There are two crucial benefits that have time and again earned this superfood the title of ‘ultimate survival food’: nutrition, and shelf-life. The name ‘pemmican’ comes from the Cree word ‘pemi’, meaning ‘grease’ or ‘fat’, and is a concentrated combination of dried, lean meat, fat, and protein.
Used over the generations by the Native Americans, Western explorers, and even British soldiers, pemmican is packed with protein and calories. Its value is enhanced by the fact that it will you could, in fact, survive off of pemmican alone. And as if that weren’t enough, it can also last decades without even requiring refrigeration.
Though tradition would call for moose, elk, deer, or even bison, in this day and age beef (or any other lean red meat), will serve you just as well. Also included in the recipe are animal fat or tallow, fruit or berries, and other optional additions such as nuts, peanut butter, or honey.
While every recipe is slightly different, they all follow the same basic instructions with an approximate ratio of 1:1:1; 1 cup of dried meat to 1 cup of berries to 1 cup of animal fat. You will, of course, discover your preferences in experimenting, so let’s go ahead with the process.
Remove all the fat from the meat, and then cut in as thin slices as you can manage. When all the meat is cut, place it on your drying rack, either in the sun or in the oven at the lowest temperature setting. Place any additional ingredients (nuts, berries, etc.) on the tray as well, these may take up to 15 hours to dry out completely.
Once the meat is ready, it should crack and break upon bending. Grind, crush, blend, or process the meat strips into a powder. While you don’t have to do the same with the nuts and berries, it is recommended.
Begin to heat the fat in a crockpot or on the stove at a low temperature, stirring frequently to prevent burning; this may take several hours. When the fat is all melted down and has stopped bubbling, run it through a strainer to remove any meat chunks (these make fantastic dog treats).
Mix the meat powder in a bowl with all other dry ingredients. Remember, extra ingredients reduce shelf life.
Slowly pour the hot fat into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Add in any extra wet ingredients (ex: honey, peanut butter, maple syrup). Make sure you aren’t adding too much of any of these, as it can ruin the consistency of the pemmican.
Methods of forming the pemmican vary. You can flatten it and seal in an airtight ziplock bag, flatten it in a casserole dish, or roll the mixture into balls.
Store the pemmican in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place to ensure the longest shelf-life. If necessary, it can even be stored in the freezer.