National Maritime Museum
24 Aug 2007
Ship's biscuits or hard tack was a vital part of a seaman's diet in the years before the introduction of canned food in the mid-nineteenth century. Try the ship biscuit diet for yourself by following our recipe!
by Tanya, Reader Services Librarian
- 1lb wholemeal flour (try to find a medium-course stone-ground flour for authenticity)
- ¼oz salt
- Preheat your oven to 215C (190C for a fan oven)
- Mix the salt and flour together and add the water slowly, mixing until you have created a very stiff dough.
- Leave the dough for half an hour (you can profitably use this time to scrub the decks or hoist the mainsail).
- Roll the dough out fairly thickly (to about half an inch or just over a centimetre deep) and use a round cutter to cut them out.
- Use a fork to prick the biscuits all over the top side.
- Place on a greased baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes.
As you eat your biscuits, count yourself lucky that they are not truly authentic - biscuits were sometimes made using powdered bone, or a pea flour which became incredibly hard and could not be bitten through. Sometimes the only way to eat a hard biscuit was to leave it until it got stale and soft, by which point they tasted musty and often contained weevils and maggots.