The Enduring Pemmican Recipe
I’m far from a Gordon Ramsey level of making Michelin level Pemmican bars. But after a few months of making the snack, I feel like I’ve improved at refining and following my recipe. My Pemmican recipes are tasty enough to be eaten on hiking trips. This is without having to drink a gallon of water straight after to which I’m grateful for.
If you have never heard of Pemmican, you’re in the same boat I was in a few years ago. I was introduced to Pemmican bars during a camping trip at Freeman’s Mill Camp in Victoria. It was late. A new couple had arrived in camp and proceeded to unpack their gear pretty close to where I was cleaning up dinner.
The male, I would later know as Janson, got out a plastic container, which I assumed was dinner. He then started to pull out these odd-looking powdered meatballs and nibble on them. They looked intriguing and unusual, like meaty arancini balls.
I learned that they were, in fact, these makeshift snacks called Pemmican. I had to try one. Little did I know this would be the start of my infatuation with these dried meat morsels. For me, they tasted like a dried fruit cake that swapped the cake out with beef jerky, very sweet.
That night, I took down the full recipe and googled potential ingredient suppliers and the best ways on how to make Pemmican. Eager, I couldn’t wait to get home and start making my very own Pemmican recipe. I daydreamed of all the creations and flavor combinations I could come up with. I was a kid last time I was this excited when I learned about making omelets.
A brief history of the ultimate survival food pemmican.
Traditionally, Pemmican was used as a supplement for Native American warriors throughout North America. Often engaged in long scouting missions, the riders would rely upon it as a source of energy.
They were created out of necessity in the 17th century. Troops and traders needed food that was nutritious and could travel well. This gap in the market was a perfect and much-needed opportunity for the Métis. The native Americans now had an avenue to trade their inventive food called Pemmican.
The Native American Métis would often cover thousands of kilometers from home to get to the trade ports to sell their Pemmican jerky. The journey was so long that usually, the Pemmican was made during travel. Along the way, the traders would hunt, clean, and dry the elk and bison in one jurisdiction. They would then pick up ingredients such as berries and nuts in another region if ripe.
So how long does pemmican last?
Before, Pemmican was popularised by trade it was a staple food source of indigenous communities that dated as far back as the 15th Century.
Its prominence in culture lies in its very long shelf life. Its profile consists of ingredients of dried meat, dried berries, and aged animal rendered fat. The goal when making Pemmican is to remove moisture, to reduce bacterial growth. This allows the degradation of Pemmican to be much slower and extends the nutritious effects of its ingredients.
In most cases, Pemmican shelf life is roughly ten years. This is achievable if it is stored in a cool place away from caustic agents and high temperatures. There have even been cases of frozen Pemmican that were still edible after 50 years. But, I wouldn’t want to be the person that taste test that piece of history.
Ingredients for a perfect pemmican bar.
The Pemmican recipe also centers around selective ingredient choice. Traditional methods specify that the ground dry meat is sourced from fresh bison, deer, or moose. Additives are chosen for nutritional value rather than taste. Most likely, berries, dried fruit, spices, and nuts in the vicinity close to where the meat is used.
The main ingredients that compose the pemmican are:
- Traditional protein sources—Wild game native to North America; Moose, bison, or beef. Bird species such as pheasant, duck, and chicken. More recently, the use of Cow meat has increased due to its availability and quality.
- Fats—are a critical ingredient that helps bind the Pemmican together. Animal rendered fat from game-animals is used, but some methods use plant and nut-based oils as the base liquid fat.
- Additives—Other ingredients paired with dry protein are salt, spices, dried fruit, nuts, or sugars like honey. I found that Pemmican recipes today are becoming ever so sweet. Traditional methods to make Pemmican were to seek ingredients that were high in antioxidants or nutrients. But, today’s recipes tend to use sugar and berries as an effort to counteract the meat flavor.
That said, I’ve successfully paired chocolate, cilantro, onion, oregano, paprika, and garlic. My favorite combination, for now, is oregano and cilantro, delicious. Try it out for yourself and experiment with various ingredients. Think about what flavors that would quench your appetite midway on a long thru-hike.
Pemmican for sale versus making pemmican costs.
Before formulating Pemmican, I purchased some bars online and at a few camping stores. I even found some bottle shops that sold Pemmican bars next to their whiskey and beef jerky aisles. Most snickers sized Pemmican bars were selling at around 3-4 U.S Dollars. At the start, when I was replicating exact traditional dried meat sources, the price was higher, about $2-$3.50 a bar. Through trial and error I managed to get the costs of making a Pemmican bar to roughly $0.50 to $1.70.
