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Pemmican – The Ultimate Survival Food

In the wild, finding food that keeps you energized can be a lifesaver. Pemmican, a storied staple of survivalists and adventurers alike, has fueled explorers for centuries. This post will dive into how this high-energy treat could be your best ally in harsh conditions or emergency situations.

Discover pemmican’s secrets by reading on!

Key Takeaways

  • Pemmican is a nutrient – dense food made from ground dried meat, rendered fat, and optional dried fruit that can last for years without refrigeration.
  • It provides a high – energy source with significant calories from protein and fat, making it ideal for long expeditions or emergency situations.
  • The lightweight and compact nature of pemmican makes it easy to carry on treks or while exploring the wilderness.
  • To make pemmican, you’ll need lean meats such as bison or beef and rendered animal fats like tallow. Adding fruits like blueberries can increase its nutritional value.
  • Properly storing pemmican in airtight containers away from light and heat helps preserve its quality over time; freezer storage further extends its shelf life.

What is Pemmican?

Pemmican combines the essential elements of nutrition and preservation, a hearty blend steeped in tradition. Originating from Indigenous peoples and adopted by fur traders during long expeditions, pemmican consists primarily of rendered animal fat and dried lean meats such as bison or deer.

Often mixed with this are dried fruits like blueberries, cranberries, or saskatoon berries that introduce natural sweetness and additional nutrients.

Crafting this survival staple involves grinding the meat into a fine powder, then mixing it with equal parts melted fat to form a dense paste. This mixture sometimes includes crushed nuts or seeds for added texture and flavor variety.

Its robust composition not only delivers concentrated energy but also resists spoilage remarkably well—enabling travelers to sustain themselves across vast distances without the need for refrigeration.

Why Pemmican is the Ultimate Survival Food

In the realm of survival foods, pemmican stands out as a superior option due to its exceptional energy provision and remarkable longevity. This dense nutritional powerhouse, once a staple for indigenous peoples and explorers, now serves as an ideal sustenance source in extreme conditions where efficiency in weight and space is essential.

Provides significant energy

Pemmican stands out as a powerhouse of nutrition, packed with high-calorie content to fuel the body’s needs. A small amount can go a long way, making it an efficient energy source for people who need to sustain their activity levels without frequent meals.

Its balanced combination of protein and fat ensures that you have a steady supply of energy during long treks or intense physical labor. The low-carb aspect also means that it won’t spike your blood sugar, providing a stable and enduring boost rather than short-lived peaks and drops.

Out in the wilderness or on ambitious expeditions, pemmican delivers the vital energy required to conquer challenges. It mirrors the diets of indigenous peoples and fur traders from centuries past who valued this food for its dense nutritional profile.

Loaded with high-protein ingredients like dried meats – think beef jerky elevated – pemmican supports muscle repair and growth which is essential after strenuous activities. Adding fats such as tallow amplifies calorie density while offering essential fatty acids necessary for healthy body function even in harsh conditions away from modern conveniences.

Long shelf life without refrigeration

Packed with high-energy and nutritious ingredients, pemmican stands out for its impressive ability to remain stable without the need for cold storage. Traditional recipes combined lean, dried meats with rendered fat and berries, creating a dense food source that resists spoilage.

Hunters and voyageurs historically relied on this protein-packed sustenance while traversing vast distances, knowing it would retain its edibility over months – or even years. The secret behind pemmican’s longevity lies in its low moisture content and the protective barrier formed by solidified fat which guards against bacteria.

Storing pemmican properly can extend its shelf life significantly, from a standard one year to an outstanding five years under optimal conditions. It was customarily kept in bison-hide bags that allowed the contents to breathe while shielding them from the elements.

This method ensured that the valuable resource stayed fresh during long expeditions across arctic landscapes or through untamed prairies where modern preservation methods were unavailable.

The absence of refrigeration didn’t compromise pemmican’s quality; instead, it solidified its status as the original survival food indispensable for exploration and trade well into historic times.

Lightweight and easy to transport

The convenience of pemmican extends beyond its impressive shelf life. Travelers and adventurers value this high-energy food for its compact size, which makes packing a breeze. Whether you’re trekking through backcountry trails or embarking on an arctic expedition, pemmican slips easily into any nook in your backpack or sled without adding significant weight.

Moreover, the absence of water content in pemmican reduces its weight dramatically, allowing you to carry ample food supply for longer durations. Its resilience to temperature changes means that from the scorching heat to freezing cold, it remains edible and nutritious – an essential trait for explorers facing diverse environments.

This combination of lightness and durability translates into more space and less burden for other vital supplies on your journey.

