First of all, I would like to thank Paul for sending me an email regarding pemmican recipes. This article is in response to his email you can read here.
Pemmican was originally created by Native Americans and later adopted by European settlers and trappers. It is considered a high energy food that is predominantly protein and fat, but vegetables, fruits, and/or nuts can be added as well. It was traditionally made by drying lean meat either in the sun or over a fire, grinding it into a powder, add any other dried and ground ingredients and then mixing in rendered fat to hold it all together. It is very important to get as much water out of your ingredients as possible to prevent spoilage. Food prepared in this way will stay good for years outside of modern day preservation and refrigeration.
This picture shows all of the pieces of equipment that I used – a food dehydrator, crock pot, blender, jerky gun, metal strainer, and a measuring cup. If you don’t have a food dehydrator, you can place your meat and other ingredients to dry in the oven and put the oven on its lowest setting as well as leaving the oven door slightly open to allow the evaporated moisture to escape. It usually takes anywhere from 8 – 24 hours for all of your ingredients to get dried out. The jerky gun is not essential to your success, but makes it much easier to turn ground meat into the proper size for drying. I already had mine from buying a kit years ago that included spices/cures for jerky making. The blender is used to grind up all of your dried ingredients into a powder. The crock pot is to slowly “cook” your fat of choice until it is rendered into a liquid. If you don’t have a crock pot, you can render your fat in a pan on top of your stove. I prefer using the crock pot because you don’t have to watch it as much to make sure that it doesn’t burn. Once the fat is rendered, use the strainer and pour it into the measuring cup. I waited to render the fat until all of my ingredients were dried and blended so I could quickly add the rendered fat before it cooled and became a solid again. The best part of this is that you can always make pemmican the traditional way if you wanted to challenge yourself as well as learning the way you would have to do it if you ended up having no choice – a survival situation is no time to learn a new survival skill!
Pictures left to right: All ingredients; dried and ground ingredients in sandwich-sized tupperware container; rendered fat; rendered fat added to other ingredients; final product after cooling
I chose to use 1 pound ground turkey, kale, pineapple slices, blueberries, and 1.25 pounds beef fat that I picked up from our local meat market. You can use any type of lean cuts meat – whether it’s ground or cut into small strips, make sure the pieces of meat are no more the 1/4″ thick to allow faster and more thorough drying. It takes about 5 pounds of meat to make 1 pound of dehydrated meat.
I only used a few leaves of kale (enough to cover 2 trays in my dehydrator), 5 pineapple slices, and the smallest package of blueberries I could find. I used a small amount of ingredients since this was my first attempt at making pemmican and I didn’t want to waste a lot of money if it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. I ended up only using about 1/4 cup of the rendered fat pictured (wasn’t sure how much I was going to need and way overestimated), and I think I still might have used a bit too much.
You want to add the fat slowly until the mixture becomes a paste that can be formed into a ball and hold that shape. After mixing everything together, I put it in the fridge to set. All in all, I think this turned out pretty well for my first batch of homemade pemmican. It doesn’t taste the greatest, but I know that I can put this in my BOB and it will not spoil and will be able to keep me alive and provide me adequate energy for a day or two if I needed it to.
One of the great things about pemmican is that there is no one right way to make it. You can add whatever ingredients you want. I’ve even seen a few recipes that used honey instead of rendered fat as the binding agent. I will do a few things differently next time though such as using spinach instead of kale (the taste of the kale was way too overpowering and I like spinach better anyway); adding salt, brown sugar, and/or other spices for better flavoring; and using more of every ingredient in order to have more pemmican in the end.
What are some of your recipes for pemmican?