Monday, September 15, 2014

Real Pirate Food

What did pirates really eat?

With Talk Like a Pirate Day nearly upon us, people all over are trying to figure out how to serve some authentic pirate dishes at their celebrations. So, for your enjoyment, I have produced a set of recipes. These are fundamentally like the 18th century dishes that real pirates really ate, but they’ve been updated to make them easier to cook (and eat) by 21st century people.

Since we are accustomed to starting our meals with salad, I’ll begin with an 18th century salad that has been associated with pirates, the Solomongundy.


1 head of romaine lettuce, cut into strips
8 hardboiled eggs, peeled and sliced
1 pound cooked chicken breast, cut in strips
1 pound smoked ham, cut in strips
1 cucumber cut in thin slices
3 ribs celery cut in small slices
1 can of anchovies, drained.

Lay out the lettuce in an even bed on a platter. Cover with the other ingredients, laying them out in patterns or designs. Be creative.


6 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon dry mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients thoroughly and sprinkle over your solomongundy

Our next recipe is for ship’s biscuit, also called “hard tack” This was the nearly indestructible bread that lasted for months on long sea voyages. It’s a really simple one:

Ship's Biscuit:

4 cups of unbleached flour
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

Mix the flour and salt, then add the water and mix until you have a very stiff dough. Let it rest for 10 minutes, then beat it out flat with a rolling pin or a wine bottle. When its ½ inch thick, fold it and beat it back to ½ inch. (Instead of beating it, you can also run it through a pasta maker.)

Continue for about half an hour, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Roll the dough out one last time, into a square shape and cut into 2” squares. Prick each with a fork.
Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for one hour. Cool on racks.

This will produce a little over a pound of nearly indestructible biscuits, of about the texture of concrete. How does a person eat such a thing? Answer – You make Lobscouse.

Shop’s biscuit was never intended to be eaten like a cracker. You'd break your teeth on it. Instead, the men it was given to pounded it into bits with the steel handles of their tools and soaked it in meat broth. Lobscouse was a stew based off this.


2 pounds corned beef
2 pounds smoked ham
1 bay leaf
4 large onions
6 large potatoes
½ pound ship’s biscuit, pounded into crumbs
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the meat in a pot with the bay leaf and cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until meat is tender, about 2 ½ hours. Discard the bay leaf. Skim the fat that has risen (pirates called tis “slush”) and reserve. Reserve 3 cups of the liquid.

Cut the meat into ½” dice, cut potatoes and onions into ¾” dice.

Heat 6 tablespoons of slush in a heavy frying pan and brown the meat. Remove the meat, draining the fat back into the pan. Sauté the onions until tender, add the potatoes and cook about 6 minutes. Add the meat and 1 ½ cups of cooking liquid, and cook until potatoes are almost tender, then add the biscuit crumbs and the spices, including plenty of pepper. Cook 5 more minutes. Add more liquid if you like it more moist.

This has been food associated with English pirates, and there is no more English way to end a meal than with a pudding. Since you’ve already beaten on bread for half an hour and boiled meat for over two hours more, I’m providing the recipe for Hasty Pudding.

Hasty Puddings:

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil
2 cups of fine breadcrumbs
1 cup of raisins
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup sugar
Zest of one lemon
Two cups of grated suet.
(If you can’t get grated suet near you, as most people in America cannot, you can buy it online here, or substitute 2 sticks of very cold grated butter)

Mix all ingredients thoroughly, then beat together

5 eggs

And add to the mix. Form the dough into egg-sized balls, and roll each ball in flour. Drop balls into the boiling water, stirring just enough to keep them from sticking together. Boil for 15-20 minutes, then scoop out and let drain. Serve with sauce.


1 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup sherry wine (The pirates called this “sack”.)

Mix together in a saucepan over low heat and pour, warm, over hasty pudding balls.

So there you go. A three-course meal that would have been right at home on a pirate’s table. Enjoy!
And Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!


  1. thx this really helped with my homework

  2. Arrr me belly be full wit these tasty dishes