How to make Pemmican is a skill you would definitely want to have if you’re planning a long excursion into the wilderness. Even for long, extended hikes, where you will need some kind of sustenance during the arduous trek, it is great to have with you.
Pemmican is a Native American Indian survival food that has a very long shelf life. It is 100% natural, and it requires no refrigeration to store.
Pemmican is a protein-packed, compact energy source. It contains fat, carbohydrates, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and natural fruit sugars. It can be kind of bland, if you just stick to the basic, required ingredients. However, this recipe on how to make pemmican will spice it up enough so that you will not only get the energy boost you need – it will also taste good. Pemmican can be made with “normal” meat, like beef you would find easily at any grocery store. We suggest, though, that you use wild game meat. It is much leaner, and more in accord with the original ethnic food created and consumed by Native North Americans for millennia.
How to Make Pemmican with Wild Game-
How to make Pemmican the right way is simple – and it has several very important and desirable characteristics:
- It uses both the lean meat and the fat from the animal.
- Pemmican stores food harvested (or hunted) during spring, summer and fall months conveniently, for a supply of food to eat during winter.
- Long term, safe storage is easy, requiring no refrigeration or canning.
- Because pemmican is dehydrated, it is very light in weight – making it an ideal backpack food for long hikes and/or lengthy excursions into the wild.
- Pemmican is a complete meal in itself – you can survive and stay healthy for as long as you like or need to, if all you have to eat is pemmican.
- If you are caught in the wilderness without food, you can easily make it without any fancy or special equipment or cookware.
- As stated before, it can be bland, but with just a little seasoning and/or spicing, it can be really quite tasty.
The following explanation of how to make pemmican uses dried lean (wild game) meat, dried fruits/berries, and melted fat in equal proportions. However, you can vary the proportions if you like; pemmican is a very flexible food to make. Depending on your tastes, you can use use more or less meat and more or less fruits and berries. The amount of fat required is just enough to meld and hold the pemmican together.
- 1 cup dried meat (Wild Game Meat is best)
- 1 cup dried fruit and/or berries
- 1 cup melted animal fat
Optional (but taste-enhancing) Ingredients-
- salt, or soy sauce, to taste
- dried and crushed hot chili peppers, to taste
- nuts, crushed and ground
- dried, minced onion
- honey (locally produced, organically produced honey is the best. Organic because that is the healthiest for you, and locally grown because it contains pollens that are a natural antibiotic against allergies)
For the Meat-
- Use deer meat (venison), moose, buffalo, caribou, bear, elk, or even lean beef, but definitely not pork (which is too fatty).
- Rule of thumb: To produce one cup of dried meat, it takes anywhere from one to two pounds of fresh meat. The meat should be as lean as possible.
For the Fruits/Berries-
- Use one or two (three at the most) types of berries or fruits. Huckleberries, grapes, raisins, cherries, apricots, apples, blueberries – whatever you have on hand and/or suits your fancy.
For the Fat-
- You will, of course, have the reserved fat that you cut away from the meat. However, if the amount of fat cut away from the meat is not enough to comprise at least one-fifth (one third is recommended, in the basic proportions, but you can get away with a little less) of the total mixture, then you will need to add more. Use fresh beef fat or pork fat or, better yet, bear fat or some other wild game fat, if you can get it.
You Will Also Need-
- Trim all of the meat’s fat away, and reserve the fat. Place the meat in a large bowl, and pour a generous amount of coarse sea salt over it. Turn the meat over and over, constantly rubbing the salt into the flesh, until the meat is completely covered with the salt. Place the salt-coated meat into a large enough plastic bag (that has a tight seal), close the seal tight, and place it in the refrigerator for one full week. (Note: If you were making your pemmican in the wild, with no refrigerator available, then soaking the meat in heavily salted water overnight would be your next best option. The main reason for brining the meat is to reduce the possibility of E. Coli contamination)
- If you have a meat grinder, grind it through twice. Don’t have a grinder? No worries, then you just cut the fresh meat into very thin slices – 1/4″ thick at most, and the thinner you can slice it, the better.
- Next, you must dry the meat. If you are not familiar with meat drying techniques, there is a very short video that follows below, that explains one very good way to do it. Another technique, using the oven, is also explained below.
- Once the meat is thoroughly dried, it must be pulverized into almost a powder. If you have a food processor or an electric blender, you can make quick work of this step, breaking the meat down into a fine pulp. If you want to do it the more traditional way of antiquity? Grind it to a pulp with a mortar and pestle.
- Chop the fruit into very thin slices or little chunks and then dry them in the sun. Or you can dry them in your oven during the same time you dry your meat (see below). Another option, if you have one, is to use an electric food dehydrator.
- Once the fruits and berries are thoroughly dried, grind them into a powder. Not a totally fine powder, leave it just a little lumpy – this adds some nice texture and taste to your pemmican.
- In a mixing bowl, combine together the dried meat powder and the dried fruit powder. You can also combine them with a food processor or an electric blender.
- If you are adding any optional ingredients for added flavor and tastiness, do that now. Mix and combine thoroughly into the whole powdered mixture.
- Cut the fat into 1″ (or smaller) cubes; melt the cubes in a clean cooking pot with a small amount of water, over medium-low heat. (Note: If you can collect or have some rainwater – that is best to use. Purified water is next best, or mineral-enriched, clean well water. Definitely avoid using tap water!) Do not allow the fat to get so hot that it smokes. Smoke means you are burning the fat, and that ruins it for your purposes.
- Once the fat is thoroughly melted, gradually drizzle it over the fruit/meat mixture in a mixing bowl. Stir constantly as you pour. Keep adding the melted fat and stirring until your mixture is moistened well enough to stick together and hold a shape.
- At this point you have a choice to make, regarding the shape you want your finished pemmican to be in. I prefer balls, about the size of a baseball, or a child’s fist. Others prefer their pemmican in strips, like wide jerky. Either way, you need to cool the mixture some before shaping it. Spread the mixture out on a clean, flat surface and let it start cooling. If you want pemmican balls, as soon as the mixture is cool enough to handle, break off sizable chunks and mold them into tight balls. Allow them to stand and continue cooling and drying completely – this will take longer (the cooling and drying) than if doing strips. If you want pemmican strips, allow the mixture to cool down and dry completely, then slice it into strips, the widths and lengths of your choice.
Methods of Drying Your Meat – an Essential Step in How to Make Pemmican:
Another way to dry your meat is to use your oven. Spread the thinly sliced meat evenly on aluminum foil on a cookie sheet – the slices should not be touching each other. Dry the meat in the oven at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for between 6 to 8 hours, turning the strips over half way through for even drying. The meat is well dried when it is chewy and crisp. You do not want to cook the meat. You just want to dry it. Bend a strip sharply – it should crack and snap. If it bends but does not break it still contains too much moisture. If it crumbles? Then it is a bit too dry, but that’s okay. You can still use it with this recipe on how to make pemmican.
Don’t want to go to all this trouble drying your meat? No worries, just buy some wild game jerky (plain, no flavored jerky) and pound that into your meat pulp. (One little shortcut on the various methods of how to make pemmican)
Final Note Regarding Storage:
If you have plastic wrap, plastic storage containers (with tight fitting lids), or Ziploc bags, wrap up or seal up the pemmican. You can safely store your pemmican for 8 months in this way at moderately warm, to even mildly hot temperatures. If you have a way of keeping the temperature between 75 and 45 degrees (Fahrenheit), your pemmican will store and be just fine for several years.
And that, my friends, is how to make Pemmican!
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