I suggest you make a list of your dream ingredients. Then break that list down into the following categories.
Affordability—The quality will determine how much each ingredient will add to the overall cost. If you want white truffle and cashew Pemmican, go for it. But it may end up adding a decimal point to the final price per bar. Stick with traditional recipes as they have been compiled way before Walmart existed. This ensures you end up with a tried and true affordable product. Once you have the hang of making Pemmican, you will know what ingredients work and their costs.
The best ingredient and spice stores I have found are online. Sellers that focus on survival and ingredients are abundant on Amazon and eBay.
Taste—while this may be subjective, you want to pick ingredients, meat and fat to suit your taste. Hey! Your the one that will be relying on the Pemmican to give you that boost of energy in the wild. I once had these awful tasting protein bars, and it made me anxious thinking about eating them. I also needed a chaser to sip on during the chewing process. Don’t make that mistake; choose ingredients that you are going to want to eat.
Convenience—When choosing ingredients, pick ones that are easy to obtain. It might sound straightforward. Well, I’ve had friends who will only use ingredients from a store that is two hours’ drive. And this is because it’s purely out of habit. Choose to buy the ingredients in stores close to you, or online. You may even want to buy in bulk if you do have to buy from a specialist brick and mortar store. By selecting suppliers that are conveniently located. Making the Pemmican won’t have to become a burden next time you have to make a batch.
Preparation and how to make it.
Preparation should take no longer than two hours. Once you have the base ingredients and started binding the mixture, the process is simple. But, if you are sourcing the meat, make sure to allow for a few hours or even days to properly dry out the protein. I’ve found through research, the dryer the meat, the longer it will last. The minimum time dehydrating the beef will be about 15 hours.
The essential equipment requires to make Pemmican will be:
Kitchen utensils you may require.
- Sturdy chopping block
- Flat meat tenderizer (optional)
- Pestle and mortar or a food processor.
To dry the pemmican meat you will can-seal use.
- Food dehydrator
- Air crisper
- Oven to finish off and harden the mixture.
A Pemmican Recipe, (How I make it quick and simple)
Pemmican recipe ingredients – Basics.
- Two pounds of meat
- Two pounds of rendered or liquid fat
- One teaspoon of salt
- Nuts, berries, spices or honey as optional (no specific quantity).
- Coconut oil (optional)
How to make pemmican step by step.
- First, cut the meat into thin portions, add salt and spices to taste, and then proceed to dry the meat.
There are different ways to dry the meat:
- Under the sun
- Over a fire
- In the oven.
This process can last around 15 hours, after it is done, go to the next phase:
Grind the proteins.
Every solid ingredient in the pemmican should be turned into powder. To grind the meat, you can use a variety of procedures. Some utensils used to powder down the dried meat include;
- Sri Lankan stones
- Pestle and mortar
- A food processor
- 2 Cups for measurements
- Strainer for after you render the fat
Next up is to render the fat to remove the impurities. It’s best to cook it in a low fire or the lowest setting to avoid burning it. Make sure to stir throughout the whole process as it’s easy to burn the fat and it won’t smell good if it’s burnt. When the fat is liquified and melted, you can run it through a strainer to remove any leftover solids. If animal fat is too dense for your tastes many survivalists suggest that coconut oil is a preferred alternative.
First, mix all the dry ingredients (if you decide to use berries or nuts, these should be dry and powdered as well). Then add the liquids (condiments, honey, syrups should you choose to use) and finally the fat or coconut oil. Mix the Pemmican batter aggressively at first before the fat starts to solidify. An easy trick I use is If the mix turns out to be too sappy, then I add a thickening agent like flour or almond meal to firm it up.
Once the mixture is firm and cool enough, you can then mold it into shape, balls, squares, or triangles. I’ve started molding my Pemmican into cubes as I find them stackable and less prone to snapping as with bars. Once done, you can let them cool off and then store them as you require.
Right now, my Pemmican inventory is high in sugar, rendered fat, and carbs. I also include a variety of nuts, chia, sesame seeds, and even some rice. If you have the time, I highly recommend taking a shot at producing Pemmican. There is nothing like Pemmican that I’ve found in supermarket stores yet. It’s cheap, healthy, and pretty filling. Heck, I even enjoy a bar or two around the campfire with my favorite beer can in tow. Best of all, they can be a set it and forget it. You won’t have to worry as these potent snacks won’t go rancid outdoors and will stay fresh for long periods of time.
Curious to know what the most expensive spice on the market is that you can add to Pemmican? Click here to read our article on the decadent spice Saffron.