Saturday, August 1, 2009


Hardtack is the world's first MRE, invented so that it could be carried on boats or quartermaster's backpacks for miles and miles for years and years without rotting. I want to feed the hungry, so I made myself a batch.

This was supposedly a naval recipe, and despite all the complaints I've read in historical records about how it tastes horrible and "oh god I'd rather shoot myself in the face then eat that again," I think it tastes pretty good. Probably the sailor's were complaining about how this was all they had to eat, because I can see how this would get real old, real fast. Especially when it's been a year and it's starting to develop weevils and other nasty things.
Here's the recipe, thanks to Ken Anderson:

A Sailor's Diet

  • 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned or quick oats.

  • 3 cups unbleached flour.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda.

In a separate container, mix:

  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk.

  • 3 tablespoons honey.

  • 1/2 cup melted bacon drippings or shortening.

Combine the two sets of ingredients. When the dough is thoroughly mixed, roll it out on a floured board to a thickness of about a quarter inch. Cut out circles of dough with a large drinking glass dipped in flour and put them on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 5 1/2 minutes at 450° F. Let the hardtack cool on a wire rack before serving with jam or jelly.

I had to make a few substitutions. I didn't have buttermilk, so I substituted whole. There wasn't any honey in the house, but there was agave nectar. I didn't have any bacon drippings, so I substituted coconut oil. And I don't think I managed to roll it thin enough. Also, I don't own a wire rack, so I balanced the pan on my sink. Still, delicious. I wouldn't mind eating it for a few days. Reminds me of KFC's biscuits, actually.

The next part of my project will be to give this food to a starving person somewhere in the world. It will last for between one and three years without refrigerating, so I can mail it to whoever needs it the most. If you know such a person, please notify me by comment, email, or some other means.

LATER EDIT: Wow, that photo's worse than I thought. I have a crappy camera. It came in washed out, and I tried to fix it. Key word being "tried."

Still later in August: I left them in the refrigerator overnight and now they taste kinda bad. That's a failure for them: they're too sensitive to the cold.

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