Preparing for a long hike or trip in the great outdoors? Be prepared and make yourself some pemmican – the survival superfood! Learn more about the history of pemmican as well how to make it below.
What is Pemmican?
Said to have been created by Native Americans, pemmican is a high-energy food that has an incredibly long shelf life. In fact, pemmican can go years without spoiling! A staple for Native Americans who often traveled a lot and didn’t always have access to fresh foods, pemmican would sustain them until they were settled enough to be able to hunt again.
Considered to be one of the best survival foods out there, even earning the “superfood” title, pemmican is packed with protein and good fats to provide the body with long-lasting, sustainable energy. Pack pemmican with you when you go camping or hiking for a great snack or add it to your survival kit for emergency use. It is easy to make and tastes pretty good too!
What is it made from?
Pemmican is made from dried meat such as beef, however traditionally bison, deer or elk were commonly used. Crushed into a powder and then mixed with rendered animal fat, pemmican sometimes also includes crushed berries for added nutrition as well as sweetness. From these three simple ingredients, the human body receives energy from the fat and strength and power from the protein.
When pemmican is made properly, it can last for years before going bad. The trick is to make sure that the meat and the fat are completely separated before beginning the process of drying the meat and rendering the fat. If any of the meat has fat still remaining on it before the drying process, the final product can end up going rancid quicker than it should. Only once the meat is fully dried can it be added back to the rendered fat to be mixed and formed into bars or balls. Pemmican can even go without being refrigerated as long as the humidity of the environment is not too extreme.
How to Make Pemmican
Pemmican recipes have changed through the years as each generation places their own spin on the survival superfood, however the base of the recipe remains the same – dried meat and rendered fat. Adjustments over the years have included dried fruit, honey, nut butter or even nuts to help improve the taste, which is why no two pemmican recipes are ever the same. What really matters is the proper preparation of the meat and the fat – any additional ingredients are up to you!
Meat with fat on it such as deer, elk, beef or buffalo
Fat removed from the meat
Dried fruit, nuts, honey, etc. [optional]
Step 1 – Dry out the meat
Carefully cut all of the fat off the meat and save it for later. Once fat has been removed, slice the meat into very thin strips. The thinner the meat is the quicker it will dry out. Place your meat on a baking sheet and bake at the lowest temperature until meat has completely dried out. Meat should be very brittle and crack when you bend it.
Step 2 – Process the fat
Add all of the saved fat to a large pot over low heat and cook for several hours. Once the fat has melted and begins to boil, strain through a mesh strainer.
Step 3 – Grind the dried meat
Once meat has been fully dried, add it to a food processor and grind it until powdered. You can also use a mortar and pestle for this.
Step 4 – Add the extras
If you are choosing to include any dried berries, nuts, spices or other dry ingredients in your pemmican, add them to the powdered meat at this point. You want to mix them in a large bowl as the fat is going to be added as well and you want plenty of room to stir.
Step 5 – Add the fat
Pour the rendered fat over the dry ingredients and stir until everything is well-incorporated. If you are choosing to incorporate additional wet ingredients such as honey or nut butters, now is the time to add them.
Step 6 – Shape and store
Once everything is mixed well, start shaping your pemmican into either balls or bars. Store in a sealed Ziploc or other sealed container. Pemmican can be kept on the shelf or frozen.
How to Enjoy Pemmican
Once your pemmican has been prepared, store it in Ziploc bags and keep it in the freezer to further increase its shelf life. Though this step isn’t necessary, it will help to ensure that the pemmican is ready whenever you are ready for it.
The key to eating pemmican is to thoroughly chew each bite instead of trying to eat it quickly. Pemmican is not to be confused with beef jerky – it needs to be chewed completely and broken down, almost like chewing on gum. When eaten properly pemmican can keep you full for hours as the fat breaks down slowly, offering a steady stream of energy.