Civil War recipes: Hardtack crackers and Confederate Johnny cake
Civil War bayonets were used more for cooking than impaling the enemy.
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As for cooking salt pork, the soldiers were equally, ingeniously minimalist. After being soaked in water to remove some of the salt, the pork was most commonly fried in a pan. But rather than lugging around the issued, heavy iron skillet for this purpose, our clever ancestors instead made use of easily available, leaking canteens. Civil War canteens were made by soldering together two hemispheres of extremely thin, tin-plated iron. These often began to leak after being battered around on the march. So the soldiers simply put the canteens into the fire to finish melting apart the seams; the more playful added a musket cartridge into the canteen before putting it into the fire to dramatically, loudly, and impressively hasten the seam failure.Skip to next paragraph
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Either way, the result was two very lightweight, nestling frying pans, weighing a fraction of the weight of the cast iron GI model, which easily packed with your other necessities. These also doubled as entrenching tools; the Army didn't issue real entrenching tools to every soldier until World War I.
Some recipes omit shortening
2 cups of flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon of Crisco or vegetable fat
6 pinches of salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Mix the ingredients together into a stiff dough, knead several times, and spread the dough out flat to a thickness of 1/4 inch on a non-greased cookie sheet.
Using a pizza cutter or a knife, cut dough into 3-inch cracker squares. With the flat end of a bamboo skewer, punch four rows of holes, four holes per row, into each cracker.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, turn crackers over on the sheet and return to the oven and bake another 30 minutes. Cool completely.
Confederate Johnny cake
2 cups of cornmeal
2/3 cup of milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix ingredients into a stiff batter and form 8 biscuit-sized "dodgers." Bake on a lightly greased sheet for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Or, spoon the batter into hot cooking oil in a frying pan over a low flame. Remove the corn dodgers and let cool on a paper towel, spread with a little butter or molasses.
Hardtack added such misery to camp life that Civil War soldiers wrote this song in honor of the cracker they all loved to hate. To listen, click on the video below.
Kendra Nordin also blogs at Kitchen Report.