Sunday, May 20, 2012

Have you the stomach for pirating?

First off, I want to (happily) point you over to Pirates of the Spiral for the first (known) Pirate 101 contest! Yes, there's booty to be had! Hurry over, (and hurry back, I'll wait.).

Oh, back already? Welcome back.
Ever wonder why 'scurvy' is always attributed to pirates, (Like "ye scurvy dog!")?
Well, it's actually a reference to scurvy, a condition brought on by Vitamin C deficiency. Not a pretty thing, by any stretch of the imagination.

As the Chief Cook of my domestic scallywags, I thought that, since we're talking pirates and food, I thought I'd share a little "try this at home" for you, (with the help of a responsible parent or guardian, there be ovens involved.)

The "cracker" that battles back.
So, what do I suggest for your first "Piratey Martha Stewart" experience? A historically acurate, (and none too shabby), bit of provision that many a sailor and pirate would have been well-acquainted with: Hardtack

Hardtack. Known also to sailors as "Pilot Bread". Perhaps you've heard it referenced in a movie, (often in with a tone of complaint), hardtack is a very simple, long-lasting type of thick cracker made from flour, salt, and water. They are baked "extra-dry", and have a considerable shelf life. There's actually many recipes for making various types of hardtack, but we're gonna stick with something simple and standardized. This is the recipe that I've used, myself, and I'd like to share it with you.

Here's what you're gonna need:
  • 4 cups flour (preferably whole wheat)
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • Water (about 2 cups)
  • Pre-heat oven to 375° F (Please, please, be careful! Have a trusted adult help.)
  • Makes about 10 pieces
Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add just enough water (less than two cups) so that the mixture will stick together, producing a dough that won’t stick to hands, rolling pin or pan.  Mix the dough by hand. Roll the dough out, shaping it roughly into a rectangle. Cut into the dough into squares about 3 x 3 inches and ½ inch thick.
After cutting the squares, press a pattern of four rows of four holes into each square, using a nail or other such object. Do not punch through the dough.  The appearance you want is similar to that of a modern saltine cracker.  Turn each square over and do the same thing to the other side.
Place the squares on an ungreased cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn each piece over and bake for another 30 minutes. The crackers should be slightly brown on both sides.
The fresh crackers are easily broken but as they dry, they harden and assume the consistentency of fired brick.

The above is the "Army Recipe", made by standardized procedure, common during the Civil War.

A word of warning: The "Hard" in "Hardtack" is no joke! You're going to want a nice cup of broth, or some other liquid when consuming hardtack. If you have a loose tooth, hardtack *will* "help you with that".

Also, don't limit yourself to "standard cracker shape", you can make "hardtack gingerbread men" (aka pirates), or , how about this, Pirate 101 Class-shaped hardtack? Spyglass, sabers, hoodoo dolls, you-name-it. Send in pictures of your "Pirate 101 Hardtack", and I'll glady share it with Our Spir@l.

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