Object of The Month: January 2018 – Dietary Regulations / Hard Tack Biscuit
The ‘Recovery’ Diet
During the American Civil War in 1775, patients recovering in the infirmary would regain their strength with a liquid heavy diet. One such meal was ‘water gruel’ – this was served for breakfast every morning and consisted of one pint of a thin cereal mixture, which some ‘lucky’ patients could look forward to a second helping for their supper too! The other favoured ‘meal’ was Broth which was cheap, nutritious and could go a long way.
Beer not Water
There were some treats in store however; those on full rations could look forward to a little cheese or butter three times a week, and everyone had a daily ration of one pint of small beer, which was a low alcohol drink that was less likely to cause illness than the dirty drinking water of the day.
Hard Tack Biscuits
If you needed to eat on-the-go, then you could stock up on Hard Tack, a simple biscuit made chiefly of flour and water, baked multiple times to harden it, meaning it could last for long stretches of time without perishing.
The durability of hard tack made it the ideal food for sailors at sea for long periods of time or for soldiers on the battle fields. Its origins can be traced back to the Romans, whose soldiers carried a similar biscuit called Bucellatum.
The Hard Tack biscuits needed to be kept bone dry so they lasted in storage and didn’t go mouldy or become infested with maggots. So to enjoy a Hard Tack biscuit it needs to be soaked in liquid or boiled. To eat when dry would be sure to crack teeth, and were likened by troops to dog biscuits!
The museum’s example, manufactured by Huntley & Palmer, is thought to date to the First World War, which makes it over 100 years old, and has thankfully been well preserved!
If you’d like to try some hard tack here’s a recipe:
3 cups White Flour
1.5 cups Sweet Sorghum Flour
9 Rounded Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
½ Cup Refined Coconut Oil
3 Tbsp Salt
1.5 cups of water
Preheat your oven to 375°F
Add dry ingredients to your bowl.
The amount of water you need can vary a bit. I add a ½ cup at a time and work it in.
Knead dough, needs to be smooth to be worked with a rolling pin.
Roll out till approx 1 inch thick
Cut into square biscuit shapes
Prick holes in the dough.
Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 mins
Allow to cool completely