Pemmican is made of lean, dried meat crushed into powder and mixed with rendered, hot fat. It’s a very portable, long lasting, high energy food specific to Native Americans.

Since the Natives lived in tents and moved around the country a lot, they needed to travel light. They used to pack and move their camp several times per year. Often they would rely solely on pemmican while they travel or until they settle and go hunting again.

Although it’s not a must, many recipes also involve crushed dried fruit as well. You can use blueberries, cherries, cranberries or any other fruit that can be dried and crushed into powder. It’s very nurturing and has a very high calorie yield, which makes it a great food for survival situations. Just a bit can sustain a full grown man for a whole day. When made properly, it can last a very long time.

It’s important to separate the meat from the fat when preparing it. If even the smallest bits of fat remain on the meat or vice versa, it will greatly reduce the product’s shelf life or even completely spoil it. The recipe involves some main ingredients however there is a wide variety of optional ingredients that can also be added.

Since the recipe is quite old and popular, many people have started adding extra things. You can stick to the basics or customize your own survival pemmican recipe.

Step 1: Ingredients

 – Meat– the original recipe involved the meats more readily available back then, such as buffalo, deer, elk or moose. Nowadays, regular beef will do just fine. Make sure you use lean chunks of meat, such as thighs or shoulders.

 – Fat– the best fat for the recipe comes from the kidneys, but any fat should do as long as you thoroughly separate it from the meat. You could simply ask a butcher for some fat.

 – Extras– You can add all sorts of things to the recipe. Optional ingredients include: berries, dried fruits, chopped nuts, maple syrup, peanut butter and even chocolate and sugar. You can pretty much add whatever you like in terms of taste or nutritious yield. Pemmican is packed with proteins from the dried meat anyway. However, if you want even more proteins, you could consider, for instance, adding nuts or peanut butter.

Step 2: Dry the meat

st_64.4Make sure you separate the meat from all the fat. Once you’ve done this, cut the meat in slices. You want to make the slices as thin as possible. Place the slices on a food dehydrator or a drying rack. Drying the food might take a whole day so make sure you start early. It would be wise to have the meat slices on the rack or the dehydrator as soon as the sun comes up in the morning. This way you get the best exposure and you might finish early too. Leave it until the meat is so dry, that it cracks when you bend it. The meat needs to be very brittle. If it’s rubbery, it’s not done yet.

Step 3: Grind up the meat

st_64.5Turn the meat into powder. You can use a food processor or simply grind it until you’re done. Alternatively, you can mince it up and grind it using a blender.

Step 4: Render the fat

Once you have separated it from the meat, gather it all up and start heating it. You can use anything from a crock-pot to a stove or oven for this. Make sure you use very low heat setting for long periods of time. Also, stir every now and then and wait until the fat had stopped bubbling. Finally, put it through a strainer to remove the crispy bits.

Step 5: Mixing the meat (optional)

If you have decided to add any fruit powder or extra ingredients, now would be the right time. Only use dry ingredients, for example peanut butter wouldn’t be appropriate. Mix them with the meat you just grinded up. If you are only making the basic recipe, skip to step 6.

Step 6: Add the fat

Add one part of fat for every two parts of meat. Pour the liquid hot fat on the meat while stirring. You can now add any wet extra ingredients, such as peanut butter or syrup.

Step 7: Forming it

st_64.6Once you have mixed them all together, you should leave them to dry out and harden or form. You can roll it into little balls and leave it like that or you can spread it in a casserole dish. Once it is dry, you can cut it into squares or bars.

Step 8: Store it

If done right, Pemmican has a very long shelf life. If you want to further extend it, you can store it in airtight containers such as bags or boxes. Also make sure you store it in a cool, dark and dry place.

When eating, make sure you chew properly. The more you chew, the easier it will be for the body to break it down. By doing this you will greatly extend the energy output and the food will last you much longer.

st_64.7Pemmican is one of the best survival foods options out there. It’s easy to make, even in survival situations, and it lasts you for outstanding periods of time. While some recipes also include dried fruits, you can add just about anything you like to the recipe, even honey, syrup, peanut butter, nuts or raisins. The most important parts are separating and preparing the meat and fat. Once you get that right, you are pretty much all set.


How do you enjoy your pemmican? Is there any specific ingredient you could add to the recipe? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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