Ingredients for Making Pemmican

To craft authentic pemmican, one must curate a selection of high-quality lean meats and pure rendered fats—essential components that arm this nourishing powerhouse with its renowned durability and energy-sustaining properties.

Various lean meats

Buffalo, bison, and venison are prime examples of the lean meats used in traditional pemmican recipes. These wild game meats have minimal fat content, making them ideal for drying and grinding into the fine powder necessary for this high-energy food.

Beef is another excellent option for pemmican, especially when sourced from lean cuts. The meat must be trimmed meticulously to ensure that no visible fat remains since any leftover fat can cause spoilage.

To make proper beef pemmican or its wild game variants, chefs carefully select quality cuts and prepare them by thinly slicing before dehydrating them either under the sun or using a food dehydrator.

This careful process preserves the nutritional value while concentrating the flavors and energy within the meat—the essence of what makes pemmican such an esteemed survival staple among indigenous peoples and arctic explorers alike.


Fats serve as the energy powerhouse in pemmican, and getting them right is crucial. You’ll need a one-to-one ratio of fat to meat by weight to achieve the ideal balance for this nutrient-dense food.

Rendering beef tallow is typically the method used; you do this by slow-cooking beef fat until it liquefies. Once rendered, chill the suet in a refrigerator until it solidifies. This fat combines with dried, pounded meat to create pemmican’s signature dense blocks that are loaded with calories and ready for long-term storage.

The process doesn’t stop at combining fats with meats though—flavor can be enhanced by adding optional fruit additions like dried berries or wild onions, which introduce complexity and additional nutrients to your pemmican batch.

Optional fruit additions

Dried fruits like blueberries, cranberries, and mango add a sweet twist to traditional pemmican recipes. These fruits bring not only flavor but also additional nutrients to the mix.

To incorporate them into your pemmican, first dry your chosen fruit completely. Then use a blender to grind the dried fruit into a fine powder before mixing it with meat and fat.

Berry powders can lend a new dimension to the taste of pemmican while complementing its health benefits. Blueberry powder injects antioxidants, cherry brings in anti-inflammatory properties, and cranberry offers urinary tract support.

Such variety allows chefs to personalize pemmican batches for specific dietary preferences or health requirements. Next, we’ll guide you through preparing and drying meat – the primary component of any pemmican recipe.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Pemmican

Embark on the timeless art of pemmican preparation, a process honed by indigenous peoples and adopted by arctic explorers. Our comprehensive guide peels back the layers of this enduring craft, illuminating the meticulous steps to transform simple ingredients into a robust survival staple.

Preparing and drying the meat

Preparing the meat correctly is a vital step in making pemmican that will stand the test of time. Drying is equally crucial, as it preserves the meat by removing moisture that can lead to spoilage.

  • Select lean cuts of meat, such as beef, moose, or caribou, ensuring there is little to no visible fat.
  • Slice the chosen meat into thin strips or pound it thinly to expedite the drying process.
  • Place the thinly – sliced meat onto a clean drying rack, ensuring none of the pieces overlap.
  • Dry the slices either by using a dehydrator or by leaving them in direct sunlight if traditional methods are preferred.
  • Check regularly for dryness; properly dried meat should be brittle and crack when bent.
  • Once fully dry, pulverize the meat into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle or food processor.
  • Ensure all pieces are evenly crushed to avoid any uneven moisture pockets within your pemmican mixture.

Rendering the fat

After drying the meat, the next essential step in making pemmican is rendering the fat. This process transforms raw fat into a stable form that doesn’t spoil easily.

  1. Choose a high – quality fat source, like suet (the hard fat around the kidneys of animals), which has minimal impurities and a high melting point.
  2. Cut the suet into small chunks to increase surface area for more efficient rendering.
  3. Place these pieces in a large pot or slow cooker and heat them gently over low heat. This allows the fat to melt without burning, ensuring it stays pure and clean.
  4. Stir occasionally as the suet melts down, helping to prevent any bits from sticking to the bottom and burning.
  5. As it cooks, you’ll notice clear liquid forming, known as tallow, alongside some solid bits. These are impurities that you will later strain out.
  6. Continue this gentle heating until all solid pieces have fully melted and no longer emit any bubbles, signaling that moisture has cooked off.
  7. Use a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to carefully filter out any remaining solids from your liquid tallow.
  8. Transfer your filtered tallow into clean containers and allow it to cool down before using it for pemmican preparation or for other storage purposes.

