Tuesday, May 10, 2011


On the trail of the breads of yore, today a friend of mine passed on a recipe for hardtack which appeared, of all places, on Boing Boing. Hardtack is simple to prepare: here's the recipe in toto:
Mix 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 cups whole wheat flour, and 1 tsp salt. Form it into a dough using 1.5 cups of water.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Then spread it into a pan, prick it all over on top with a fork, and bake it for 50 minutes at 325 degrees F.
I'm not terribly interested in trying hardtack, which, aside from the texture that earned it its name, has a reputation for becoming wormy. However, according to Boing Boing, this particular recipe comes from a cookbook called The Food Journal of Lewis & Clark: Recipes for an Expedition by Mary Gunderson; Boing Boing claims that the other recipes in that book--which presumably are of late 18th - early 19th century provenance--are much tastier. Now I'm curious about the other recipes in that book; I think I will have to track it down. If I do, I'll write about it.

EDIT: A friend of mine wrote a short article about hardtack noting that it becomes wormy only if it is not absolutely shielded from dampness. It also discusses similar bread products made to have a long shelf life, such as pilot bread. The article may be found here.


  1. Hi, Cathy !

    Went searching my hard disk, came up with this essay from 1996. Unfortunately my Google-fu inadequate to come up with my original contribution to Usenet, so must leave you with this:

    To expand a bit on the posting I made early this morning;

    I met Ms. Kory (and bought my copy of the "1862 Manual for Army Cooking") at a Civil War reenactment near Philadelphia in April 1994.

    I also purchased one of the hardtack she had made, and consumed it (cautiously, to avoid breaking a filling), to the astonished ( You're
    not really going to _eat_ that ?" ) remarks of my companions. Tasted like - well, like other low-salt, low-fat crackers...

    Ms. Kory says "Hardtack can be made at home. The original recipe states: "To mix one barrel of flour, about eight gallons of water are
    generally required." Make a stiff dough of one part water to 5-6 parts flour. The Subsistence Dept. recommended that salt and/or sugar
    be added to the water portion if they were to be used. It was a rare biscuit that contained either, but by our experience, salt adds
    immeasurably to the taste.

    Roll out to about 3/8 inch thick, cut into 3 x 3 inch squares, and pierce through in at least 9 places. Bake 20-25 minutes in a moderate
    (325 degree) oven until slightly browned."

    Allow to cool and dry thoroughly before packing.

    In the immortal words of somebody-or-other...
    "Tastes great if you're hungry enough !"

    Anyway, the book referred to is:

    1862 manual for army cooking: a reproduction of "Campfires and camp cooking, or, Culinary hints for the soldier"
    with an essay by Elizabeth Stroud Kory
    Publisher: Norristown, PA : Norristown Press, 1993. ISBN: 096302163X DDC: 641.57 LCC: UC723

    Also came up in the search, passing it along, no extra charge (breakthrough and exploitation a possibility, though. ;-) ).


    Yours, John Desmond

  2. Hello yet again!

    Rerechecked ye Google, found

    from waybackwhen. Mayhaps interesting you'll find it.

    Yours, John

  3. John, thanks for the links.

    Since I don't have a barrel, I guess I have to try the "one part flour to 5-6 parts water" recipe. So that works out to a cup of flour to 5-6 cups of water? With how much salt? Maybe I should experiment....