Monday, February 27, 2012

Making Hardtack

     So I have been working on doing prepping and storing food. However I also think that it is a good idea to be able to make my own food as well. So I was looking for something fairly easy to make which would also last a long time. The first thing that came to mind was hardtack.

     Hardtack is basically a very simple cracker, and the best thing about it, is that hardtack can last seemingly indefinatly. In fact there are even real examples of hard tack in museums that were actually made in the period that the display is about.

     So I decided to go about making hardtack. I have found a few different recipes for hardtack, and since this is my first time making hardtack I decided to start with the very basic easiest version of hardtack out there. I have it down at the end of the post for you all as well.

     For the basic recipe you need only three things. Flour, water and salt. Sounds easy enough right? It is. First you set the oven to preheat, and then you mix all three ingredients together in the bowl. I started using a spoon, and then just switched over to my hands because it was just so much easier. For this recipe I found that the batter seemed a little dry. It had a crumbly lumpy thing going on, and it didn't all want to stick together so I added a little bit extra water so it would all come together.

     Then I floured down my working surface, and promptly started rolling out the dough. The recipe said that it was supposed to be rolled out thing, but it doesn't say exactly how much thin is. So I rolled it down to maybe a quarter inch or less, but not super thin either. From pictures I have seen of hardtack they all seem to be pretty thick crackers so I didn't want to make them too thin.

     After that I cut up the dough into peices. I kept them all basically rectangular in shape, cutting off the lumpy edges, simply for asthetics. I rolled the extra dough out again and then cut the extra into squares as well. I just used a plain knife to cut it up, though a pizza cutter would work really well for that.

     Then using a fork I stabbed the dough a bunch of times to poke holes in it, and I did this on both sides of the dough as well. I am pretty sure this is just so that you don't get any large bubbles in the crackers, like the ones you see sometimes on pizza crust.

     After that the peices of dough went on a pan, and into the oven for ten minutes. After ten minutes, I let the crackers bake a little longer to tweleve minutes, because they still seemed kinda doughy. In hindsight, that may just be because I didn't roll the dough out thin enough.

     At this point the tray came out of the oven, and I took off one piece of hardtack to try. This recipe itself was, as I expected, really quite bland. Similar to a low or no sodium saltine, except more dense. After a bite or two, I put some jam on top, because I had heard it recommened as a way to eat hardtack. With the jam on top it was really quite good. The hardtack provided a good base for the jam, and was bland enough that you really got the flavor of the jam, without there being too much in the background. At the same time the hardtack had enough flavor and substance that you didn't feel like you were just eating jam by itself either.

    Next the oven temperature got lowered to 250F, and I put the tray back in for a second bake. What is a second bake? Exactly what it sounds like. You lower the temperature and put the hardtack back into the oven for a longer period of time, and it acts very much like a dehydrator. The poit of the second bake is to take out as much water from the hardtack as possible, therefore allowing it to last longer.

     I did mine for the recommended 30 minutes that the recipe said. I didn't have time to do it any longer than that, but looking at the hardtack, it still didn't seem that hard, and when I finished I thought that the hardtack could have probebly been in there a little longer.

     I let the hardtack cool, and then put it in plastic bags. I am going to add the first batch of hardtack to my prepping supplies, and we'll see how long it lasts. I'll post updates on how long it seems to stay good. Periodically I may open up a bag to try out the hardtack as well, and see if the taste has changed onced the hardtack has cooled and sat for a while.

     Next time I am going to try a different hardtack recipe, called Swedish Hardtack, that involves two more ingredients: honey and vegetable oil. I think it will be a more appealing version of hardtack, because it will have a little more flavor.

Basic Hardtack
-3c flour
-1 c water
-1 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 400F. Mix ingredients together in a bowl to create a workable dough, and form a ball.
On a floured surface flatten the dough and roll out thinly.
Cut into squares and peirce each peice with a fork a couple of times. Transfer on a greased baking sheet.
Bake 10 - 12 minutes.
To second bake the crackers turn oven down to 250F and bake for another half hour.

     If anyone out there gives this recipe a try let me know!  Love to hear about your results.


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