No self-respecting Voortrekker family heads off into the Bush without an adequate supply of rusks. Preferably Ouma's, preferably buttermilk, possibly muesli. Living in exile, I have pined for them, demanded them for Christmas, nagged my mom to post me some at huge expense, poured the crumbs from the bottom of the box onto my tongue. South African rusks (erase the Farleys image from your mind) have a bread-like texture and come in different flavours such as condensed milk, aniseed, buttermilk and muesli. They are baked hard by being dried for hours in a low oven and can be stored for weeks or maybe even months. They are never around long enough for me to put this to the test. Hide them. Rooinekke look at them disdainfully, but having sampled one, there'll be no holding them back. Best not get them started. Rusks are part of the South African cultural identity and were invented as away of preserving bread while travelling long distances by ox wagon in a hot, dry climate.
My Ouma with her trophies for being a domestic goddess. If she doesn't look quite as cheery as the Ouma on the Rusks packet, its because she was married to my Oupa who could never be described as easy-going. Of course the best rusks are homemade and there are numerous recipes available. I am going to share the recipe my Mom gave me but I think it only fair to warn you that she did nearly burn the house down attempting to make mosbolletjies.But thats another story and not one she likes to talk about.
8 cups flour 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 tsp salt 1 Tbsp cream of tartar 1 Tbsp aniseed or 1/4 tsp nutmeg 250g butter 2 cups buttermilk [500ml] 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda 1 beaten egg Preheat oven to 180C. Grease 3 loaf tins 20x10cms or equivalent sized baking dish. Sift flour, cream of tartar and salt into mixing bowl. Cut butter into small pieces and rub into flour mixture. In separate bowl mix together buttermilk, egg, sugar and bicarb. Stir liquid into dry ingredients and mix together. Knead into a firm dough. Mould into balls (golfball size) and squeeze next to each other into tins. Bake for approx. 1hr. Turn out onto rack and leave to cool. Break into separate rusks and lay out on wire rack. Bake in low oven 50-100C with door slightly ajar for 4-6hrs until completely dry. Store in airtight container. Rusks are traditionally eaten by being dunked in a mug of strong coffee and are the only way to start (or end) the day. Rusk dunking is a national pastime but if you are a new convert you will need to practise. Timing is crucial - hold the rusk in the coffee for too long and it will get too soggy and break off. Experts recommend two dips of 3 seconds each, but you might like to experiment. Every journey should include an abundant supply of rusks and a flask of decent coffee - the ultimate breakfast padkos.