A Guide On How to Make Pemmican: The Ultimate Survival Food

 The dried and smoked meat was a convenient and reliable source of food and protein for Native Americans. Long back when things were not so easily available as today, it was all about survival, and some of those useful survival skills have trickled through generations.  While the traditional methods of smoking and drying have changed over the years, the popularity of dried meat has never waned. Most of us have enjoyed it as a jerky meat bar made of finely chopped dried meat, and it is commonly known as Pemmican. 

What is Pemmican – The survival food? 

Pemmican is a mixture of lean, dried meat that can last for months without going rancid. The mix of dried meat and dried berries, which was an essential part of food among indigenous tribes in North America, is still prepared today. The word Pemmican can be traced to the Cree word pimi, which means “fat” or “grease.”   

The dried meat is made with whatever available ingredients, and most commonly, large meat and fish are used in the recipe. Wild animals like bison, deer, elk, or moose and fish such as salmon and even a duck can be used. The use of added sugars, dried fruits, and berries like cranberries and Saskatoon berries is not uncommon in the Pemmican recipe

To fully comprehend the value of Pemmican, it is essential to understand its history first. After all, it is one of the very few foods that has been used widely in extreme and in harsh conditions throughout history. There are endless historical examples of the use and value of Pemmican among adventurers and explorers as well as a trade commodity. 

A look back at the History of Pemmican 

Historical accounts trace Pemmican back to 500-600 years, but the art of making Pemmican could well be over a thousand years old. The first origination is linked to the Europeans who came in contact with Native peoples in Manitoba, Canada.  It was not easy for the ancient fur traders from Canada to carry large volume of food for their long voyages and journeys.

Pemmican trade developed gradually when the trade reached the Winnipeg areas. Bison were slaughtered, and the meat was dried and converted to Pemmican. Packs of Pemmican were stored for those long journeys and polar expeditions. Soldiers were given Pemmican as an emergency ration for survival during the wars and long marches. Later, Pemmican, along with grain mixture, became a regular part of the US Army Emergency Ration Pack. 

Most probably, Pemmican was traded between tribes and sued for long-distance voyages. Pemmican was widely popular among earlier Arctic and Antarctic explorers as a high-energy food that was easy to carry and store. Today, it is still prevalent  among explorers and trekkers who stay away from civilization for weeks or months. For those who are out on long treks and away for months on an exploring expedition, it is a must to carry a popular survival food like Pemmican. 

Pemmican is essentially seen as a survival food that carries nutritional benefits. Our ancestors relied heavily on the dried meat as there were no electric ovens or refrigerators back then to store the food. They survived and made the best of whatever resources they had with simple tools and easy techniques of cooking and preserving food. Drying or smoking meat was one of them. However, that leaves many of us wondering if we need to buy Pemmican or gather information on how to make Pemmican. After all, we are not going away for long term expeditions.  

Why is survival food essential even today? 

We live in times of fluctuating economy and uncertainties, and no one is sure as to what may happen tomorrow. The recent pandemic of the Coronavirus is a good example, and the whole world saw panic buying of food and other supplies in many countries. And we are always living in the shadows of terrorism. The essential point is that the supply chain of millions of tons of food can come to a halt suddenly for unforeseen reasons and situations.  One can only imagine food riots to take place in case of any shortage of food due to any pandemic or a natural disaster or terrorism. So, how well prepared are you in case such situations arise, and how do you plan to deal with food shortage? 

Instead of just hoping that nothing can go wrong, be proactive, and be a leader by preparing well ahead. Look for ways you can produce, save, and store food in case of any calamity. If you plan ahead, you can feed your family for several months ahead and have the resources you need. Smoking and drying of meat are a good way of storing food for a longer time. The process may be time-consuming but easy to follow. You can preserve the flavor and neutrino of meat for longer periods. This is why an increasing number of people are taking more interest in the Pemmican recipe

What makes Pemmican so popular? 

