Letter: Hard Tack

Dear Editor,

We are all aware of hard tack as a long term storage food supply. A pound of flour can make a large quantity of hard tack, which (correctly made and stored) can last for a decade if not more.

I would think that whole wheat flour would improve the nutritional qualities of the hard tack, but there are some online references that state that the fat found more so in whole wheat flour may go rancid with time. It leads you to wonder if there was white flour in Civil War times or in sailing ships? Or if they even cared if it went rancid. Valid question though. Anyone?

Also, original hard tack recipes even with white enriched flour have acceptable nutrition. Whole wheat would be even better. However, it would be valuable to know how that basic hard tack recipe can be improved without impacting its long term storage. Using ionized salt would of course add a necessary mineral without impacting storage life. What about white or brown sugar or perhaps baking soda for electrolytes? Other flours perhaps? It would seem that this basic recipe could be improved without impacting storage. – D.S.

HJL Replies: Never having made hard tack myself, I honestly don’t know. It would seem that whatever you put in it will affect the taste, but let’s see what our readers suggest. I question the use of whole wheat if it is fresh ground because of the inclusion of the wheat germ, which I understand goes rancid fairly quickly. Sometime I would really like to find out how the elves (in Lord of the Rings) made lembas bread.