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Archive for January, 2014

Ideally, hopefully, “God willin’ ‘n the creek don’t rise,” a soldier
who fought in the Revolutionary War received, as part of his
daily rations, one pound of bread OR one pound of flour OR
one pound of hard biscuits. And so I made several batches
of the latter for my “Cook Like a Soldier” programs this past
year. Here are a few, hot ‘n fresh from my mo-dern oven:

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Hard biscuits are really quite easy to make. After all, there
are only three ingredients: flour; a bit of salt; and water.*
Mix them together into a fairly stiff dough, roll it out and
cut, then bake at 350 for 20 minutes or so until they’re
good and dry (you’re not cooking them as much as just
evaporating all the water). The best part is, they can be
made today and used next week, next month, or heck,
even next year! In fact, the longer you wait, the better.

Since a Rev War soldier was given a pound of these hard
biscuits, I weighed out that amount. At the size I made
them (roughly three inches in diameter), I discovered
that 17 individual biscuits equaled a pound:

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Naturally, if I’d made them larger, there’d be less in a pound,
and more, if they’d been smaller. But I must say, I was quite
amazed to see, exactly, the amount a Rev War soldier could
potentially receive EVERY single day! It made me wonder if
there were times when he had so many biscuits, he didn’t
know what to do with them? Of course, on those days, and
during those weeks, when possibly little, or even nothing,
no other food, was being delivered, I imagine a few hard
biscuits in the bottom of a soldier’s haversack would’ve
seemed like manna from heaven!

I sewed up the handy-dandy cloth bag so that I could tote
the biscuits from one place to another, as well as use them
repeatedly for display purposes. Besides, as I understand it,
that’s what Rev War soldiers might’ve done, as well, in order
to carry their rations from some distribution point back to their
own camps.

One of the nicest aspects of always having a supply of hard
biscuits on hand is that I can wrap up a few and take them
with me whenever I participate in re-enactments. That way,

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if I ever get hungry and/or need a quick snack, I have a little
something on which to nibble. The added bonus is that they’re
historically-accurate little somethings. What could be better?!

Of course, the Big Question is: How do they taste?

Well, actually, I think they’re quite delicious! They’re especially
yummy hot, right outta the oven, before they harden. But even
after, when they ARE hard as rocks, I still enjoy eating them. I’d
say the taste is a cross between a cracker and a regular biscuit.
In fact, I think they ARE, truly, delightful ‘n delectable! HUZZAH!

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*The receipt for hard biscuits was shared at a symposium
conducted by Kimberly Boice this past March at Ft. Mifflin.
It’s also in
The Packet , by Mark R. Tully ( (c) 1999-2007;
see page 4).

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NOTE: Hard biscuits were known as such during the wars of the 18th
and early 19th centuries. Unless you were in the Navy, then they were
called “ship’s biscuits” or “sea biscuits.” It wasn’t until the American
Civil War that they were referred to as “hard tack.”

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In addition to the various foods that I prepared ahead
of time and brought in for visitors to enjoy at The Crane
House
during this past December’s Essex County (NJ)
Historic Holiday House Tour, I also did a bit of cooking.
My plan had been to do two dishes, one on Saturday
and another on Sunday. However, for various reasons,
including some poorly-burning firewood that resulted
in few coals, I was able to make only one. So, I did all
the prep work, the mixing of ingredients and the rolling
out of dough and what-not on the first day and then
baked it on the second.

Oh, and “it” was a Veal Pye:

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I used this receipt from Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery,
Made Plain and Easy
(1747):

To make pretty Sweet Lamb or Veal Pye.
FIRST make a good Crust, butter
the Dish, and lay in your Bottom
and Side-crust; then cut your Meat
into small Pieces; season with a very
little Salt, some Mace and Nutmeg beat
fine, and strewed over; then lay a Layer
of Meat, and strew according to your
Fancy, some Currans, clean washed
and picked, and a few Raisins stoned,
all over the Meat; lay another Layer
of Meat, put a little Butter at the Top,
and a little Water, just enough to bake
it and no more. Have ready against it
comes out of the Oven, a White Wine
Caudle made very sweet, and send
it to Table hot.

Usually I make a mincemeat pie for this annual event,
but I decided to do something a bit different this year.
Besides, the ingredients were nearly the same; there
were just less of them. And then there was the fact
that I didn’t have to deal with all that “pesky” mincing
of everything. Ahh, well…perhaps I’ll go back to it next
year. Or not? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see!

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Here’s wishing everyone a fantastic New Year! Let’s
bid farewell to 2013 and give three cheers for 2014:
Hip hip HUZZAH! Hip hip HUZZAH! Hip hip HUZZAH!

Now for a few shots of some mighty fine fireworks,
courtesy of the folks at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park:

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