Pemmican is very popular among consumers, and here are some good reasons as to why: 

  • Very easy to make and can be made out of any kind of meat  
  • Very tasty and nutritious and a reliable source of long-lasting energy 
  • The perfect survival snack that you can easily carry in your bag 
  • Is one of the best survival foods that one can easily make at home 
  • Can last for months or even years without getting spoilt 
  • Provides long-lasting energy and is packed with proteins and fats  
  • Has almost all of the essential micronutrients one needs to survive 

Thus, it is the amazing benefits of Pemmican that make it so popular. It is a highly nutritious form of meat, which is both energy-dense and portable and can last for a much longer time without getting spoiled. In short, there is no other food quite like Pemmican, and there are very few foods that can match Pemmican for complete nutrition and convenience. 

Pemmican excels as a survival food as the trekkers love the flavor, and those complex fats and sugars can keep them satisfied on long hikes and explorations. If your survival food cache doesn’t carry an adequate supply of Pemmican, you are in for a fix. You should not only carry an ample amount of Pemmican but also know how to make Pemmican and follow the pemmican recipe

How to make Pemmican 

The pemmican recipe has passed through several generations, and today, everybody makes their Pemmican a little differently. However, the basic process of making Pemmican still remains the same. 

The pemmican recipe is simple and easy to follow, and one finds so many different variations.  One can add dried berries and sweeteners like honey or any other flavors or seasonings. 

 Here are some basic steps about how to make pemmican recipe 

  1. Get the meat 
    You can get any kind of meat you like and whatever game, small or large, but please make sure that the meat has natural fat. Some of the most popular animals include venison, elk, moose, caribou, beef, and more. Rabbit and fish are not suitable for pemmican recipe as the meat is too lean and cannot provide the fat. 
  2. Trim the meat 
    Trim off the fat from the meat for better preservation and quality and cut out the meat into thin strips. When cutting, please keep in mind that the meat strips are going to shrink to up to 70%. So, that should give you an idea about the final width and length you would want for the meat strips. You can store the fat for use in other foods and flavoring, and it is common to see people use fat as “tallow.” 
  3. Dip the meat 
    It is essential to dip the meat into a salt solution not just for flavor and taste, but also to prevent the growth of bacteria. Moreover, a salt dip allows the extra extract moisture from the meat and will keep any insects away during the drying process. Use a salt solution of about 14% concentration and dip the meat strips for about 5 to 10 minutes. 
  4. Dry the meat 
    The next step is to dry the meat, and the thin meat strips can be under direct sunlight. Another option is to use the oven at the lowest heat for the slow drying of the meat. However, the best possibility is to dry them under the natural sunlight where the meat can dry slowly and without losing its texture or flavor. The meat strips should be dry enough to crack when bent and feel brittle to touch. 
  5. Grind the dried meat 
    Use a food processor to grind the dried meat strips, and you can cut those strips to shorter lengths before placing them in the grinder. The dried meat has to be ground into fine meat dust and should be fine and powdery. 

 Once the meat is dried sufficiently, you can also package it for proper preservation and to keep away any moisture. Transparent cellophane or plastic foils are great for packaging as you can keep an eye on the look of the meat and inspect for any signs of spoilage. Today, there are both contemporary and traditional pemmican recipes that have been introduced for commercial distribution.  

Ingredients and tools for the basic pemmican recipe  

Today, one is likely to come across various pemmican recipes, but most of them make use of some essential equipment and ingredients. You will need jerky and suet for the recipe, while berries and other flavorings are options. Suet is the hard fat that is just perfect for making Pemmican and comes from the loins of the cow, venison or bison. 

Generally speaking, for a good recipe for Pemmican, the ratio of tallow to dry ingredients is roughly 1:1 by weight. The fine meat powder may seem like a lot, but it weighs little when compared to the tallow. It is a good idea to use small amounts of tallow until it is enough for the mix to hold together.   As for the tool, you will need a food processor, mixing bowl, measuring cup, and a mesh strainer. 

 For the simple basic recipe for Pemmican, you will need the dried meat, suet, or tallow, dried berries and salt, and pepper for seasoning.  Blend the jerky, berries, and any other ingredients you would want in the blender, and you can even add some nuts and other seasonings. 

Put the suet into a pot over low heat to render the fat. It is essential to use low heat here so as to render the fat slowly and avoid any burning, or you can ruin your Pemmican. Once the fat melts and begins to boil, keep stirring and watch closely to avoid any burns. Be prepared as the rendering process might take a couple of hours, and once the fat has rendered, use a fine mesh strainer to remove any impurities from the fat. The rendering is over when the fat stops bubbling, and one can pass the hot mix through a mesh strainer. Let the tallow cool down before adding it to the jerkin mix. 

