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Author Topic: Foods for on the road: Hardtack, Pemmican and other ancient foods  (Read 44792 times)


  • Guest
Re: Foods for on the road: Hardtack, Pemmican and other ancient foods
« Reply #30 on: August 22, 2011, 01:24:43 PM »
I am going to look into the old style hardtack more. The 1863 US Military specs on hardtack should work. (About the second post here.)
the idea is, for a survival group to have portable something to eat, cheap and made in big quantities ahead of time.

Found a wikipedia article on it which states it was used on long sea voyages so that means months...

- Yowbarb

Hardtack (or hard tack) is a simple type of cracker or biscuit, made from flour, water, and sometimes salt. Inexpensive and long-lasting, it was and is used for sustenance in the absence of perishable foods, commonly during long sea voyages and military campaigns.[1] The name derives from the British sailor slang for food, "tack". It is known by other names such as pilot bread (as rations for ship's pilots[2]), ship's biscuit, shipbiscuit, sea biscuit, sea bread (as rations for sailors) or pejoratively "dog biscuits," "tooth dullers," "sheet iron," "worm castles" or "molar breakers".[3] Australian military personnel know them as ANZAC wafers.

IMAGE: A preserved hardtack on museum display


  • Guest
Re: Foods for on the road: Hardtack, Pemmican and other ancient foods
« Reply #31 on: August 22, 2011, 01:34:31 PM »
I wonder if its physical attributes would come out the same if you added a small amount of chicken broth to give it a meaty flavor. I know doing that with things like vegetables it can be really good. I'll have to get my wife to make some. It sounds like it could be really good...

One of the recipes listed has bacon drippings... I am not an expert on it yet, some chicken fat or broth might work...

I'll have to look again. I definitely missed that one. I'm a huge bacon fan. I put bacon on everything.. Hard bacon bits are really good on spaghetti!!! Don't hate it until you try it!!! :P


  • Guest
Re: Foods for on the road: Hardtack, Pemmican and other ancient foods
« Reply #32 on: August 22, 2011, 04:07:50 PM »
Heres' a bit more on the history of hardtack, going back to the Egyptians, wikipedia article. So now we now if it is baked hard, and kept dry, it will literally last for years. I'm sure some of the modern ways we could package it would help too.
- Yowbarb

...  Hardtack


The introduction of the baking of processed cereals including the creation of flour provided a more reliable source of food. Egyptian sailors carried a flat brittle loaf of millet bread called dhourra cake, while the Romans had a biscuit called buccellum. King Richard I of England, (aka Richard the Lionheart) left for the Third Crusade (1189-92) with "biskit of muslin," which was a mixed grain compound of barley, rye and bean flour.[4]

Many early physicians believed that most medicinal problems were associated with digestion. Hence, for both sustenance and avoidance of illness, a daily consumption of a biscuit was considered good for one's health. The bakers of the time made biscuits as hard as possible, as the biscuits would soften as time went on.[citation needed][5] Because it is so hard and dry, hardtack (when properly stored and transported) will survive rough handling and endure extremes of temperature. The more refined Captain's biscuit was made with finer flour.

To soften it, it was often dunked in brine, coffee, or some other liquid or cooked into a skillet meal.
Baked hard, it would stay intact for years as long as it was kept dry. For long voyages, hardtack was baked four times, rather than the more common two, and prepared six months before sailing.

At the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588, the daily allowance on board a Royal Navy ship was 1lb of biscuit plus 1 gallon of beer. Later, Samuel Pepys in 1667 first regularized naval victualing with varied and nutritious rations. Royal Navy hardtack during Queen Victoria's reign were made by machine at the Royal Clarence Victualing Yard at Gosport, Hampshire, stamped with the Queen's mark and the number of the oven to which they were consigned to be baked. Biscuits remained an important part of the Royal Navy sailor’s diet until the introduction of canned foods; canned meat was first marketed in 1814, and preserved beef in tins was officially introduced to the Royal Navy rations in 1847.[4]

In 1801, Josiah Bent began a baking operation in Milton, Massachusetts, selling "water crackers" or biscuits made of flour and water that would not deteriorate during long sea voyages from the port of Boston, which was also used extensively as a source of food by the gold prospectors who emigrated to the gold mines of California in 1849. Since the journey took months from the starting point, pilot bread was stored in the wagon trains, as it could be kept a long time. His company later sold the original hardtack crackers used by troops during the American Civil War. The G. H. Bent Company is still located in Milton, and continues to sell these items to Civil War re-enactors and others.

During the American Civil War, 3-inch by 3-inch hardtack was shipped out from Union and Confederate storehouses. Some of this hardtack had been stored from the 1846–8 Mexican-American War. With insect infestation common in improperly stored provisions, soldiers would break up the hardtack and drop it into their morning coffee. This would not only soften the hardtack but the insects, mostly weevil larvae, would float to the top and the soldiers could skim off the insects and resume consumption. Another way of removing weevils was to heat it at a fire, which would drive them out. Those troops too impatient to wait would simply eat it in the dark so they wouldn't have to see what they were consuming.[7]

During the Spanish-American War some military hardtack was stamped with the phrase REMEMBER THE MAINE.
[edit] Modern use
Reproductions of two 19th century styles of hardtack
Japanese Hardtack "Kanpan"
Retail shelf of Sailor Boy Pilot Bread in the Stuaqpaq ("big store") AC Value Store in Barrow, Alaska
"Kanpan" (JMSDF)

Hardtack is a common pantry item in Hawaii, and The Diamond Bakery "Saloon Pilot" cracker is available in all grocery and sundry stores. The round hardtack crackers are available in large- and small-diameter sizes.

