Pemmican: A Native American Survival Food

Are you looking for some excellent pemmican recipes?

Wait, what is this thing called pemmican and where did it come from?

For starters, pemmican is originally a Cree word for rendered fat. Pemmican is a food used by a variety of Native peoples for many generations, and was adopted by the fur traders in the 18th and 19th centuries. It likely originates from North America. Native American scouts who spent a great deal of time on the go depended on having portable, high-energy, highly nutritious, and filling foods that would last for long periods of time. Often times pemmican was their food of choice.

This amazing stuff is a dried mixture of meat, berries and rendered fat (also called suet or tallow). It is an invaluable survival food that when prepared properly using good pemmican recipes can last anywhere from several months to several years without refrigeration!

Pemmican is a great asset to have with you while exploring the wilderness even today. Though most classic pemmican recipes require the use of meat and fat, it is also possible to make it vegetarian as described below.

Here are some great pemmican recipes you can try out to make this amazing food. Try out the following 4 recipes and see which one you like best!

Recipe #1

In this pemmican recipe, we are basically disassembling and reassembling the meat. Fresh meat rots quickly; once the flesh and fat are separated and processed, each in the way that works best for it, they can be reassembled and will remain preserved for an extended period.

This pemmican recipe is quite easy to make and a variety of ingredients can be used. Following is my step-by-step preferred method; feel free to substitute meats and fat sources. In doing so the most important guidelines to keep in mind are to be sure your meat is lean and completely dry, and to use rendered fat that will not melt (such as the fat of ungulates) while the pemmican is being stored and used.

Dry the meat.Choose a warm, dry, sunny period and start early in the day to take full advantage of available drying time. I prefer large chunks (like thigh and shoulder) of meat that are already quite lean, like summer venison.

If such is not available, clean all visible fat and connective tissue from the meat, then slice as thinly as possible, preferably across the grain (dries faster that way) and place on a drying rack in full sunlight. If yours is a warm dry climate, you may be able to keep your slices 1/4 inch thick and get them dry in a day. If your area is humid, slice as thinly as possible.

It’s best to get the meat dry in one day, to lessen the chance of spoilage. Test for dryness by bending each piece, particularly where thick. Those needing more drying time will be rubbery; those dry enough will be brittle and crack. Take them indoors so they do not reabsorb moisture overnight. They are best kept refrigerated.

If conditions are not ideal for drying, use a supplemental fire. What you are creating here is jerky, which can be stored and consumed as-is, but it is not a complete food because it does not contain fat. Do not try to live on it! Natives will either use jerky as an ingredient in a complete meal, or will use it in their next pemmican recipe.
Grind the meat. Use a commercial grinder, or pulverize, as Natives would.
Render the fat. editor: here is link I found to help with that)
Combine meat and fat, in a ratio of about two parts meat to one part fat.
Pack in airtight containers Cleaned intestine, bark, glass or plastic containers can be used.
Store in a cool, dry, dark place.

Recipe # 2

Ingredients:

4 cups lean meat (deer, beef, caribou or moose)
3 cups dried fruit
2 cups rendered fat
Unsalted nuts and about 1 shot of honey

Instructions:

Meat should be as lean as possible and double ground from your butcher if you do not have you own meat grinder. Spread it out very thin on a cookie sheet and dry at 180 degrees F for at least 8 hours or until sinewy and crispy. Pound the meat into a nearly powder consistency using a blender or other tool. Grind the dried fruit, but leave a little bit lumpy for fun texture. Heat rendered fat on stove at medium until liquid. Add liquid fat to dried meat and dried fruit, and mix in nuts and honey. Mix everything by hand. Let cool and store. Can keep and be consumed for several years.

Recipe # 3

Ingredients:

2 lbs dried beef (see recipe 1 for drying instructions)
1.5 cup raisins
Beef suet

Instructions:

Grind meat to fine pulp in a blender. Now add in the raisins. Chop this mix enough to break up the raisins and mix in well. Melt the suet to a liquid and pour into the mixture, using just enough to hold the meat and raisins together. Now allow this to cool slightly. Put this into a pan and let it cool completely. Next, cut the pemmican into strips, than divide it into bars of about 4” long by 1” wide. Bag these separately and you can store them for several months.

Recipe # 4

Ingredients:

Dried lean beef, buffalo, or venison (see recipe 1 for drying instructions)
Beef suet
Seedless dried fruit

Instructions:

Melt the suet until it becomes golden brown and liquid. Strain out any solids. If you cool it, re-melt it and strain it again it will improve the shelf life of the pemmican. Grind the meat into a powder. Chop or grind dried fruit and add it to meat. Pour liquid suet onto meat/fruit mixture. Mixes best if suet is warm, and allows you to use less of it. Now, press the pemmican into a tin using a spoon. Let cool in the fridge, than turn it out and cut into bars the size of candy bars. Wrap each bar in wax paper or paper lunch bag, label and store.

Recipe # 5

Ingredients:

2 cups dates
3 cups powdered jerky (or powdered tofu-jerky)
2 cups raisins
Honey (as a binding agent, add as much as needed)
2 cups nuts

Instructions:

Grind all this material together, except for the honey. Add in the honey a little bit at a time, and mix well each time. Pour into pan until about three quarters of an inch thick or make them directly into bars. Refrigerate and cut bars out of pan. This is a sweet concoction and in cold climates, honey can be replaced with suet and processed just as in pemmican recipes seen above.

Tips for Making Good Pemmican

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 suet for free in certain places.
When rendering (melting) the suet, 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, more for winter.
Label what you make, especially if you try different recipes.

Lastly, remember to experiment with your own recipes. The key points for making pemmican are to make sure that you render the fat (suet) properly and to make sure that the meat and fruit you put into the recipe are very dry, not cooked or partially dry.

Try making some pemmican of your own today!

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