Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hardtack, a military staple by Barbara Edwards

150 First Manassas

Hardtack is a cracker. I’m familiar with the hard, square, almost tasteless food from my years re-enacting with a Confederate Civil War company. As cook, I learned how to make them.
Hardtack wasn’t a pleasure food. Wrapped in brown paper and tied with a piece of twine, the cracker fit in a pocket or knapsack. Soldiers needed food that was easily carried, wouldn’t spoil or go bad. Now the modern army has MREs Meals Ready to Eat - a definite step up.
About 2 1/2 inches square with holes dimpled across the surface the cracker resembles a modern saltine. Only hardtack was hard.
Hardtack needed to be softened to eat. It could be soaked in a cup of coffee or its substitute Chickory until it was breakable. Or fried in fatback until the melting lard made it malleable.

I baked Hardtack for my company.
The recipe is simple.

4 cups flour
1 cup water or enough to moisten the mix
1 teaspoon salt.

Mix in a large bowl until smooth.
Roll out on a floured surface.
Cut into squares.
After the first time I bought a cutter from a sutler at a Re-enactment. It’s hard to make the small holes evenly without one.
Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a low oven 250 degrees for three hours or until hard, really hard.
The crackers won't brown.
Cool then wrap in brown paper and tie with a piece of hemp twine.
The resulting crackers are hard as a rock. They will last forever. I had soldiers carry mine for years.

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In Ancient Awakening, Police Officer ‘Mel’ Petersen investigates a death only she believes is murder. By disobeying direct orders from the Rhodes End Chief, she risks her career to follow clues that twist in circles to her backyard and lead the killer to her.
Her neighbor Stephen Zoriak is a prime suspect. Steve worked for a major pharmaceutical company where he discovered a weapon so dangerous he destroys the research. He is exposed to the dangerous organism. He suspects he is the killer and agrees to help her find the truth.
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Margo Hoornstra said...

Sounds like an interesting recipe to try. Makes sense you'd need to have special tools.

Barbara Edwards said...

Hi Margo,
I still have the cutter in my pack.

Vonnie Davis said...

As old as I am and as much as I've studied that era, I never saw a recipe for hardtack until you shared. Thanks. Don't know that I'll ever make it, but it's good to know.

Barbara Edwards said...

Hi Vonnie,
Ask me about cooking in that era. I know a lot of trivia. lol

Jannine Gallant said...

I have to laugh. Sounds like the recipe for paste (if you don't cook it)! LOL Glad our military doesn't have to eat this anymore. Love your piece of real history, Barbara.