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.
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Old 02-28-2012, 15:00   #19
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Old 02-28-2012, 15:02   #20
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