Pemmican is a dry food that has been made from animal meat. Some people liken it to jerky. However, it’s not like jerky in the fact that the meat has been ground down into smaller pieces before it was dried. It is then mixed with fat too.
Having fat as part of a survival food like Pemmican is a good thing because it increases the amount of energy the food can provide the eater. Pemmican would be much better as a survival food than lean jerky, for example, because of the energy it could give.
Sometimes dried fruit can be added to the Pemmican, but historically this was used for special occasions and not as sustenance during long journeys. Our modern palates will enjoy the sweetness from the fruit much more, but personally, I prefer it without. At the end of the day, Pemmican is a very functional food and not something I would suggest to feed to your guests at a dinner party.
Why Do Survivalists Love Pemmican?
Survivalists love Pemmican because it’s a brilliant survival food. It’s been used throughout history by people traveling long distances. It’s a super easy recipe to prepare for your survival kit at home as long as you have a good source of heat for the drying and melting process. Pemmican is also a recipe you can make if you are out in the woods in survival situations. It’s so much quicker and easier to make than cured meats and will require a lot less equipment than making smoked meat.
Many survivalists prefer to use jerky as their go-to food, but Pemmican is actually a much better source of energy. The protein contained in jerky won’t sustain you for very long, but the addition of fat in Pemmican will provide your body with what it needs for more extended periods of time.
Pemmican is super light and easy to carry, making it ideal for your prepper backpack. Even though it’s relatively small in size, those little morsels of meat give a lot of calories. Of course, it’s not the only food you’ll have to consume to survive. It lacks some of the vital vitamins you need for survival, so you will need to supplement your diet with other food to make up for it.
How Long Will Pemmican Last?
Pemmican doesn’t need to be refrigerated and can last up to ten years when stored properly. You still have to keep it relatively cool and protected from other elements, though. If you choose to freeze the Pemmican, it will last you for fifty years or more. The basic recipe is very stable as a protein and a rendered fat, meaning it is resistant to oxidation so that it won’t rot.
There are only a few ingredients involved in making Pemmican, which you can see below.
You want to get meat from a large animal because these will work best. Try to opt for beef, moose, or venison. The meat also should be as lean as you can get it.
If you are a hunter, you can use the fat from the same animal you got the meat from. Otherwise, opt for some beef suet. Beef that has been grass-fed will product fat that is much healthier than fat that comes from other cattle. Kidney used to be the traditional ingredient, but any fat you want to use will do just fine.
Some people choose to use plant oils like coconut oil for a healthier option. If you decide to do this, the Pemmican won’t be as solid as using animal fat when stored at room temperature. You definitely don’t want to use any oils which have a liquid form at normal temperatures.
The two main ingredients of Pemmican are meat and fat, but you can add some extras in if you want to. Dried fruit is a traditional addition to Pemmican, but you could also experiment with chocolate, honey, and nuts. Almond meal is also a good option for firming up the meat. Remember that if you use anything with sugar, it may reduce how long your Pemmican lasts for. You can also season Pemmican using salt and pepper the same as you would a joint of roast beef.
- Preparing the meat – To start making your Pemmican, you need to start with the meat. Trim your meat and slice it thinly. Add salt and pepper if you want, then dry it out. You can do this outdoors in the sun, over a slow-burning fire, or in an oven that is set to 150 degrees. If you do choose to use the oven, keep the door open so that any moisture can escape. The whole process takes around 15 hours.
- Grind the meat – Once your meat is completely dried out, it’s time to grind it. Depending on what equipment you have, you could use two stones to grind it, a mortar and pestle, or just throw the meat straight into the food processor. You want it to look almost powder-like in its consistency. If there’s anything else you want to add in, this must be dried out and ground down to powder too.
- Preparing the fat – Fat has to be rendered before it goes into the Pemmican. If you have sourced fat taken straight from an animal, you can cook it over very low heat. Do not burn it. Cook it until the bubbling stops. You will have to keep stirring it throughout the process and then strain out any solids. Don’t get rid of the strained liquid. Keep it to the side for later.
- Mix it all together – Put your powdered meat and any other dry extra ingredients into a dish. Pour in the liquid you strained from the rendered fat at a ratio of 1:1 of meat to fat. If you add too much liquid, you can firm the mixture back up with almond meal.
- Form it into balls or patties – Once everything has cooled down and the mixture has firmed up, it’s time to prepare the Pemmican to be stored. You could roll it into balls or cut it into squares.
- Eat it or save it – And that’s it. You have a food that could last you a lifetime. Pemmican can be eaten as it is, crumbled up in a soup or broth or fried with other ingredients to add in some flavor.
Pemmican definitely isn’t the nicest tasting food, but with the almost endless expiration date and the straightforward recipe, it’s still good to use today. It’s very much a survival food that is as effective now as it was to travelers in the Arctic.