Arrr! Ahoy me matey! Ye behold nay the tomb of some maggot o’ a sea cap’n, nor this be a marker for some hidden pirate booty. Nay!
Would ya be wanting to know what this is? Listen close matey, for thar shall be a yarn to be spun; a tale of adventuring uncharted waters, hardship, failure and many a curse to be had.
Yaarrr! *cough* *cough* *cough*
I can only keep a pirate voice going for so long…
If you’re wondering what all the pirate patter is about, the 19th September marks the annual Talk Like a Pirate Day (official website link). What is that you ask? Well it’s the one day each year where you attempt to speak like a pirate with a “yo ho ho, and a bottle o’ rum”, or something like that. Anyhow, in keeping with the festive spirit of the day to come, I figured it would be interesting to explore the food that may have come out of a pirate’s galley.
What you see in the opening image is something known as hard tack, though it’s also referred to as sea biscuits. Yes, like the name of that horse. As the name implies, it’s a biscuit of sorts that seafaring folks would consume on long journeys on the high seas (pirates included). These little ahh… “treats” for lack of a better term, if kept dry would last up to a year.
The recipe for hard tack that I used is a slight adaptation from the one that can be found at this website.
The ingredients are quite simple and should be readily available in most households. The ingredients for this recipe are:
- 2 cups of wholemeal flour (approx. 450g)
- 6 pinches (5g) of salt
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup of water
Yep, that’s all there is to it!
Please note the following is the method I used to make this batch of hard tack. Before you print this out or start using it, you may want to read up on the Notes section first before doing so.
1. Place all the dry ingredients and 1/2 cup of water into a mixing bowl and work together to form a dough. The dough should only have enough water to keep it together. It should end up dry and not at all sticky. The above dough is too dry so more water was required at this stage.
2. Knead the dough for around 5 minutes. If the dough is crumbly or does not come together well, add a little more water as you go. I found that I had to use up pretty much the full 3/4 cup of water. You may need even more depending on your flour and the humidity of the room.
3. Roll the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 mins. This is to allow the flour to hydrate as much as possible.
4. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin until it’s around 5mm thick.
5. Cut rounds from the dough using a cookie cutter and place onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.
6. Place the tray of hard tack into a preheated 205 degree celcius oven for 30 mins.
7. Remove the tray from the oven and turn the heat down until it reaches 120 degrees.
8. Turn the hard tack over and place back into the oven for another 30 mins.
9. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Well, notice how the image here resembles balanced rock formations (sample image here). It’s because these little sea biscuits are as hard as rocks. You could lose a tooth over eating one of these! Now, that’s not the say that the original ones would have been that way. You see, there were a number of failing points that would have likely contributed to this issue that could have been dealt with during the cooking process. If I had my time around again I would:
- Make these a lot thinner. Probably around 2mm in thickness, something like the thickness of a water cracker.
- Like a water cracker, one thing that is in the original recipe which I didn’t have the opportunity to see to was to perforate the biscuits during the cooking process. This would introduce a structural weakness into the biscuits so they would break easier when attempting to bite down on them. My issue was with cutting down the biscuits beforehand into rounds, while the original recipe stated to leave it as a single mass. The surface of the cookie turned into armour plating, preventing me from perforating them. Cue the curses and expletives! If I were to follow this method again, pre-perforation would be the key here.
Having conducted some research on the history of these biscuits, I’d read that these biscuits were often floated in a soup to soften up, as well as a means to expel any weevils from the biscuit, as they would float to the top!
This didn’t help in the slightest. It took around 15 minutes for the biscuits to soften up to any consumable degree. Even then it wasn’t all that palatable.
Well, there you have it. My journey into uncharted waters; an exploration into pirate food that didn’t quite turn out to plan. On the other hand, perhaps it did. I mean, these things were meant to last up to a year on the high seas. They seem sturdy and unpalatable enough to last a year in a ships hold. Also, pirates weren’t known for their culinary high brow.
Bah! Who am I kidding…
Though, on the plus side, you could always use these things as a coaster, an eye patch or an improvised weapon if a raiding party happens to board. Yaarrr!
For more pirate links check out the following:
Recipe for Hard Tack (with some interesting pirate food facts).
Pirate vocabulary list, to prep for the Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Pirate translator. See how your site reads from a pirate’s perspective.