Guest Article: Pemmican, by D.D.

Food seems to be a most popular subject for Prepper’s and Survivalist’s, and why shouldn’t it be? We all live to eat and eat to live. In an effort to expand my knowledge of shelf-stable food, I started thinking about the way indigenous peoples in different areas of the world survive, or survived, without refrigeration, dehydrators, or freezers. What I found was very interesting and helpful in my shoring up of shelf-stable foods for my family’s security in a SHTF situation. There is one thing, more than the rest, that I really have enjoyed researching and implementing. Of all the different foodstuffs I came across, my favorite was the traditional Native American food known as pemmican. Now I have lived on the boarder of a small well-developed reservation for quite some time. Being out here in the Redoubt area one meets quite a few self-sustaining individuals on a regular basis, so in the past I had heard of pemmican but never put any serious thought into it until recently. Pemmican is a very easy to make, highly shelf-stable, tasty, and a highly nutritious food source, if made correctly. It is also nice to take camping/hiking, road-tripping, and tour bicycling, due to its low weight and caloric density.

Wikipedia describes pemmican as follows: “Pemmican is a concentrated mixture of fat and protein used as a nutritious food. The word comes from the Cree word pimîhkân, which itself is derived from the word pimî, “fat, grease”. It was invented by the native peoples of North America. It was widely adopted as a high-energy food by Europeans involved in the fur trade and later by Arctic and Antarctic explorers, such as Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen.

The specific ingredients used were usually whatever was available; the meat was often bison, moose, elk, or deer. Fruits such as cranberries and saskatoon berries were sometimes added. Cherries, currants, chokeberries and blueberries were also used, but those are almost exclusively used in ceremonial and wedding pemmican.

Traditionally, pemmican was prepared from the lean meat of large game, such as buffalo, elk, or deer. The meat was cut in thin slices and dried over a slow fire, or in the hot sun, until it was hard and brittle. About five pounds of meat are required to make one pound of dried meat suitable for pemmican. Then it was pounded into very small pieces, almost powder-like in consistency, using stones. The pounded meat was mixed with melted fat in an approximate 1:1 ratio. In some cases, dried fruits such as saskatoon berries, cranberries, blueberries, or choke cherries were pounded into powder and then added to the meat/fat mixture. The resulting mixture was then packed into rawhide pouches for storage.

A bag of buffalo pemmican weighing about 90 pounds was called a Taureau by the Métis of Red River. It generally took the meat of one buffalo to fill a Taureau.

I have found pemmican to be a good food source for myself. I personally did a 24-hour trial run of eating nothing but pemmican, and I personally had no ill side effects. I have included a few of the recipes I used and had great success with.

Here are some tips for you to improve your ability to use pemmican recipes properly and make good pemmican:

  • Talk to your local butcher to acquire the suet. A local co-op butcher might have the healthiest choices, in terms of organic meats. You may be able to acquire the fat for free in certain places.
  • When rendering (melting) the fat, be careful not to burn it or make it smoke.
  • The warmer the climate you are going to be using the pemmican in, the less fat you need in it.
  • This is also true for the time of year. Use less fat for the summer time and more for winter.
  • Label what you make, especially if you try different recipes.

God Bless all of you in your endeavors.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups lean meat (deer, beef, caribou, or moose)
  • 3 cups dried fruit
  • 2 cups rendered fat
  • Unsalted nuts and about one shot of honey

Instructions:

  1. Meat should be as lean as possible and double ground from your butcher, if you do not have your own meat grinder. Spread it out very thin on a cookie sheet and dry at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for at least eight hours or until sinewy and crispy. Pound the meat into a nearly powder consistency using a blender or other tool.
  2. Grind the dried fruit, but leave a little bit lumpy for fun texture.
  3. Heat rendered fat on stove at medium until liquid.
  4. Add liquid fat to dried meat and dried fruit, and mix in nuts and honey.
  5. Mix everything by hand. Let cool and store.

Can keep and be consumed for several years.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. of lean buffalo, elk, or beef loin.
  • 1 1/2 lbs. of dried currant berries.
  • Molasses to sweeten and for binding.

Directions

  1. Cut meat into thin slices about 1/16 – 1/8 thick. Allow to dry for two to four days, until thoroughly dry. Pulverize dried meat to fine, almost powdery, flakes.
  2. Add dried currant berries and mix well.
  3. Add molasses to sweeten and bind mixture.
  4. Mix well and knead into a big dough-like ball.
  5. Pull chunks of big ball and roll into smaller half dollar-sized balls, then flatten them. Let sit for two days to dry.
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