I’m baking tonight…

Nope – not chocolate chip cookies, even though I love them.  Not brownies or cupcakes. 

My oven is loaded with hardtack!

Hardtack, also called ship’s bread, is a very hard, dry cracker or biscuit that was a staple of the Revolutionary War sailor’s diet.  Made with just flour, water, and sometimes salt, it’s incredibly cheap, and it lasts forever as long as it doesn’t get wet. 

I have two school visits coming up next week, and I always like to let kids taste some of the food that the characters eat in my historical novel Spitfire.  Most students take a tiny piece of hardtack, bite down on it, discover it’s like eating petrified wood, and grimace.  A few always end up liking it, though – hanging around for extra samples when the presentation is over.  These kids, I figure, probably would have made the best sailors.  They probably like sleeping on the floor, too.

Many sailors and soldiers got into the habit of tapping their hardtack before they bit into it.  This was to knock the weevils out of it because the bread often became infested with bugs.  Other men preferred to soak the bread in their soup or coffee and then pick the bugs out with a spoon.   But wait!  Kids in South Burlington and Brandon… I don’t want you to worry if you’re reading this. Even though my hardtack can’t compete with chocolate chip cookies, I guarantee it will be insect-free.

12 Replies on “I’m baking tonight…

  1. Cool.

    I’ll have to tell my daughter. She’s been studying the Revolutionary War and just did a report on John Paul Jones.

    Quick. Tell me his famous quote. 🙂

    Enjoy your visits!

  2. Oh cool. Have any recipes about you can share? 🙂

    (Why yes, I have considered making my own pemmican just to mimic the polar explorer experience, too …)

  3. It’s easier than easy. Heat the oven to 375. Start with about four cups of flour and add water (as much as two cups…but just enough so you can work with the dough. You don’t want it too wet.) Mix it up. Roll it out to about half an inch thick and then cut it into squares with a pizza cutter. Put the pieces on an ungreased cookie sheet and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes. Then turn off the oven but leave the hardtack in there, preferably overnight. That lets it really dry out. Store in a place with no moisture.

    Happy crunching!