John's Kitchen : Hard Tack

【明報專訊】Hard tack was the bread that made the British Empire. Sometimes it was called ship's biscuits. In the USA it is called pilot bread. This type of bread would stay fresh for years as long as it was kept dry and wrapped against bugs. This bread allowed old sailing ships to carry enough food to sail from London to Hong Kong without refrigeration.

On those old sailing ships, insects called weevils (象鼻蟲) would often get into the hard tack. The sailors had to tap the biscuits on the table to scare the bugs out or just eat the biscuit, bugs and all.

Hard tack is baked in an oven at a low heat to drive out all the water, but not burn the bread. Then after it has been baked and cooled, it is baked again.

When a friend of mine, who like to sail, was getting married, I made him some hard tack. I kept it for a year and gave it to them on his first anniversary. It was supposed to be a symbol of something long lasting. He decided to eat it.

There are three ways to eat hard tack, the sensible way, the slow way and the silly way. The sensible way is to add it to soup and cook it until it is soft. The slow way is to gently chew it for an hour. The silly way is to just eat it like bread. My friend ate it the silly way and broke a tooth.

text: John Larrysson