Today I was reading a book on camping written in 1877. It discussed food and showed a suggested quantity of food for two men for one week camping and hiking.
- Ten pounds of pilot-bread
- Eight pounds of salt pork
- One pound of coffee
- Two pounds of sugar
- Thirty pounds of potatoes
- A little beef and butter
- A few gingersnaps
It was suggested that you eat the potatoes first and save the pilot bread. This will reduce the weight you are carrying.
Army Hardtack or Pilot Bread Recipe
- 4 cups flour (preferably whole wheat)
- 4 teaspoons salt
- Water (about 2 cups)
- Pre-heat oven to 375° F
- Makes about 10 pieces
Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add just enough water (less than two cups) so that the mixture will stick together, producing a dough that won’t stick to hands, rolling pin or pan. Mix the dough by hand. Roll the dough out, shaping it roughly into a rectangle. Cut into the dough into squares about 3 x 3 inches and ½ inch thick.
After cutting the squares, press a pattern of four rows of four holes into each square, using a nail or other such object. Do not punch through the dough. The appearance you want is similar to that of a modern saltine cracker. Turn each square over and do the same thing to the other side.
Place the squares on an ungreased cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn each piece over and bake for another 30 minutes. The crackers should be slightly brown on both sides.
The fresh crackers are easily broken but as they dry, they harden and assume the consistency of fired brick.
Now in the past hardtack was kiln dried much like green lumber is for hours in a brick kiln. It stored so well that when President “Teddy” Roosevelt sent the “Great White Fleet” around the World in the 1907’s, Surplus hardtack left over from the War Between the States was included in their supplies. It was probably over 50 years old at the time.
The first time we tried the above recipe it failed and the hardtack got moldy. We baked it in the oven as directed and when it cooled, we stored it in a plastic bag. This was two mistakes. One, it needs to be cooked longer if you intend it for long-term storage. Two, store it in something that breaths like a paper bag for a few days.
Have fun chewing on them.