 Put the dried meat and dried berries together in a pot and add the suet and keep mixing. Use hands for the mixing process and keep adding the tallow until the mixture can hold its shape. Pack the mixture into a shallow tray to cool and firm up. Later you can either roll it into balls or cut it into bars or squares for effective storage. You can enjoy them immediately or store them in airtight containers and jars. Keep them in a cool, dark place or in your freezer if you are looking for even longer shelf life. 

Different variations in pemmican recipe 

Pemmican bars available today are not just about meat and fat, but the modern pemmican recipes are full of variations and new flavors. With little tweaks and extra work, one can make their pemmican taste even better. You can add dry or wet Ingredients to the pemmican recipe for some interesting variations. 

For example, you can add all kinds of berries and dried fruits like apples, kiwis, pineapples, blueberries, raspberries, bananas, mangos, tomatoes, grapes, chilies, and more to the recipe. Dried nuts like walnuts, chestnuts, pinion, peanuts, almond, etc. too add to the taste. It is not uncommon to see the use of certain spices and flavors in pemmican recipes like garlic powder, dried basil, chili powder, onion powder, oregano, rosemary, and more. Wet ingredients can be added when you add the lard, and some great options include honey, molasses, caramel, syrup, etc. 

When it comes to pemmican recipes, go ahead and use your imagination and get creative as there are endless options to experiment with and customize the pemmican bars. You can make them hot and spicy or sweet and tangy and try out different flavors and seasonings. Look for new ways on how to make Pemmican and how to increase the flavor value by exploring new flavors. 

Now a days people are turning vegan and vegetarian, so you can easily find vegetarian alternatives of Pemmican recipes as well.    

Nutrition Facts of Pemmican  

Pemmican is one of the few foods that are energy-dense, nutritious as well as long-lasting. Every 100-gram serving of Pemmican will offer you 575 kcal, 26 grams of protein, and 52 grams of fat plus 1 gram or less of carbohydrates. It is seen that Pemmican made with grass-fed beef and tallow is richer in omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, B vitamins, iron, vitamin E, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and selenium. 

Extending the life of Pemmican 

Now that you have made some delicious pemmican bars for your next upcoming trip, you would, of course, want to keep them safe and ensure that they last for a very long time. If you are not careful or have been careless about a certain step during the process, chances are those pemmican bars may go bad earlier than you think. However, if you follow the process carefully and have done everything correctly, your pemmican bars can last for decades. 

Mentioned below are few useful tips to store Pemmican correctly:  

  • You can safely use the Pemmican you stored years ago if you are careful bout preparation and storage.  
  • It is a must to store Pemmican in airtight containers.  
  • It is highly recommended to store pemmican bars in vacuum-sealed plastic bags as vacuum sealing promises the highest quality storage.  
  • Many people like to use zip locks and Tupperware and those options also work well for the storage because if you eliminate the oxygen, you keep away any risk of mold growth and food poisoning.  
  • The storage area should be cool, dark, and temperature-controlled if possible, as light and heat can affect the Pemmican negatively.  
  • An underground food storage facility is considered the best but basements and pantries also work fine.  
  • The containers holding the Pemmican should be placed off the ground so as to keep away any hungry critters and moisture. 

Pemmican Survival Food – Final Words

Pemmican is going to last forever as its saturated and rendered pure, dried protein and fats are very stable and will not go rancid. This is a survival food you can rely on in case of an unforeseen emergency.  Moreover, it is very simple and easy to make and requires few ingredients. Those pemmican bars are lightweight and easy to carry and store. 

Once you know the pemmican recipe, you need not get anxious about your supply of food and energy during those backpacking trips, hunting trips, mountain biking, fishing expeditions, road tripping, camping, and more. All you need to do is take out the great snack to refill your energy and you going. 

 So, whether you’re interested in Pemmican for its nutrition, portability, and convenience, or just because of the health benefits or are looking at it as a trade commodity, you won’t regret making a choice. Learn how to make Pemmican and store it carefully for long term usage. Follow a simple pemmican recipe and enjoy it every day and improve your health. Now that you know all about Pemmican, its benefits, and recipe, it is time to take advantage of your new-found knowledge and let Pemmican be a part of your life.