Hardtack is one of those awesome survival foods that never seem to go bad. It has everything you need in a survival food — it stores well, it’s nutritious, it’s light, and it’s versatile. Sure, you can just boil it in plain water and choke it down. It’ll keep you alive and strong enough to trek through the wilderness back to the BOL, but once you get there, there’s no reason not to kick it up and make it delicious.
Properly dried hardtack has the consistency of a brick. In this condition it will store literally for a century or more and still be edible. The hardtack demonstrated in this video was left out on the bread board for about ten months, and it was still delicious. Of course, that’s not the proper way to store it — oxygen and light degrade the food, which reduces its nutritional value and can give it a stale taste.
Hardtack and Gravy Recipe
See the original hardtack recipe here. The gravy in this recipe is based on beef fat trimmings left over from a recent jerky-making throw-down. But you can use chicken drippings, pork fat, or really anything that contains fat. The trick to gravy is to include enough liquid in the mix to bind to the fat with flour and/or starch. Too little liquid and it will separate — still edible, but sort of gross-looking.
Hardtack is not just for emergencies. It also helps out when you’re too busy to cook something big. As far as your involvement in prep time, it’s only a little more trouble than frozen pizza, although it does take a longer cooking time.
Prep time: 15 min. Cooking time: 1-2 hrs.
- 1.5 cups of rendered beef fat. (To get this, I boiled the fat trimmings from a sirloin until most of the fat had dissolved and most of the water boiled off)
- 1.5 cups water (or broth)
- 1 Tablespoon flour
- 1 Tablespoon corn starch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 3-6 pieces of hardtack
Melt the fat in 1 cup of water in a heavy pot over medium heat. Reserve the other half-cup of water. Add salt and pepper to the pot. Drop the hardtack in this mix and simmer on low heat, covered, for one to two hours to desired tenderness. Stir the flour and cornstarch in half-cup of water until lumps disappear, and add to the pot, stirring constantly until thickened. If it’s too thick, add a little water until it’s just right. Adjust seasoning and serve piping hot.
I used hardtack made with whole soft white wheat, which has a very substantial nutty taste and grainy texture. You know you’re eating something hearty when you taste this stuff.
Share your recipes in the comments!