hard tack recipe history age of exploration american revolution civil war

How to make hard tack

I’ve read a lot of historical fiction.  Anything set on a ship or during a war pre-Napoleonic era (and even some after) talk about hard tack.  I’ve been fascinated by how to make hard tack, and have tried a couple of different recipes.  I first made hard tack in college for a history class, and have made it a couple of times for our homeschool history classes.  I’ve had mixed results for what people thought of it.

hard tack recipe

How to make hardtack

Ingredients: 5 cups of flour, 2 cups of water, 2-3 teaspoons of salt (this is one of the things, everyone had an opinion on, my kids like a hair more salt for flavor)

hard tack biscuit recipe
  1. Stir together the flour and salt.
  2. Add water, and mix well.  Your dough will be a little sticky.
  3. Roll it out flat.  We also tried it out pretending they didn’t have a rolling pin and just smashed it flat.  That’s what this picture is from.
  4. Slice into cracker size.  This is very important to do before, it’s much harder after.
  5. Poke little holes in the dough with a fork or toothpick.  We decided a fork allowed us to do this much more quickly.
  6. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes flip, and then another 30 minutes.  We baked it at 400 for 30 minutes, and ours were not cracker-like, and also molded after a few days in a plastic bag.  Which says we baked it wrong.
hard tack
Apparently poking holes in the hard tack dough is very important for even baking

Some funny stories I’ve read about hardtack

As I mentioned, I’ve read a lot of historical fiction books.  Most books featuring hard tack in them have some funny bit.

  • One story talked about the hard tack having bugs in it, and the sailors would bet on which bit of hard tack could travel the furthest.  The winner got the hard tack that traveled furthest (more protein!  also EWWWW!!!!!!)
  • In a Civil War book I read, a soldier broke a tooth trying to eat some hard tack that had hardened a bit too much.
  • Most books talk about people eating hard tack soaking it in something to soften it.  Most often water, but sometimes milk or a random alcoholic beverage.  This always amused me.
hard tack recipe history age of exploration american revolution civil war

Tomorrow, we’ll put our hard tack together with a few other items to make a nice Sailor’s meal.

We’re about halfway through the series, if you want to make sure you don’t miss any posts, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and get a weekly email with all of my posts from the week and a few old posts you might not have seen.


6 responses to “How to make hard tack”

  1. Your hard tack reminds me of all the times my dad tried to bake crackers. They never quite turned out.

    My historical fiction books were not nearly as funny as yours! I just remember reading about getting tired of hard tack.

    1. Crackers probably are very similar to hard tack.

      I think those scenes might have come from the My America books…

  2. A said that this sounds fun. I cannot imagine it being too tasty though 😉

    1. By itself it really wasn’t, but I used this recipe again when we were doing a Westward Expansion lesson for American Girl Doll club, and it’s really good with Cinnamon Toffee butter. But then, everything is good with cinnamon toffee butter.

  3. My husband has been experimenting with different Civil War recipes. At that time they were often baked longer and slower and really were hard enough to break a tooth. This made them able to last indefinitely. They would sometimes soak it in whatever was available and if there was some bacon fat around, might fry the soaked biscuit. There was at least one hilarious song about it sung by the soldiers.

    1. That would make a difference. I assumed there must have been something different from how I did it with how they did it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *