While retail shelves and online retailers have stock that is full of designer hiking and camping foods, there are those that can be made at home and that have stood the test of time. Nowadays the sugary, over priced granola bars have taken the forefront of hiking and survival food everywhere.
This is sad. We don’t need someone else to make our shelf stable camping foods for us. The recipes are easy and the methods so primitive that they may can be cooked right on rocks. Such is the case for the Bannock that we will discuss in this article. It is a powerful survival food to add to your repertoire.
Cited as far back as the 8th century “bannuc” was a leavened bread that was made with oats or wheat flour and formed into a bread that was then cooked, in that time, on a hot stone. This stone would be set right in the fire and the bannock would be “baked” on the hot stone and in the heat of the fire.Upon completion the bannock was often cut into wedges to feed more than one person. These wedges were referred to as scones but taste much different than its glazed counterpart south of Scotland. It was long used as a survival food and a food that could be taken on long ventures without being concerned with it spoiling.
There is a bit of a debate about how Bannock made its way to North America. Some historians believe that the native peoples were making a similar style food using corn flour. Others believe it was brought here by the Scots and adopted by the natives and people of Canada. Either way, it was an early survival food that helped both cultures get by.
In the latter part of the 1800’s the Selkirk Bannock was created, and this featured dried raisins and resembled something similar to the modern-day fruitcake. With the inclusion of dried fruits, you can create the simple bannock and boost the levels of Vitamin C. This creates a survival food that is rich in Vitamin C and all the benefits that go along with it.
Related: How to Make Dandelion Bread (With Pictures)
- 4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 Tablespoon Sugar
- 1 3/4 Cups dried fruits (I used raisins, apricots and cherries)
- 1 1/2 Cups Buttermilk or Sour Milk, reserve 1 tablespoon
- Mixing Bowl
- Cutting Board
- Sharp Knife
Quick Buttermilk Hack
Before we get started I wanted to give you a little hack for making your own buttermilk at home. Some people think they have to go and buy buttermilk, but it is not necessary. The recipe is also great with regular milk.
Merely pour one cup of whole milk and add about a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to the milk.
Simple Fireside Bannock
#1. You will start with your dry ingredients, this is the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. These ingredients need to be added to a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
After this I prepped the dried fruit by lining it up and slicing it down a bit. After I made the recipe I thought about cutting the fruit even smaller. You can go either way here. I imagine that on the trail a substantial piece of fruit will be more satisfying than a more eye appealing mince of fruit.At this point you want to add your butter milk and mix until it becomes stodgy. From here you are going to add your fruit and turn that into the mix as well. Do not over mix. You are essentially making a big biscuit and you never want to overmix this type of dough or it will become hard and tough. #2. I used a conventional oven to prepare this bannock, but I did it on a “stane” or stone that I use to cook things like pizza and other breads. That is the traditional method for cooking bannock. Ideally you could take this dough mix and place it on a stone that could be heated on over the fire and surround the bannock with fire.If you cook on stones beware, river stones that could have high moisture content can explode if heated. Its scary and not fun. Just make sure you are cooking on a dense, dry stone.
In a preheated oven I cooked the bannock for about 20 minutes until browned. If I were cooking this on a fire I would flip it after about 10 minutes depending on how big the fire was. #3. Always rest baked goods when the are finished cooking. The internal temperature is still rising and the cooking process is still going on.
#4. Cut your bannock up in wedges and serve it or keep it whole while you travel.
Integrating Bannock as a Survival Food
Bannock could become part of your pre-camp ritual. I see it as a way to prepare for hiking. You can cook and cool the bannock before your next trip and have it to call on when you are hiking.
By using dry milk, instead of buttermilk, you can also pack all the ingredients to make Bannock and just use water to make the dough. This is a great method for cooking bannock at the campsite, over the fire. This allows you to change bannock from being a trail food to something that you can whip up at the end of a hike.
Because of the dried fruits that are mixed into the bannock you are not only going to have a survival food that will offer you carbohydrates, but you will get a dose of Vitamin C to keep your immune system boosted. This is a benefit that things like hardtack and even jerky cannot offer you.
As far as shelf life is concerned, as long as you keep it covered, you will get weeks out of your bannock. Depending on how queasy you are about mold you can get even more time out of it! In a survival situation just slice the mold off this effective survival food.
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The ingredient list says baking soda, but the directions say baking powder. Which is correct?
Baking powder contains both acid and base components that react when wet. Buttermilk is acidic, so generally, if you’re using buttermilk in a recipe then baking soda is fine.
Tastes like a bland fruitcake. Gross.
Add a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon and double the sugar. No more bland aftertaste.
I never thought of fruit cake as survival food. This article has given me a whole new idea. No idea how long fruit cake will remain good we ( I ) eat it too quickly in our house. I would really have to exercise iron self-control to use fruit cake as survival food but while it lasted I would be the happiest survivalist around.
Urban legend has it that fruit cake has a 500 year shelf life. The Lions Club in the next town up makes a fruit cake at Christmas time that would be perfect survival food. I think they order in a thousand gallons of rum to make it. The alcohol in it would preserve it and you could always use it as a fire starter.
I can see I am going to enjoy this research.
left coast chuck, I agree with you on having fruit cake not sticking around long. I beg for fruit cake at Thanksgiving and Christmas time! I love it so much that I can NEVER have it long enough to let the rum soak in over a couple of months. My Mom used to have to hide it when we were kids so she could get the rum on it before Christmas. Otherwise, if we found it we couldn’t resist sneaking a pinch of it a little at a time. I think most of the misconceptions about fruit cake being horrible is from folks who have never tried the stuff.
Just NEVER try Claxon commercial made fruitcake, they are disgusting!!! My grandmother makes a wonderful fruitcake that I get a generous piece of each year for Christmas, she’s so wonderful!
I have been buying Collins Street Bakery, Texarkana TXx fruitcake for probably close to 40 years. I used to be able to eat two five-pound fruitcakes mostly by myself between Thanksgiving and Christmas but have had to slow down in recent years. But this article got me thinking about vacuum packing and freezing fruitcake. I am going to have to try that soon. I think I might try taking the pecans off some pieces and not others and see if they keep in the freezer. Now how can I dispose of the pecans I pick off the cake? I wouldn’t want to waste them.
I grew up eating Collin Street Bakery fruit cakes. In my personal opinion there is not a better recipe or brand to enjoy. Thanks for bringing up this bakery so I could pleasantly think about some very wonderful memories of my parents. By they way, those cakes do freeze very well!
I dearly love fruit cake. Unfortunately my Mother and sister in law that use to make me 6 or 7 every year are gone. I will order a couple from the bakery you mentioned, Thanks for info.
I worked for a nonprofit here in California that had a phone number one digit different from Collins Street Bakery. Because their ad was hard to read, we got MANY of the calls for fruitcake orders. I feel like we should have received a commission!
Left coast Chuck: mail ’em to me!
Chuck, I was thinking that I needed to mention Collin Street Bakery just before I got to your post. I love their fruit cake & actually most of their cakes as well as pecan pies. They are the closest I have found to what my mother made forever. She would start hers in late summer or very early fall. She wrapped them in foil or waxed paper then cloth & would occasionally douse then in rum, bourbon or wine then rewrap. She usually froze a few for us for later use during the year. I have always loved it & wish I had her recipes but they vanished shortly after she passed. Back to the topic, I made the mistake of having it sliced but they cut such skimpy little pieces that I will slice my own from now on. You can indeed save it for months or years by continuing .to give it a drink from time to time or freezing & with the new vacuum packing devices they should have a very long storage life, especially frozen.
I always freeze my pecans so they won’t go bad. They do great.
Pecans do very well in freezer so no reason to remove from fruit cake unless you just want too. I had a big pecan tree in So. Alabama and actually used to freeze some still in shells. But better out of shells.
My Mom used to have me order her a Jane Parker fruitcake from Amazon since she didn’t have a computer. I remember she used to buy them from A&P Supermarket back in the 50’s and early 60’s. For a commercial cake, they are really good, especially when she would soak it in Dad’s wine. Dad made wine from the scuppernongs he grew. In case you’re interested, the link for the JP fruitcake is https://www.amazon.com/Jane-Parker-Classic-Light-Fruit/dp/B07F4DRT3F/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1531234050&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=jane+parker+fruitcakes+for+sale
Also, there’s nothing wrong with a Claxton cake when you can’t get anything else. Sure it doesn’t compare to homemade in any way, but will satisfy that craving for fruitcake. Just be sure to add a some rum or wine to it. It is a little gooier than most fruitcakes but otherwise not bad. I like that it comes in a small bar since there’s only 2 of us and it usually takes us weeks to eat it. Fruitcake is too expensive to make from scratch for just two people.
I have found that Costco carries a great fruitcake during the holiday season. I have one left in the freezer.
My family is allergic to gluten. How do I make this out of oat flour? In the article it mentions making this out of oat flour.
Your Mom’s must have been better than my grandmother’s.
There was a movie put out a few years ago, called “Stone Fox”. Stone Fox was an Indian, who won the yearly sled dog race every year and used the winnings to buy back land for his people from the settlers. A young man and his mother were faced with losing the farm after Dad dies, and the only way he could do it in time is to enter the race, and defeat SF.
Anyway, in this movie, the boy’s mother makes him some fruitcake for the trail and race, to give him needed energy and some survival food to be eaten while competing in the race.
I have since seen the sense in storing and using fruitcake as part of survival rations.
Have appreciated your articles, would like to visit privately sometime. Ask Claude for my email. Doc Fields
I read that they recently found one of Robert Scott’s (Antarctic explorer 1912) caches on the Ross Ice shelf. In the cache they found fruitcakes that when tested were still edible.
This doesn’t even say what temperature to set the oven
Cooking breaks down vitamin C. Just because the ingredients you put in are full of Vit C doesn’t mean the finished product is…… FYI
Can you add nuts to this recipe? Does it affect the shelf life?
Nuts get rancid after a while. You could try. You don’t have to worry about swallowing rancid nuts. As soon as you bite into a rancid nut you will be compelled to spit it out. It doesn’t matter what kind of nut. You will recognize the taste immediately. No expertise or prior experience needed.
last week I sent you a e-mail asking for information on doing some dried beef. I got a e-mail on how to do it but somehow I lost it. it got deleted somehow and I would like for send me another one if you would. I just got your book medical weeds and really liker the lost ways and the lost 2 .Thank you in advance.
This sounds like a great recipe and would be far more tasty than basic bannock (which I’ve tried on occasion). It seems to me that you could extend the “shelf life” indefinitely by vacuum sealing and freezing the bread in small packages. Just grab a couple of packages before heading out on a hiking trip.
I’ve made a variant of this for years, except I use oat flour that I make by throwing oatmeal in a blender, or use leftover cooked oatmeal instead of flour, as I have celiac and can’t have wheat. I add seasonal local fresh fruit and nuts, as well as dried ones. Makes a great picnic item, road trip item, or breakfast. More nutritious with oat flour than processed wheat, too.
I wonder how it would be with dried tomatoes and jerked meat?
If you use an oven, what temperature do you bake it at? (Not stated in the recipe)
I did it at 350°
I did too, and then increased the cooking time. First time I cut the recipe in half and it took 30-40 min. I am going to set the timer for 50min to start at 350 and see how it does.
How many bannock does the recipe make?
For those who want to include nuts, you may want to put them on the outside surface in case they do go rancid, then they are easily removed. Anybody know if freeze dried nuts will become rancid? If you make your own fruit cake, you might try baking them in straight sided canning jars them vacuum packing them. Just a thought.
this article was supposed to be about making bannock, but morphed into how to make camping fruitcake. i lived with the indians in the Canadian northwest (the Little Red River Cree Nation). they have made bannock at least since some kind of flour was available. it is their staple. the way they make it, even today, is very simple. flour and water, and salt if available. mix together. grease a fry pan. bear or moose grease will do, even the occasional lynx or wolverine’s grease. cook over fire until well done, flipping occasionally. use on trail when hunting or trapping. This is actually very similar to the hardtack of southerners, using a greased fryingpan rather than oven baking. fruit such as dried wild blueberries can be added, but that is an optional extra.
Double wrapped and sealed , my fruitcakes are going on 4 years in the freezer,no frost bite as of yet.
Begin by mixing in a small amount of butter with the flour and you have a scone recipe. My mother, who grew up in a poor family and learned to be very frugal, often made scones for us without butter, so was very much the same as bannock except that the mix was pressed out lightly with the hands and cut into small square for cooking. If cooked in one piece, once cooked it was broken in pieces to share between us while still warm. Sometimes she made it/them with dried fruit, other times,without Sometimes we had it spread with butter or jam (never the two together; she was too frugal for that).
I’ve always made scones with some butter (well, margarine really; we eat them hot with butter and jam, or jam and cream. I’ve often made what I call ‘quick bread ‘, which I now realise is bannock. I think that like scones, bannock would be much nicer if make and eaten straight away while still warm. It can be cooked in an oven or on top of a flat stone on a fire very quickly when wanted.
How about dried apples? Figs? Dates? In Bannock? RE: fruit cake. I love it with NO CITRON!! At 85 I don’t do as much baking a I used to, but still love any homemade bread. My grandmas made the best!
I grew up on Jane Parker fruitcakes from the A&P grocery store in town. I love them except for the nuts. My sister liked the nuts but didn’t like the fruit or cake…good! More for me! 😀
When I went away to college and later moved away from home, my mom and dad would order a Jane Parker fruitcake in the tin and have it sent directly to me. Best birthday gift that always arrived before I made my trip home for Christmas. Then, it would still be at my place when I got back after Christmas. I could make those 2 or 3 pound fruitcakes last until halloween, if I was careful.
The other goodie she sent to me sometimes was her “Seven Layer Bar.” Graham cracker crumbs, shredded coconut in condensed milk, chocolate chips…I am not sure what the other layers were except for the walnuts on top (yuck). I always wanted her to top them with peanuts instead but I don’t think she ever remembered. A few square inches of that will keep you going for hours!
Call me crazy but I have never liked my fruitcake soaked in alcohol. This past Christmas, I discovered that Walmart was selling a fairly decent little fruitcake bar for $1.99. The day after Christmas, they were marked down to $.80, so I picked up all they had – about a dozen of them. I packed them, three bars at a time, into Foodsaver bags, vacuum sealed them and stuck them into the freezer. So far, so good. I can take out one bar, reseal and re-vacuum the bag, put it back into the freezer, let the bar I removed thaw out and enjoy it at my leisure. The fruitcake has nuts, either pecans or walnuts, but they are chopped finely enough that I don’t notice them or taste them.
Jane Parker fruitcakes are being made again but the prices are so outrageous, I couldn’t bring myself to splurge on them since I am the only person I know who actually likes them and will eat them. And heaven knows, I don’t need to be eating several pounds of fruitcake that will translate into 10 pounds on my waistline. When I was in my 20’s, it dIdn’t seem to affect me that way. What happened? 🤔 Oh yes, old age happened…😳
I tried this recipe and found it was not very tasty. So I added about a cup of sugar to the recipe and it was delicious.