Picture yourself on a long, long voyage out on the unbeatable ocean. Alright, picture yourself to be Ferdinand Magellan or Christopher Columbus.
What is the one food item that you would want to fill your granaries with on your trip across the vast waters?
The answer is Hardtack. You can almost taste its crumbly texture every time you read its name. Hartack has become a bare necessity to everyone globally looking for a non-perishable, nutritious commodity to fill up their kitchen’s storage units. But, forget kitchen units; even long military campaigns have had one essential component – Hardtack biscuits.
Hardtack is close to becoming a lifestyle choice in many parts of the world, simply because it has sold vast amounts in those regions. It is such a common phenomenon to find Hartack in people’s kitchens that it often eludes the spotlight; it is almost a banal aspect today.
You can find it used as the pastry element of many quick-fix dishes as much as it is consumed on its own. Let us take the banality of the table and find out what makes Hartack tick.
What Is Hardtack?
Hartack is a simple biscuit. You can also call it a cracker. It is made primarily out of our food staples – flour, water, and seasoning.
It has popped up throughout history because it is arguably the least complicated food you can make. Hardtack has been observed right from the 16th century and has since been a part of the military’s food ration.
The name ‘Hardtack‘ is supposed to have originated from ‘tack,’ the British slang for food or ration. They added the adjective because the ‘tack’ was hard.
You could venture a guess that some chef refused to let the bread rise, made it crispy instead, and that’s how the Hardtack came into existence. Since it was made of flour, crushed or powdered Hardtack was also used as a thickener in medieval British Chowders.
Hardtack has many synonyms across different regions – Anzac wafers, Brewis, cabin bread, sea bread, and we saved the best name for the last, molar breakers.
What is the nutritive value of Hardtack?
Does Hardtack have any nutritional value? Yes. Therefore, sailors on the sea and soldiers in the army have been typical consumers of Hardtack for a quick fix of calories.
Hardtack available in retail stores is a durable package. A 24-gram cracker can contain roughly 100 kilocalories, 2 grams of protein, and zero fiber.
Hardtack has no complex ingredients, and the cooking part of the biscuit is so arduous that it practically has no moisture left. Because of the absence of any moist content, Hardtack is invincible in time; it has an infinite shelf life.
While Hardtack has enough nutritional components to keep you from hunger during a tiring patch of a trek, it cannot sustain life entirely. Simply munching on Hardtack will not keep you alive through a nuclear catastrophe.
Soldiers who consumed Hardtack in history often used it as a cheap substitute for bread, and they often ate seasoned meat with it. Hardtack can keep you from fainting, but it lacks the proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fiber necessary to stay alive.
Can You Prepare Hardtack At Home?
Yes! It is one of the most straightforward fixes in the kitchen. The ingredients are easy to obtain; they will be present in virtually any kitchen on the planet – flour and water. In addition, you can throw in some salt to the cracker for some finesse in your bread.
Here we go. Start with three cups of flour. Add salt to it; roughly a couple of teaspoons should do fine. After mixing the salt evenly, pour a cup of water into the mix. Knead the mixture into a dough that is not sticky but isn’t too hard either. You can keep adding small amounts of flour or water to get the consistency right.
Now comes the tricky part. Arming yourself with a rolling pin, roll the dough into a flat layer roughly half an inch in thickness. Then, cut the dough into 3″ x 3″ squares and poke a few holes in each one using a fork.
You can cut the dough into any shape or size, frankly. All you have to do is make sure it isn’t too small – chances of overcooking – or too big – chances of it being undercooked.
Now place all your biscuit pieces on an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake it at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius) for 30 minutes. Next, flip the pieces over and bake them for another 30 minutes.
After cooking, let the cookies sit out for a few days in the sun so they can completely dry out. Voila! Enjoy your homemade Hardtacks!
How Long Can You Store A Hardtack?
Storage and longevity is the arena where Hardtack thrives. But, as we’ve said before, Hardtack has no moisture in it.
The absence of water keeps it from being a haven for microbes; it simply does not go bad. Hand to God, you could eat a Hardtack from the American Civil War era and not get an upset tummy.
Hardtack keeps well for years, nay, decades, nay centuries, even! All the reasons that glorified Hardtack in war times and sailing voyages are relevant today. It is practically bread that never goes stale.
Soldiers embedded in war zones can munch on it easily since it is durable, long-lasting, and not a chore to carry around. Pick out metaphors for gnarly wars and unending voyages in today’s day and age, and you will realize that Hardtack is the safest bet for you in any situation.
It is one of the most valuable foods currently on the planet, and if you don’t eat it, there is a good chance that it will outlive you.
What Can You Use Hardtack In?
Hardtack can be stored till kingdom come. Similarly, it gives you an infinite number of choices to play with it with your culinary skills.
While having Hardtack in all its solitary glory is a viable option for emergency nutrition, it would help to use it like bread.
A tiny note to all those looking to eat solitary Hardtack – eat it in small bits, for a big bite might have you chewing it for a good 15 minutes.
You can enjoy Hardtack with any gravy or soup. Hardtack makes for an excellent replacement for bread croutons in soup. You can use various kinds of seasoning while preparing the Hardtack, maybe throw in some oregano there, and you get your signature savory biscuit. Dip it in some aioli, hot sauce, salsa, or soup, and it will break into magical tasty bits in your mouth.
If you’re looking for a bread component in your protein-y gravies, look no further. Hardtack can make a brilliant base for any gravy. You can also crush the biscuit and use it as a thickener for the gravy itself.
Thanks to the crispy and hard nature of Hardtack, it can be used as the bread base for an open sandwich as well. So get your veggies, meat bits, and sauces together, and top off your crisp Hardtacks with a delicious salad or stuffing.
You can even substitute your usual pancake breakfast with Hardtack once in a while. It is nutritious and healthy enough to be a breakfast. Top off your Hardtacks with honey or maple syrup, and they will taste incredible.
The possibilities are endless, thanks to the versatile nature of Hardtacks. For example, Hardtacks can substitute any form of bread in any meal. So, create something amazing using Hardtack!
We have talked about the most common food on the planet – Hardtack. What started with the Pharaohs of Egypt (yes, we’re not kidding) has traveled ahead in time today and has managed to stay the same.
It is the most fundamental aspect of food that humans have consumed. We would not be surprised if anthropological research found that Hardtack was primordial food for the first humans.
It isn’t very often that commodities thrive in time and space for so long. Only those commodities that have never lost their importance make it through all barriers.
Hardtack is eternal food, literally. It never goes bad. It is easy to make and can be used in any form of food anywhere on Earth. It has given life to those in need, be it soldiers stuck in gruesome wars or explorers in the sea on the brink of discovery.
Its simple and undying nature has kept Hardtack alive and well to date. It is now retailed across the globe, where it has continued to nourish all those in need.
It is known by various names across the globe, and almost all of them are descriptive of its hard nature. The Germans call it “Panzerplatten.” You might recognize the word “Panzer” in there; it was a German tank in the second world war that was supposedly indestructible. And they’re right to name it that. The Hardtack has stayed put through millennia, and it is difficult to prove that that will ever change.