Walk into any grocery store these days and you’ll find a smorgasbord of crackers vying for your attention, tempting you with their buttery flavors and crisp textures. Some supermarkets even have an entire aisle dedicated solely to crackers, where you can gaze upon dozens and dozens of unique cracker varieties, flavors, package sizes, and more.
It’s interesting to think our current cracker craze began many moons ago with a snack so basic it took exactly two ingredients to make!
If you’re a fellow cracker connoisseur or even just a lover of great crackers (and who doesn't love crackers?), then come take a quick historical stroll with us to learn all about the humble beginnings of the very first cracker -- called a water cracker -- and how this simple staple morphed into one of our favorite snacks of all time!
What is a Water Cracker?
More practical than delectable, the original water cracker was a sturdy little “treat” made from water and flour and… that’s pretty much it!
Sound scrumptious? Well, not exactly. The water cracker (or water biscuit, as the Brits call it) served a more functional purpose.
In fact, these hearty snacks were designed to do serious business, which was to keep soldiers and seafarers from starving to death on long voyages.
How did they accomplish this, you ask? By using only water instead of butter or oil that can do rancid, and baking them to a crispy point of no return, these first crackers were essentially indestructible. Also known as “hardtack,” it’s reported that leftover water cracker rations from the War of 1812 were simply dusted off and pulled out to be used during the Civil War -- ready for duty!
FUN FACT: In America, we call small, hard pieces of sweet or plain bread like cookies and snacks “crackers” because most biscuit varieties in the 19th century made a crackling sound when they were baking. Over time, Americans decided to call their biscuits crackers in order to distinguish themselves from the British Empire.
How Are Water Crackers Made?
Water crackers are made in the same way as any other basic cracker or biscuit - add water and flour and bake for the right amount of time at the right temperature. Different grains can be used for the flour base depending on your flavor preference.
Though the basic recipe for a water cracker doesn’t include anything aside from flour and water, some so-called water crackers are actually made with a few other ingredients like salt and (occasionally) a starchy additive depending on who’s baking the crackers.
Technically, a cracker isn’t a water cracker if any kind of fat is used in the baking process, though there are some brands that include palm oil to make the crackers a little more palatable for modern taste buds.
What Do Water Crackers Taste Like?
Since water crackers are simple baked goods, it’s easy to imagine what they might taste like if you haven’t tried one yourself at some point.
Still, we won’t make you guess -- water crackers typically taste like very plain, floury, crispy bread. If there’s a little salt, you might detect a slight salty tinge, too.
Today, companies typically produce water crackers with a few more ingredients to give them a more dynamic flavor profile and to make them better accompaniments to things like cheese or wine.
Why Do People Eat Water Crackers?
Speaking of cheese or wine, water crackers are not normally eaten by themselves. Instead, water crackers are best thought of as snacks for pairing that are served with wine, cheese, or other high flavor foods and beverages. 🧀🍷 Cheers!
Think of water crackers as a kind of palate cleanser.
When you go to a high end restaurant, you’ll sometimes get a small bowl of plain gelato or ice cream to help cleanse your palate and prepare you for the next course. This allows your tastebuds to get the full effect without having the aftertaste of the last course intermingling with your next flavor experience.
Water crackers are used in a similar way. You can put cheese, nuts, and even meats on top of water crackers and use it as a crunchy carrier for the good stuff. Some people use water crackers in wine tasting to cleanse their palates and to settle their appetites.
Where Can You Find Water Crackers?
Today, water crackers are still found in most major supermarkets and grocery stores in America and the UK. But, you might not hear them described as water crackers. Other names for these basic snacks include cream crackers, saltine crackers, and more.
In fact, you’ll probably only ever hear them called water crackers if you hop over the pond and visit the UK for yourself.
Although our taste buds have evolved over the years, lots of people still use water crackers for the purpose of pairing with other foods and beverages, such as when being combined with cheese or wine. While still crispy, the modern water cracker is definitely softer than in the 1800s, which were nicknamed “molar breakers” for obvious reasons.
You’ll also find water crackers in many of the ex-British colonies that exist around the world. Jamaica is a great example – there’s a particular brand of water crackers called “Excelsior” biscuits that serve as a staple breakfast and snacking item. Of course, people don’t eat them plain there, either. Instead, they usually snack on water crackers with a spread of various pastes and toppings.
What If You Don’t Like Water Crackers?
We’re happy to say that you’ve been born in the right era! These days, you have tons of different cracker choices to choose from and you aren’t stuck with plain, ol’ water crackers, though we certainly pay homage to their noble origins!
In fact, if water crackers don’t really do it for you, you’re in the majority. Most people don’t eat water crackers by themselves, especially these days! After all, why go for the basic option when you have so many other enticing cracker choices?
For example, you can choose delicious and carbon neutral, like the mouth-watering magical crackers we make here at Moonshot.
That being said, maybe you just haven’t tried water crackers without the right topping or food pairing. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a simple snack of water crackers and cheese -- with wine of course! 😉
Are Water Crackers Healthy?
Technically, water crackers may be marginally healthier than some more complex crackers or baked goods. But this is only because they usually have between two and five ingredients in total. After all, it’s not as though white flour and salt are particularly nutrient-packed!
It’s better to think of water crackers as health neutral. It matters much more what you put on the crackers or what you consume them with than the crackers themselves.
If you’re looking for healthy crackers, we think you’ll be super interested in learning more about our crackers here at Moonshot!
Our crackers are made with certified organic stone-milled Edison wheat. This stone milling process not only creates great texture and flavors, but it also preserves the wheat’s nutrients in the flour. This means crackers with more fiber, potassium, and iron!
As you can see, water crackers are useful snacks that still have a role at a nice dinner party or five star restaurant where you want to enjoy each course to its maximum effect.
While not necessarily our first choice of snacking (#crackersnob #guilty), water crackers can be a fun and easy recipe to make with kids or a good addition with wine and cheese at your next soirée.
Can’t decide which one of our delicious flavors to commit to? Why not make history and lead the sustainable snack trend by grabbing a Variety Pack of our climate-friendly snacks?
Unlike water crackers (and so many other snack brands), our crackers are loaded with flavor using only a few key but simple ingredients. On top of this, we partner with farmers that use regenerative agricultural practices, keep everything as local as possible, box up our snacks in recycled packaging, and so much more!
Check us out today and join the sustainable snack movement. Your tastebuds (and your conscience) will thank you!