Sunday, March 9, 2008

Civil War HardTack Tutorial

Hi everyone! I hope you are all on track and have sprung ahead! Here at our house church service was cancelled because of the snow and we slept in till 12. For some reason for a day or two after the spring forward time I can't get to sleep at night and then sleep half the following day. But I am so excited to share this recipe with you guys. I saw these on Ebay and were impressed with them. After trying many recipes I have found the perfect method. I have always been interested in the Civil War era and continue to be. What another perfect project to do with your children or grandchildren. You could even work in a history lesson about how the Civil War soldiers carried these around in their "haversacks" and were only rationed 6 to 8 of these for three days. And these are perfectly fine to eat and resemble the modern saltine cracker. But before we get started here is a little history on these.
The soldier's diet was very simple- meat, coffee, sugar, and a dried biscuit called hardtack. Of all the items soldiers received, it was this hard bread that they remembered and joked about the most.
"'Tis the song that is uttered in camp by night and day,'Tis the wail that is mingled with each snore;'Tis the sighing of the soul for spring chickens far away,'Oh hard crackers, come again no more!''Tis the song of the soldier, weary, hungry and faint,Hard crackers, hard crackers, come again no more;Many days have I chewed you and uttered no complaint,Hard crackers, hard crackers, come again no more!"-from a soldiers' parable called "Hard Times"
Hardtack was a biscuit made of flour with other simple ingredients, and issued to Union soldiers throughout the war. Hardtack crackers made up a large portion of a soldier's daily ration. It was square or sometimes rectangular in shape with small holes baked into it, similar to a large soda cracker. Large factories in the north baked hundreds of hardtack crackers every day, packed them in wooden crates and shipped them out by wagon or rail. If the hardtack was received soon after leaving the factory, they were quite tasty and satisfying. Usually, the hardtack did not get to the soldiers until months after it had been made. By that time, they were very hard, so hard that soldiers called them "tooth dullers" and "sheet iron crackers". Sometimes they were infested with small bugs the soldiers called weevils, so they referred to the hardtack as "worm castles" because of the many holes bored through the crackers by these pests. The wooden crates were stacked outside of tents and warehouses until it was time to issue them. Soldiers were usually allowed six to eight crackers for a three-day ration. There were a number of ways to eat them- plain or prepared with other ration items. Soldiers would crumble them into coffee or soften them in water and fry the hardtack with some bacon grease. One favorite soldier dish was salted pork fried with hardtack crumbled into the mixture. Soldiers called this "skillygallee", and it was a common and easily prepared meal.
Let's Begin!
All Purpose Flour
Vegetable Shortening
Preheat oven to 400 degrees; Combine 2 c. of ap flour and 6 pinches of salt. With hands stir in 1/2 c. of water and 1 T. of veg shortening. If dough is still dry add a little more water. Making sure dough is not sticky. Place dough onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Roll dough out into a rectangle shape about a half inch thick. Cut into three by three inch squares (a pizza cutter works perfect for this)and place on a non greased cookie sheet. Dip the tines of a fork into flour and make 16 holes in each cracker. You will have four rows with four holes; do not pierce all the way through. Turn cracker over and repeat. Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 min until edges are brown and cracker is completely hard. When they are hard and dried out turn your oven off and let them cool in the oven with the door shut. The bake time will vary greatly depending on your oven and the thickness of your dough. So watch these carefully! As for storing these crackers for display I am going to try putting them in a screw top jar. Hopefully pest will not be able to get in them that way. Hope you guys enjoy making these and as always please do not sell these directions; share them with your friends freely as they were freely given to you.


JoJosho said...

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Jason Dittle said...

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SimpleFolk said...

Thank you for your tutorials! They're wonderful! I love anything Civil War related and since the boys and I are doing a unit study on it, this will be perfect to use. Thank you, thank you! I just love your sweet blog. :-)

By the way, where did the waxed eggs tutorial go? It's ok if you removed it. I just thought I might be losing my mind, lol. I bought the supplies, but I can "wing it" if necessary. ;-)

Have a great weekend!