What is Pemmican?
Native Americans needed a simple and reliable source of high-energy food packed with lots and lots of calories in order to sustain their outdoor lifestyle, so they developed pemmican. Today, persons who live and work in the outdoors can burn up to 4500 calories per day; therefore, a food source which is light, concentrated and has a long shelf-life is essential for those of us who wish to travel on foot in the bush. Hunters, trappers, fishermen, miners, hikers, cross-country skiers and anybody who burns a lot of calories while in the great outdoors can benefit from pemmican.
So What Are The Ingredients?
Lean meat from a mammal and fat mixed together on a 1:1 ratio. Very simple, yet very practical. There are other ingredients that can also be added. For example, the recipe below includes honey, Pine Nuts and blue berries.
- 2 lbs – Moose (top sirloin) or lean beef can be substituted.
- 2 lbs – Fat taken from around the kidney.
- 3/4 cup – Dried Blueberries
- 1/4 cup – Pine Nuts
- 1/4 cup – Honey
Step one: Cut the meat against the grain into very thin strips and then dry it out until it’s brittle. Make sure that you’re using safe handling procedures when drying and curing meat. Drying meat is not difficult, but doing it correctly is important. There are many ways to dry meat. It can be as simple as setting your oven temperature to 160 °F, cracking the oven door and slowly drying (not cooking) the meat on the oven racks for 8 to 10 hours. You can lightly salt the meat before you dry it, if you so desire. I think it’s best to lightly salt because it helps preserve the meat and some salt is necessary for hard working people when out on the trail.
Step two: Grind the dried meat into a powder by using a food processor or a mortar and pestle. So, now that you have processed your meat into a dry powder you have the first ingredient of pemmican.
Step three: Render the fat. This is done by cleaning any connective tissue from the fat and then dicing the fat into small pieces about the size of a pea. Once you have the fat cleaned and cut into small pieces, place it into a crock pot and set it on low for several hours. You can also render fat on a stove with the burner set on very low. Stir the fat occasionally as it turns into a liquid. When the fat turns into a liquid and stops boiling it is then ready to be poured out and strained through a fine mesh strainer to remove any burned or solid bits. Please watch this video for a visual explanation of these steps.
Step four: In a large mixing bowl combine by hand the meat powder with the pine nuts and dried blueberries.
Step five: Pour the rendered fat into the mixing bowl with the meat powder, pine Nuts and blueberries and hand mix all of the ingredients together.
Step six: Pour the honey in and mix well. Yes, it’s kind of a sticky-gooey concoction, but it will have a very long shelf-life, and it’ll provide you with the energy needed to maintain yourself in the outdoors.
Step seven: Form and roll the pemmican into your hands by creating golf-ball sized portions.
Step eight: Store in vacuum sealed bags in a cool, dark place. Properly made and stored pemmican has a very long shelf life of up to ten years or more, but I only make enough to last a year. I think fresh pemmican just tastes better. Enjoy!
The following video is well worth watching for a better understanding of pemmican.