Packed with calories and nutrition and able to be packed and stored for long periods, pemmican is often called the ultimate survival food.
Created by Native Americans and adopted by European explorers of the New World, pemmican is a concentrated blend of fat and protein from lean, dried meat. The word “pemmican” is derived from the Cree root word “pimi” for “fat” or “grease.” Traditionally, the meats used in pemmican included bison, moose, deer and elk. Beef can be used as well.
The secret to pemmican’s long shelf life is in properly rendering the fat from the meat. The pemmican can be stored in airtight containers without refrigeration in a cool, dark and dry place. If made and stored property, it can last for years or even decades. There are reports of some pemmican lasting 50 or more years.
Let’s look at the steps to making pemmican.
1. Dry the meat. Cut off all the fat, and then slice the meat as thinly as possible before placing it on a drying rack in full sunlight. Another option is to place the meat directly on your oven rack with the oven temperature at its lowest setting. The meat needs to be dry enough that it cracks when you try to bend it. Adding salt will extend the shelf life. The more salt you add, the longer it will last.
2. Grind the meat. Now you need to grind the meat until it is powder form. If you do not have a food processor, mince the meat and then grind it in the blender. If you are in a survival situation, chop the meat into small bits and then crush it into a powder.
3. Render the fat. Now heat the fat in a crockpot, in the oven or on the stove. Use a low setting for several hours, and be sure to stir the fat occasionally until it has stopped bubbling. Then pour it through a mesh strainer to filter out any pieces.
4. Mix the meat with any dry extras. If you are using any nuts or dried fruit, such as raisins, dried cherries or cranberries, mix it with the dried meat in a large bowl (leaving room for the fat). Note: These extras reduce the shelf life.
5. Add the fat. Next, add one part of fat per every two parts of the dried meat mixture (add more fat if needed). Slowly pour the hot liquefied fat into the meat mixture and stir well.
6. Add any wet extras. If you are adding wet ingredients such as honey, maple syrup or peanut butter, mix them in now. If the mixture seems too wet, you can add a little almond meal to get it to your desired consistency. You also may add salt to taste if you like. Note: These extras will reduce the shelf life.
7. Form the pemmican. A popular method is to spread the mixture into a casserole dish. Let it get firm before cutting it into squares or bar sizes. If you prefer, you can form the mixture into balls.
8. Store the pemmican. Once cut, place it into airtight containers and store them in a cool, dark and dry place. You also store your pemmican in zippered bags in your freezer.
There are many varieties of pemmican, but they all use the basic instructions. Many other recipes begin with a 1:1:1 ratio of basic ingredients such as:
1 cup of dried meat
1 cup of dried fruit or berries
1 cup of melted animal fat
Pemmican is surprisingly filling and can supply energy for hours.
You can experiment to find the recipe that works well for you. Label the pemmican you make with the ingredients and proportions you used, so you will know what combinations work well and how you might want to tweak a certain recipe a little in the future.