You have probably heard of “Hardtack” but do you know what it is made of. It is simply flour, water and sometimes salt. In years past in particular during the Civil War salt was difficult to obtain because of blockades and the fact many people simply lacked the money. Flour however was available because farmers could mill their own or have it milled locally.
Hardtack is often times referred to as pilot bread, ship’s biscuit, shipbiscuit, sea biscuit, cabin bread, and sea bread.
For traditional Hardtack you need four to five cups of flour, 3 teaspoons of salt and enough water to create a dry yet pliable mixture. Once the mixture is ready simply roll out roughly one half inch thick and cut into squares or round biscuits and poke holes in the mixture to prevent puffing, and uneven baking. Then place on an un-greased baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes at 375. For long sea voyages bakers would bake the sea biscuits up to four times, to ensure they held up for months at sea.
Once done let the hardtack dry for several days out of refrigeration in a room with good air circulation. The bread is shelf stable for years as long as you protect it from weevils and other insects, so store in a weevil/insect proof container on the shelf.
The bread is completely void of moisture, which is what makes it shelf stable. However, it also makes it very difficult to eat because it is so hard. It can be soaked in water, milk, protein broth to soften it for eating or crumbled and added to sauces to thicken the mixture.
You can experiment with the mix to add flavor, but remember the simplicity of the mixture is what allows it to cure making it stable for decades out of refrigeration. You might try adding honey and reducing the water for flavor because honey itself has an indefinite shelf life.
Make some Hardtack and pack an ample supply in your survival or bug-out bag.
If you have some hardtack, honey and jerked meat you have everything you need to survive, as far as food goes, if you have an ample supply.
Beef jerky is probably the most popular and is relatively easy to make right at home to pack for the trail. Lean beef is the best, because it is difficult to extract moisture from fat, thus it will go rancid quickly. Use cheaper cuts of meat for jerky, because there is no point in buying expensive tenderloin, for example, to make beef jerky, use brisket and trim the fat from it.
Remove all visible fat from the meat and cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide strips. You can dry the meat as is, or soak in brine overnight before drying and/or add spices before placing in an oven or dehydrator.
If using your oven it probably will only go as low as 170°F, which is fine for making jerky. Lay the meat right on the racks with foil on the bottom rack to catch the drippings. The meat must have air circulation under it so do not block the flow of air through the grates on which the meat is drying.
Leave the over door open an inch (may have to prop open) to allow the moisture to escape. It can take up to 8 hours or longer to dry the meat this way depending on how dry you want the meat, the thickness and type/cut of meat.
You do not want to cook the meat but simply extract most but not all of the moisture from it. The meat should flex slightly without breaking when done. If the meat is too dry and breaks or crumbles save to make a protein broth by adding to hot water and steeping.
Once done to your satisfaction pile loosely and let set in an area out of refrigeration with good air circulation for 24 hours before packaging. Expect it to be shelf stable for up to 6 months.
Honey is best stored in a glass container but for your survival bag this is not ideal, so store it in a quality plastic container well sealed to prevent leakage. Pure honey will crystallize, this is normal and some even welcome this because it makes it easier to use, it will not drip as much.
Make a beef broth using the jerky and soak your hardtack in the broth to soften then spread some honey on the biscuit and sip the broth for the perfect trail meal.