Pemmican was a trail and emergency food source for Native Aborigines for hundreds of years. They used to make it and store it in air tight containers, like cleaned and dried stomachs, intestines, bladders and rawhide. Once the pemmican was made people would simply place it into a container, press out as much air as they could and tie it tightly shut with a rawhide thong. It would last easily a lifetime in needed, but rarely lasted more than a few months before it was all eaten.
Archeologists have found pemmican still wrapped up and tied in stomach pouches that were literally hundreds of years old that were still good and edible!
Typically pemmican was made with the meat of bison, deer, caribou, moose, musk oxen and fish, but pretty much any meat works just fine so long as it is lean. You do not want fatty meat when making pemmican because the fat content will make it go rancid. However, made correctly pemmican is an extremely high energy food filled with potent amounts of protein, good fats, glucose and minerals.
To make it is pretty easy, especially with the tools we have today. I have made pemmican the old way and it is a bit more labor intensive, but still not really all that difficult. The hardest part doing it the old way is the drying process, especially in humid climates. Here is one methods of making good quality, long lasting pemmican:
(this is a small batch that you can easily adjust to increase volume)
- 2 cups of lean meat (anything really except pork – pork is a very fatty meat, even when “lean”)
- 2 cups dried fruit (berries work best, but apples work as well)
- 1 cup rendered fat
- 1 TBSP raw honey
- Salt, pepper, or other spices to taste
You can use fish as well, like trout, bass, etc. If you are going to store this for a while or keep it even for a short time in warm climates I suggest not using nuts since their oils will go rancid.
Once you have those simple ingredients you can start making your pemmican.
- Slice the meat very thin and place it in a dehydrator. Use the setting to make jerky and dry the meat. You can use the oven method if you do not have a dehydrator, but it will take about 14-16 hours on the lowest bake setting.
- You can dry the fruit with the meat if you wish, or dry it separately.
- Once both the meat and fruit are dry, place them in a blender or food processor and grid them into powder.
- Place high quality cubed organic fat in a crock or crockpot. Set it to low and once the fat has completely liquefied (time will vary depending upon how much fat you are using) strain it real good. You want only the clean liquid fat.
- Add the raw honey to the warm fat and mix well.
- Mix together the fruit powder and meat powder in a bowl.
- Slowly mix the warm fat/honey mixture into the powder. Mix only enough to completely wet all the powder.
- Pour the mixture onto a plate and let it cool.
- It will be playable so once cool you can shape it however you wish for storage.
- Place your finished pemmican into an airtight container and store it away from light and high heat.
If you are using fish such as trout, split the fish down the spine and lay it flat in the dehydrator. Once completely dry, grind it all up, dried meat and bones. The bone powder will add calcium to your pemmican!
If you are doing it the old way you will have to do everything around a fire. The drying, fat rendering and hand pounding the meat and fruit into a powder using rock, bone or wood style pestle and mortar.
You can change the ingredients to make various flavors. Different meats mixed with different fruits all change the taste.
If you want something different try pronghorn meat mixed with dry salmon berries and a touch of dry sage. Or perhaps a more northeastern fare; moose meat mixed with dry blueberries and a touch of dry mountain mint. Down south you can make a good pemmican from white tailed deer meat, dried prickly pear cactus fruit and a touch of dried sassafras leaves. Experiment 🙂
Save it, eat it, take it on trips or excursions and you will have yourself a powerfully protein rich natural food source that will satisfy and go a long way!