Author Topic: Sailor Boy Pilot Bread  (Read 654 times)

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Offline Optimist

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Sailor Boy Pilot Bread
« on: June 09, 2021, 03:10:15 PM »
Sailor Boy Pilot Bread is one of the most popular survival foods in Alaska, and an every day food in more rural parts of the state.


It's a large, round cracker. It's a bit like a saltine, but very dense and not as salty. I think it's probably pretty close to a modern, commercially produced version of hardtack, but not quite so hard as hardtack based on stories I've read.

[Pathetic Ritz cracker for scale. Okay, Ritz are actually pretty delicious, but this is a Pilot Bread hype thread.]

The biggest feature of this cracker is that it stays good seemingly indefinitely. I've often eaten some that are many, many years old. I don't know if they ever go bad as long as they are kept dry. They do go "stale" which means they lose a little bit of flavor and get a little softer, but soft is a relative term. They're still very hard and crunchy. In terms of losing flavor, that's also rather relative as they're pretty bland to start with. I think they taste good, but I've eaten them my whole life so I might just be used to them. They're something of a comfort food to me. Like bread and saltines they're good for calming an upset stomach.

The most common way I eat them is with peanut butter or crunched up in soups. They are great for adding texture to canned soup and stew. They are very hard and dense, so it takes a long time before they get soggy. I also think they're good with cheese or canned corned beef. A lot of people like to make little pizzas on them, but I've never particularly cared for them that way. Sometimes I just smear a little butter and/or jelly on them or even just eat them plain, but I think the latter might be a little boring for most people. They can be difficult to eat without a little water to wash them down as they are very dry.

When it comes to bugging out they are not the most efficient option when it comes to size and weight. One reason I like to have them around as emergency food is that while I enjoy eating them well enough I'm not tempted to go snack on them. Something like a snickers bar I always seem to end up raiding my BOB for, but that's not a temptation with pilot bread.

[this is just a joke, I don't need a lecture about bugging out to the woods]

Back when I walked to work and school I used to always keep a few in my backpack. I discovered that they will get moldy if they're not protected from moisture (this wasn't just ambient moisture, it was alternating rain and hot temperatures and they were just loose inside a pocket of my backpack, not inside a ziploc or other container).

One summer when I lived in the dorms I didn't manage my food well and ended up living mostly on pilot bread and tomato soup for about two months. I would have a couple crackers with water for breakfast. For lunch I would heat up some canned Campell's tomato soup and crunch up pilot bread into it until it was a paste. For dinner I'd have a couple more crackers with water. Once or twice a week I'd have pilot bread with peanut butter as a treat, but I had to ration the peanut butter. I'm sure this was pretty unhealthy, but I felt fine and surprisingly I didn't get sick of it.


I remember reading an article a while back that Alaskans buy over 90% of the Sailor Boy Pilot Bread made, and a lot of the remainder is sold to people in Japan who are preparing for earthquakes. It's made by Interbake, the company that makes Girl Scout cookies. I think there are a couple other companies making pilot bread, but I haven't tried them.

(I wasn't sure what section of the forum to put this in. It can be Field Cooking, but it's not exactly gear. It could also go in Sheltering in Place or the BOL section.)

Offline boskone

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Re: Sailor Boy Pilot Bread
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2021, 03:25:38 PM »
Sounds like you could pair 'em with pemmican for a latter-day 'iron ration'.

Offline Optimist

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Re: Sailor Boy Pilot Bread
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2021, 03:48:51 PM »
What is an 'iron ration'? I'm not familiar with the term.

I still haven't tried pemmican. I keep hearing it's not very tasty, but it's one of those things I feel like I need to try at least once.

For a while the mainstay of my BOB was pilot bread, waxed cheese and summer sausage, but then during a hot summer the sausage sweated a bunch inside my BOB and I decided not to do that again.  :P

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Re: Sailor Boy Pilot Bread
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2021, 06:44:37 PM »
Iron ration was an emergency field ration, most famously (so far as I know) the British variant: a can of crackers and a can of meat, welded together.

I've never had pemmican either; it doesn't seem like something that would be terribly durable here, though apparently it will last months or years in colder climates.  Reports seem mixed, but since the entire recipe is basically "suet, dried and pounded meat, and maybe berries" I suspect there'll be a lot of variation in flavor.  Plus people who can't get over the fact that they're basically chowing down on fat.

Online RickOShea

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Re: Sailor Boy Pilot Bread
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2021, 07:04:10 PM »
I have several large tins of the Saratoga Farms brand of pilot bread crackers put away in the prep room. They advertise a 20-30 year shelf-life






For a cracker they are very tasty, kinda reminds me of Captain's wafers...

« Last Edit: June 09, 2021, 07:11:54 PM by RickOShea »

Offline boskone

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Re: Sailor Boy Pilot Bread
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2021, 07:38:30 PM »
Oh, just remembered, you could always make hardtack.  As I'm sure most remember, Steve1989MREInfo famously ate a piece from the Civil War.

It's basically 1:4 water:flour (or less; just enough water to hold together) with a hefty pinch of salt, rolled to 1/2" and docked, cut into squares or rounds, baked, then dried (basically dehydrated) or baked 1 to several more times.

Then used to donate money to your dentist.

Offline RoneKiln

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Re: Sailor Boy Pilot Bread
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2021, 11:50:53 PM »
I see they can it too!
https://www.amazon.com/Future-Essentials-Sailor-Pilot-Bread/dp/B008H51BDU/ref=sr_1_2?crid=20Q0AHPTCBWV&dchild=1&keywords=sailor+boy+pilot+bread+crackers&qid=1623386766&sprefix=Sailor+boy+pilo%2Caps%2C431&sr=8-2

I bet that stuff in a can would still be good long after I'm dead. For the price point on Amazon I'll stick to life raft rations by Mayday, but I will watch for them locally. I am real curious to try them now.
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Offline TACAIR

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Re: Sailor Boy Pilot Bread
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2021, 02:00:08 PM »
While I keep a couple of decks of Sailor Boy in the pantry, I've switched to WASA bread for the regular diet. 

Low carb, keeps just as well, and much more crunch!


I'm a fan of the multigrain



I'd much rather be a disappointed pessimist than a horrified optimist....

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Offline Optimist

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Re: Sailor Boy Pilot Bread
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2021, 08:52:32 PM »
I might need to get can or two of some of the ones RickOShea and RoneKiln linked might be a good idea, depending on price.

For a cracker they are very tasty, kinda reminds me of Captain's wafers...


I don't think I've seen those before, I'll have to keep an eye out for them.

Oh, just remembered, you could always make hardtack.  As I'm sure most remember, Steve1989MREInfo famously ate a piece from the Civil War.

It's basically 1:4 water:flour (or less; just enough water to hold together) with a hefty pinch of salt, rolled to 1/2" and docked, cut into squares or rounds, baked, then dried (basically dehydrated) or baked 1 to several more times.

Then used to donate money to your dentist.
I tried making my own quite a few years ago, but it didn't turn out well. I should try again. It could possibly save me quite a bit of money.

While I keep a couple of decks of Sailor Boy in the pantry, I've switched to WASA bread for the regular diet. 

Low carb, keeps just as well, and much more crunch!


I'm a fan of the multigrain
How do you normally eat it? I struggled with it when I tried it.

Offline TACAIR

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Re: Sailor Boy Pilot Bread
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2021, 12:36:59 AM »
Eat the Wasa bread with peanut butter and cheese
Cream cheese and sardines
With just cheese
Or cream cheese jalone
I'd much rather be a disappointed pessimist than a horrified optimist....

My fiction work is fond here:
https://www.amazon.com/D-K-Richardson/e/B005JT4QP2/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Offline Moab

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Re: Sailor Boy Pilot Bread
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2021, 12:56:51 AM »
Omg. We had those growing up in wa state. It was a staple in the pnw too. I remember eating them with strawberry jam. Ours always came in tin cans.


My grandfather and father used to build trails for the Forest Service. They'd takes houses and equipment into the mountains and design and build hiking and access trails deep into the mountains. Sailor boy crackers were always with them. My father would also bring a bunch home whenever he was fighting fires.


This brings back alot of memories. Can you buy them online?
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Offline Johan

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Re: Sailor Boy Pilot Bread
« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2021, 07:38:15 AM »
I might need to get can or two of some of the ones RickOShea and RoneKiln linked might be a good idea, depending on price.

For a cracker they are very tasty, kinda reminds me of Captain's wafers...


I don't think I've seen those before, I'll have to keep an eye out for them.

Oh, just remembered, you could always make hardtack.  As I'm sure most remember, Steve1989MREInfo famously ate a piece from the Civil War.

It's basically 1:4 water:flour (or less; just enough water to hold together) with a hefty pinch of salt, rolled to 1/2" and docked, cut into squares or rounds, baked, then dried (basically dehydrated) or baked 1 to several more times.