Alaskans are among the last to eat hardtack (Iñupiaq: qaqqulaq, Central Alaskan Yup'ik: sugg'aliq) as a significant part of their normal diet. Interbake Foods of Richmond, Virginia, produces most, if not all, of the commercially available hardtack under the "Sailor Boy" label—98 percent of its production goes to Alaskans. Originally imported as a food product that could stand the rigors of transportation throughout Alaska, like powdered milk, pilot bread has become a favored food even as other, less robust foods have become available. Alaskan law requires all light aircraft to carry "survival gear", including food. The blue-and-white Sailor Boy Pilot Bread boxes are ubiquitous at Alaskan airstrips, in cabins, and virtually every village.

Commercially available pilot bread is a significant source of food energy in a small, durable package. A store-bought 24-gram cracker can contain 100 calories (20 percent from fat), 2 grams of protein and practically no fiber.

In the fall of 2007, rumors spread throughout Alaska that Interbake Foods might stop producing pilot bread. An Anchorage Daily News article[8] published November 6, 2007, reported the rumor was false, to the relief of many. Alaskans enjoy warmed pilot bread with melted butter or with soup or moose stew. Pilot bread with peanut butter, honey, or apple sauce is often enjoyed by children.

Those who buy commercially baked pilot bread in the continental United States are often those who stock up on long-lived foods for disaster survival rations. Hardtack can comprise the bulk of dry food storage for some campers. Pilot bread, sometimes referred to as pilot crackers during advertising, is often sold in conjunction with freeze-dried foods as part of package deals by many freeze-dried survival food companies.

Hardtack was a staple of military servicemen in Japan and South Korea well into late 20th century. It is known as Kanpan (乾パン) in Japan and geonbbang (건빵) in South Korea, meaning 'dry bread', and is still sold as a fairly popular snack food in South Korea as well as in Japan. A harder hardtack than Kanpan called Katapan (堅パン) is historically popular in Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka, Japan as one of its regional speciality foods.[9]

Many people who currently buy or bake hardtack in the United States are Civil War re-enactors.[10] One of the units that continually bakes hardtack for living history is the USS Tahoma Marine Guard Infantry of the Washington State Civil War Association. British and French re-enactors buy or bake hardtack as well.

Hardtack is also a mainstay in parts of Canada. Located in St John's, Newfoundland, Purity Factories currently bakes three varieties. The first variety, a cracker similar to a cross between an unsalted saltine and hardtack, is the "Crown Pilot Cracker". It was a popular item in much of New England and was manufactured by Nabisco until it was discontinued in the first quarter of 2008. It was discontinued once before, in 1996, but a small uprising by its supporters brought it back in 1997. This variety comes in two subvarieties, Flaky and Barge biscuits. The second is traditional hardtack and is the principal ingredient in fish and brewis, a traditional Newfoundland and Labrador meal. The third variety is known as Sweet Bread. This variety is slightly softer than regular hardtack due to a higher sugar and shortening content and is eaten as a snack food. Canawa is another Canadian maker of traditional hardtack. They specialize in a high density, high caloric product that is well suited for use by expeditions.
A package of Purity hard bread with one hard bread biscuit in front

Hardtack is also referred to as a staple food of Chinese hard-labor workers in Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution by Ma Bo in his memoir.[11]

Also, hardtack, baked with or without addition of fat, was and still is a staple in Russian military rations, especially in the Navy, as infantry traditionally preferred simple dried bread when the long life was needed. Called галета (galeta) in Russian, it is usually somewhat softer and crumblier than traditional hardtack, as most varieties made in Russia include at least some fat or shortening, making them closer to saltine crackers. One such variety, "Хлебцы армейские" ("Khlyebtsy armyeyskiye"), or "Army crackers", is currently included into modern Russian military rations, and other brands enjoy significant popularity among civilian population as well, both among the campers and the general crowd.

In Genoa it was and still is a traditional addition to a fish and vegetable salad called Cappon magro.

The Bundeswehr field manual mentions shoe cream covered "Hartkeks" as improvised firelighter in bad weather survival situations.


  • Guest
Re: Foods for on the road: Hardtack, Pemmican and other ancient foods
« Reply #33 on: August 22, 2011, 04:12:35 PM »
Heres' a bit more on the history of hardtack, going back to the Egyptians, To soften it, it was often dunked in brine, coffee, or some other liquid or cooked into a skillet meal.

Kind of sounds like what my wife would normally eat when we lived in Australia, biscotti... But I think biscotti is more of a desert...


  • Guest
Re: Foods for on the road: Hardtack, Pemmican and other ancient foods
« Reply #34 on: August 04, 2012, 08:14:01 AM »
A couple weeks ago I was at Walmart.  I normally don't go there, but I happened to see they were selling the plastic stuff that seals food.  I didn't see if they had the machine, but I didn't look either.  You could try there.


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