Interlude: Cracknel: An Ancient Soldier's Food
8-6-10

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1 Kings 14:3 And take with thee ten loaves, and cracknels, and a cruse of honey, and go to him: he shall tell thee what shall become of the child.

Dear Fellowsoldiers,

On a certain occasion, I heard the scriptures playing and heard the subject verse. My mind immediately latched onto the word "cracknels." I looked it up in the Webster's 1828 dictionary--

CRACK'NEL, n. A hard brittle cake or biscuit. I Kings xiv. 3.

Cracknel is an ancient food that has been commonly used by soldiers for many centuries. During the Civil War it was called by several names, including hard tack. Some may call it Soldier's Biscuit or one of a number of other names. It is said that it was used by the Roman soldiers. Cracknel is a dried out bread that does not readily spoil and can be taken into the field. It has only three basic ingredients: flour, water, and a little salt. I guess one could make it without the salt, if need be. You mix it up and roll it out and put it in the oven for about an hour. It gets hard and dried out. I have edible cracknel on the shelf that I made a few years ago. A soldier in the field could dip it in his drink or broth to soften it before he ate it.

The Bible teaches that we are soldiers. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. We have the blood of Jesus, the word of God, and the Holy Ghost who gives us power and anointing and will continue to do so until the end.

Many persons--even the unsaved--can see that things are changing in this country, America, and across the world. They are trying to make some sort of preparations for a catastrophic event. They want to figure out how they will eat when the grocery stores close down and how they are going to get water. I'd like to share with you a simple cracknel recipe and then a second one that we made this morning with a slight variation. [T. means "tablespoon."]

The picture at right is of a hard tack cracknel like those made during the Civil War.

hardtack_cracknelRecipe #1
(proven to last for a few years thus far)

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 pinch salt (the original recipe called for 1 T. salt which was FAR too salty)

  1. Mix flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add water and stir until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Knead mixture lightly by hand. ("knead" means to mix. Just fold over the dough and press it in, repeating this a few times. This is not leavened bread, you just want the ingredients mixed up.)
  4. Roll mixture onto cookie sheet until 1/4 inch thick.
  5. Cut into 3 inch squares.
  6. Poke each square four times with a fork.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. [optional: Turn the cracknel over and poke again, put back in the oven, close the door and leave it in there for at least 30 minutes until the oven cools so that it can dry out some more.]
  8. Let cool.
  9. Serve with beverage or soup.

The key to drying food is to make sure it is dry before storing it. As long as it stays dry, there should be no problems. The soldiers did find that sometimes insects infested their rations before they received them. They might soak them in liquid to get the insects out. Insects may be unsightly to some, but they are edible and are used as an important source of protein for many. Locusts were a main feature in the diet of John the Baptist and, they say, pound for pound insects provide more protein (protein builds up your muscles and flesh) than steak.

Recipe #2
(this morning's recipe)

  • 2 c flour (1 1/2 c. flour and 1/2 c. bean flour*)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 c. water
  • 1 T shortening (we used fat and grease out of our grease can)
  • 2 T honey
  • 3 pinches salt

  1. Mix flour(s) and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Work in the shortening.
  3. Dissolve honey in warm water.
  4. Add water/honey mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed. If the mixture is too wet, add flour. If too dry, add water.
  5. Knead mixture lightly by hand, adding flour if it is sticky. ("knead" means to mix. Just fold over the dough and press it in, repeating this a few times. This is not leavened bread, you just want the ingredients mixed up.)
  6. Roll mixture onto cookie sheet until 1/4 inch thick. (After we rolled it out, we folded ours and rolled it out to about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch. The thinnest pieces came out crispy and tasty from the oven. We may like them best. The thicker ones (1/2 inch) are still cooking so I'll have to update this page later--update: they were super hard, we like the thin to medium ones best.)
  7. Cut into 3 inch squares.
  8. Poke each square four times with a fork.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. [optional: Turn the cracknel over and poke again, put back in the oven, close the door and leave it in there for at least 30 minutes until the oven cools so that it can dry out some more.]
  10. Let cool.
  11. Serve with beverage or soup.
*for bean flour, we put a mixture of different dry beans in our non-electric handmill and hand cranked it and the beans were made into flour. Our last batch of bean flour was made about a year ago and has been kept in a kitchen cabinet in an old peanut jar with a lid.

Notes:

  • We've also made cracknel from cornmeal/bean flour/wheat flour. The idea is to take what you have and use it. If you have beans and a grain, you have a complete protein that can take the place of meat to build up your flesh. Children, women with child and lactating women need more protein than others.
  • If you add Unsulfured Organic Molasses (does not taste good alone but is a nutritious sweetner) and honey (not too much, sweets are addictive) to cornmeal, bean flour, wheat flour, oatmeal, and even a little green flour (dried out mild greens ground to flour)--whatever you have--the cracknel has a taste reminiscent of gingerbread--not too sweet, but pleasant. The point with keeping most any substance is to dry it thoroughly. I have a rib from a barbeque years ago and it is still good because I left it on the grill all night long over smoldering coals and it dried out.
  • I made some pre-mixed cracknel flour so that I can just add water when I want to make a batch. In it I included flour, corn meal, bean flour, various seeds I had around (flax, sesame, etc.), wheat flour, white flour (I don't normally buy white but it was cheap and in a BIG bag so I could keep my production going), and whatever else I could find (including some yellow grits) that was opened and not being used. These cracknels are dense and nutritious and do not need to be cooked. They are great dipped in beans and rice--add a little extra water so a soup forms for sopping.
  • When shopping for beans and staples, go to the Spanish or ethnic section of the grocery store. Americans don't cook but many other nations do. Immigrants often cannot afford (nor do they probably want) the processed food Americans choose to eat. I have combined the following types of beans into a crock pot (different beans can have different nutrional strengths, variety of foods is good):
    • pinto beans
    • black beans
    • small red beans
    • central american red beans
    • roman beans
    • canary beans (they are yellow)
    • navy beans (once a staple food of the U.S. Navy)
  • We store our cracknel in plastic bags. Last time, we took a plastic bread bag after we ate the last of the bread, shook it out, put the cracknel in it, and used a twist tie to secure it.
  • A word on fat. Fat is nothing to be scared of. Our bodies need it. Some vitamins, like vitamin A, are fat soluble. They need fat. In the event of hard times, try to intake a tablespoon a day. I read that after the establishment said that fat is bad, women followed their advice trying to cutting fat out of their diets and started having problems because they had inadequate fat intake in their diets. In any emergency situation, or in life period, it is important to know the nutritional requirements of man. If a child has inadequate vitamin A, they can go blind. Many wild edibles that we call "weeds" can provide these important vitamins and minerals to our diet, but you have to know what you can eat and what you cannot because some of these weeds can kill you or make you sick. Nuts have fat, a tablespoon of peanut oil can give you fat. Know what you need.
  • Online Weed Walk (There is free food outside. Many wild edibles have worldwide distribution.)
  • Preparing an Emergency Food Supply (ideas for preparing for an emergency and for self-sufficiency.)
  • If you do not currently garden, I suggest that you learn how. Garlic (many plant the cloves in October for harvesting the next summer), potatoes, shallots, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes are easy to grow. Sweet potatoes can often keep for a year. A key to storing root vegetables is to let them cure/dry out before storing in a cool, dark place. The tomatoes can be hot water bath canned.

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