Combining and shaping the ingredients

Once you’ve rendered the fat, it’s time to bring together all the elements that make pemmican such a durable and energy-packed food. This stage is where you will combine your prepared ingredients and mold them into a convenient form for storage and consumption. Below are the steps to follow:

  • Start by grinding the dried meat into a coarse powder using a food processor or grinder; lean meats like bison, beef, or venison work best because they contain minimal visible fat.
  • Melt your fully rendered tallow in a pot over low heat until it becomes liquid, but not hot enough that it fries the meat powder.
  • Mix the ground meat with the melted tallow at roughly a 1: 1 ratio by weight, ensuring that you blend them until they reach a consistent texture.
  • If desired, incorporate additional flavors like dried chokeberries or currants to add variety and extra nutrition to your pemmican.
  • Stir spices into the mixture if you prefer seasoned pemmican; common choices might include salt for preservation and taste enhancement or smoked paprika for depth.
  • Pour or spoon the combined mixture into silicone loaf molds, which help in forming large blocks of pemmican that are easy to store and can be cut as needed.
  • Press down firmly on the mixture in each mold to eliminate any air pockets and ensure proper binding between the meat powder and tallow.
  • Allow these filled molds to cool in a cellar or other cool place until they solidify; this step is vital as it locks in all ingredients together.
  • Once set, remove pemmican from molds carefully. You can either vacuum seal entire blocks for long – term storage or cut them into smaller bars for immediate use.

Storing and Preserving Pemmican for Longevity

Pemmican thrives in cool, dark places, so stash it away from light and heat. An airtight container is your best bet to shield it from moisture and air; both can lead to spoilage. As you pack pemmican for storage, remove as much air as possible before sealing the bag or container tightly.

This extra step keeps it fresh longer.

Freezing pemmican extends its shelf life immensely, allowing it to remain edible for years under consistent freezing conditions. To prevent freezer burn and flavor loss, wrap your pemmican in plastic wrap or aluminum foil first, then place it into a vacuum-sealed bag before freezing.

Always ensure that the meat used is completely dry before forming pemmican; this helps thwart mold growth and maintains quality during long-term storage.

Serving Suggestions for Pemmican

Pemmican offers versatile eating options for those needing a nutritious boost. Creative serving methods can enhance the enjoyment and practicality of this traditional food.

  • Crumble dried pemmican over a fresh salad for a protein – rich topping, infusing Native American cuisine into modern dishes.
  • Incorporate small pieces into a trail mix with nuts and dehydrated fruit to diversify textures and flavors during long hikes.
  • Consume pemmican as is, in its raw form, for an instant calorie-rich snack that aligns with no-carb dietary preferences.
  • Blend it with hot water to create a hearty soup base, reminiscent of the broths shared among fur traders at places like Cumberland House.
  • Use minced pemmican as a filling in hand pies or stuffed pastries, creating portable meals that were popular during arctic expeditions like those led by explorers such as Fridtjof Nansen.
  • Mix pemmican with melted vegetable oils to craft energy bars tailored for extreme endurance athletes and outdoor adventurers.
  • For ceremonial occasions or special gatherings, prepare ceremonial and wedding pemmican by shaping it into elaborate designs, echoing the Métis traditions onto the prairie.

Conclusion and FAQ’s

As we’ve explored the world of pemmican, it’s clear why this food stands out for survival situations. Think about the ease of transporting a nutrient-dense snack that doesn’t spoil quickly.

Can you imagine carrying a lightweight stash during your outdoor adventures? Now consider making your own batch with just meat, fat, and optional berries. Visualize opening a pack of homemade pemmican years later to find it still fresh and ready to eat.

So grab some lean cuts and let’s preserve vitality the way generations before us did!

1. What is pemmican and why is it considered a survival food?

Pemmican is a mixture of tallow, dried meat, and sometimes fruit powder that was traditionally eaten raw by Native Americans and Métis people as a long-lasting energy source.

2. Who first made pemmican, and where did this happen?

Peter Pond is credited with witnessing the making of pemmican in 1779 around areas like North Saskatchewan River to Forts like Edmonton House.

3. How long can pemmican be stored and still be safe to eat?

Depending on ingredients used and storage conditions, the shelf life of pemmican may vary from one to five years without spoiling.

4. Why did Governor Miles Macdonell make a proclamation about pemmican in 1814?

In 1814, Governor Miles Macdonell issued the short-lived Pemmican Proclamation forbidding export from Red River Colony during conflict with the Métis people who relied heavily on it for trade.

5. Can you only make pemmican with beef or are there other options?

Traditionally, various meats like bison were used; today’s recipes might include different meats such as beef or mixtures including bacon fat for flavor variation.

6. Is making modern-day pemmican similar to how it was done historically?

Current techniques use similar principles but may involve new methods like using ovens instead of drying meat in the sun or smoking as done in historical practices.

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Matt New

Living off-grid since 2012 with my wife Amy and dog MJ in the jungles of Costa Rica. Co-creater of the award winning Fusion Home.

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