Then used to donate money to your dentist.
I tried making my own quite a few years ago, but it didn't turn out well. I should try again. It could possibly save me quite a bit of money.

While I keep a couple of decks of Sailor Boy in the pantry, I've switched to WASA bread for the regular diet. 

Low carb, keeps just as well, and much more crunch!


I'm a fan of the multigrain
How do you normally eat it? I struggled with it when I tried it.

Here in Sweden were the Wasa Bread is made, the most common way to eat them is with butter(or your preferred butter substitute), and a slice  of cheese or salami, but it is also common to put some flavoured cheese spread on them..
I also like them with just a salted "butter".  There are many varieties of Wasa bread (different grains, extra fibers etc.) And they will keep for years as long as you keep them dry (they eventually go stale if there is to much humidity)
The disadvantage with it is that there is a lot of air in them, so for example when camping or bugging out they take up a bit to much space in the backpack for the nutrition/calories..
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Offline echo83

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Re: Sailor Boy Pilot Bread
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2021, 07:04:23 PM »
Sailor Boy Pilot Bread is one of the most popular survival foods in Alaska, and an every day food in more rural parts of the state.


It's a large, round cracker. It's a bit like a saltine, but very dense and not as salty. I think it's probably pretty close to a modern, commercially produced version of hardtack, but not quite so hard as hardtack based on stories I've read.

[Pathetic Ritz cracker for scale. Okay, Ritz are actually pretty delicious, but this is a Pilot Bread hype thread.]

The biggest feature of this cracker is that it stays good seemingly indefinitely. I've often eaten some that are many, many years old. I don't know if they ever go bad as long as they are kept dry. They do go "stale" which means they lose a little bit of flavor and get a little softer, but soft is a relative term. They're still very hard and crunchy. In terms of losing flavor, that's also rather relative as they're pretty bland to start with. I think they taste good, but I've eaten them my whole life so I might just be used to them. They're something of a comfort food to me. Like bread and saltines they're good for calming an upset stomach.

The most common way I eat them is with peanut butter or crunched up in soups. They are great for adding texture to canned soup and stew. They are very hard and dense, so it takes a long time before they get soggy. I also think they're good with cheese or canned corned beef. A lot of people like to make little pizzas on them, but I've never particularly cared for them that way. Sometimes I just smear a little butter and/or jelly on them or even just eat them plain, but I think the latter might be a little boring for most people. They can be difficult to eat without a little water to wash them down as they are very dry.

When it comes to bugging out they are not the most efficient option when it comes to size and weight. One reason I like to have them around as emergency food is that while I enjoy eating them well enough I'm not tempted to go snack on them. Something like a snickers bar I always seem to end up raiding my BOB for, but that's not a temptation with pilot bread.

[this is just a joke, I don't need a lecture about bugging out to the woods]

Back when I walked to work and school I used to always keep a few in my backpack. I discovered that they will get moldy if they're not protected from moisture (this wasn't just ambient moisture, it was alternating rain and hot temperatures and they were just loose inside a pocket of my backpack, not inside a ziploc or other container).

One summer when I lived in the dorms I didn't manage my food well and ended up living mostly on pilot bread and tomato soup for about two months. I would have a couple crackers with water for breakfast. For lunch I would heat up some canned Campell's tomato soup and crunch up pilot bread into it until it was a paste. For dinner I'd have a couple more crackers with water. Once or twice a week I'd have pilot bread with peanut butter as a treat, but I had to ration the peanut butter. I'm sure this was pretty unhealthy, but I felt fine and surprisingly I didn't get sick of it.


I remember reading an article a while back that Alaskans buy over 90% of the Sailor Boy Pilot Bread made, and a lot of the remainder is sold to people in Japan who are preparing for earthquakes. It's made by Interbake, the company that makes Girl Scout cookies. I think there are a couple other companies making pilot bread, but I haven't tried them.

(I wasn't sure what section of the forum to put this in. It can be Field Cooking, but it's not exactly gear. It could also go in Sheltering in Place or the BOL section.)

Thanks for posting this up, Optimist! I've always wanted to try Pilot Bread. I have a weird fascination with shelf-stable bread; it was renewed during a discussion of Matzo bread over on the other forum. In college and the years after, I always bought a ton of it when it went on sale after Passover, and it's amazing. With peanut butter and banana for breakfast, hard salami or spam for lunch, then crunched up in soup for dinner.

This stuff is cool, because it's tasty enough to eat, but not so amazing that you're robbing a BOB or GHB to get it.

Do you take any precautions when packing it to extend the shelf life? What's the oldest that you've eaten?

 

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