What is pemmican?
The Native Americans lived a lifestyle that required a portable food source that was easy to use as they moved around and would easily last during their journeys. Pemmican was their go-to source for this. When made properly, it resists spoilage, is very calorie thick and able to meet the nutritional needs of a grown man on the move. Dried meat is ground to a powder consistency, so it is easily carried. When rendered fat is heated and mixed with it, it makes a food that will keep a person going, even in an emergency.
When Native Americans moved their camp location and followed the animal herds or seasons, they often did not have fresh meat available for a time. Pemmican was their resource during these times. It must be made accurately to avoid going rancid, but when done properly, it will not spoil for quite some time. The key to making good and reliable pemmican is to remove all the fat from the meat as the fat is what makes meat go rancid after it is dried. Rendered fat is used to make balls or bars that will last up to months, less time if it is in a humid climate. No need to worry about refrigeration.
Flavor can be changed and enhance by the addition of dried fruit. The fruit needs to be ground into powder in order to mix it with the other ingredients. Some people recommend blueberries, cherries, juneberries or any other fruit that can be dried and made into powder. Don’t get it too wet, but if you do, almond flour can be added to change the consistency. Other taste variations include the addition of honey, peanut butter, nuts, raisins and even syrup. The key is not the additions, but the preparation of the rendered fat and meat.
Pemmican is a wonderful item to have in your pantry for sustainable food. When you are short on time, on the run, or simply don’t have time to cook, you can grab your pemmican. When you eat it, it is key to chew a bite slowly, more like gum than a meal. You will need to eat it slowly, but it is very filling. The energy benefits come from the slow break down of the fat, which gives your body access to the food for an extended length of time. For easy of storage, it can be kept in Ziploc bags. If you put it in the freezer, it will last even longer.
Make Your Own Pemmican:
You will need:
Meat – You will want a lean beef, though Native Americans used buffalo, deer, elk, moose. You may not have access to those meats, but if you do, that would be traditional for the recipe. Shoulder or thigh provide the leanest meats.
Beef Suet – This is the fat component. Your area butcher will have it available. Some people use the fat from just the kidneys, but that isn’t needed and may be difficult to find.
Others – There are many different ingredients that CAN be added, although it is not required. Dried fruits, nuts, peanut butter, honey, maple syrup, chocolate and sugar can all be added to change the taste and texture according to your likes and dislikes.
1. Meat preparation. All the fat needs to be carefully removed before the meat is cut into thin strips. It will be dried on a drying rack in the strong sunlight. If this is inconvenient, you can put it right on the oven rack with the oven as low as it can be set. You will know it is done drying when the meat cracks when you attempt to bend it. It should be very dry when dried with this method overnight. In order to extend shelf life, you can add salt. The more salt, the longer it will last.
2. Powder the meat. You will need to grind the meat down to a powder in either a food processor or the blender. Simply cut the meat into very small pieces and grind it. This can be done by hand in a survival situation in a similar manner, but key is to make it into a powder.
3. Fat rendering. In order to render the fat, you will heat it. You can use the stove, oven or crockpot to do this on low for several hours. You will need to stir it off and on until it is done bubbling. You will want to strain it through a mesh strainer to remove any chunks or pieces.
4. Add any dry extras. If you want to add the extras, now is the time to mix the meat and additions in a bowl. Be sure to use a large enough bowl so there is room to add the fat. It is important to know that the additions will shorten the shelf life of your pemmican, so take this into consideration.
5. Put in the fat. You will put in one part fat for two parts meat and extra mix. Add the fat slowly when it is hot and liquid. Stir it completely so it mixes well. Add more fat if needed.
6. Wet extras can be added. If you choose to use honey, syrup, peanut butter, or another wet extra, now is the time to mix it in. Salt can be added to attain the taste you want. If the pemmican is too wet, almond flour can be added to get it to a dryer consistency. Again, these added things reduce the shelf life of your pemmican, so take this into consideration.
7. Shape your pemmican. You can roll it into balls for storage, or make it into bars or squares. If you want to make it into bars, it is simple to spread it into a casserole dish and let it get firm before you cut it and store it.
8. Put it safely away. When your pemmican is shaped and ready, you will want to store it in away from air in a container or bag, and put it in a cool, dry storage area. In addition, you can store it in your freezer in a convenient container or ziploc bag.
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Buy The Lost Ways to find out how to prepare pemmican like the Native Americans plus thousands of other homesteading, prepping and survival skills that had been uncovered by Claude Davis from all over the US. Get The Lost Ways book here: