For Native Americans, developing the process of how to make pemmican was all about survival.
They created some of the most useful survival skills ever devised. Fortunately, much of their survival knowledge is still known today.
One such survival resource, invented by the Cree Native American Tribe, is what we call Pemmican. The word Pemmican stems from the Cree word for “fat” or “grease.”
Pemmican is one of the best survival foods you can make. It’s considered by many preparedness experts to be a survival super-food.
Why? Because it lasts for years, even decades, without spoiling. Pemmican is jam packed with proteins and good-fats to provide long-lasting energy. It’s easy to make. It’s made out of almost any meat. And on top of all that, it tastes pretty damn good, too.
But beyond just having pemmican, knowing how to make pemmican is a survival skill that could save you from starvation.
In any survival situation, if you have the knowledge of how to make pemmican, you’d weather nearly any storm. Just like the Native Americans who developed this super-snack so many ages ago.
A Brief History of Pemmican
Pemmican is a meat based food. The snack was popular among the Natives because it was so easy to make, easy to transport, and kept for so long. They traditionally made theirs from wild game such as venison, elk, and moose meat.
After Europeans arrived and tasted pemmican, they quickly adopted the recipe and began making it themselves.
Fur merchants also adopted pemmican. They helped make it famous as a hardy survival food, spreading its popularity.
Today, all these hundreds of years later, we are still using pemmican in much the same way – and for all the same reasons.
Any recipe that’s stood the test of time, without being changed from its original form, is good stuff.
How To Make Pemmican
There are more pemmican recipes out there than one could count.
It’s been passed down several generations, so it’s one of those recipes everybody makes a little differently. It’s an old world food, and everyone has their own special family recipe.
But no matter what you add to pemmican, the core process of making pemmican is always the same.
So for that purpose, what follows are the bare-bones instructions for processing meat into pemmican.
We’ll get to a few of the fancy additional ingredients in the next section.
The Step By Step Process To Making Pemmican
For those who would rather see how pemmican is made instead of having to read instructions, watch this excellent “how-to” video.
1. First, you need to get your hands on some meat.
It could be caribou, venison, elk, moose, beef, or any meat that has natural fat.
Rabbit and fish won’t work because they are too lean and won’t provide the fat you need later on.
2. Dry your meat.
Cut off and save all the fat, and slice the leftover fat-less meat into thin strips.
Those strips can then be dried under direct sunlight, or in your oven on the lowest heat. Dry the thin meat strips until they’re brittle enough to crack when bent.
3. Grind the dried meat strips up.
Food processors work best for this. But without one, you can also mince the meat pieces with a knife and then grind in a blender.
If you are in an actual survival situation and do not have access to electricity, your best bet is a mortar and pestle. Or even just two rocks if you have nothing else.
The meat must be ground as fine as possible, into a fine meat dust.
4. Process the fat you saved in step #2.
Put it all in a pot over low heat. Once the fat has melted and begun to boil, strain it through a mesh strainer.
5. Mix dry extras and meat together in separate bowl.
We’ll discuss what dry extras you can use later. For now, this is the time to mix all those dry ingredients together in a bowl with your ground up meat dust (leaving room for the fat).
6. Add the fat to your bowl of dry ingredients and meat.
Simply pour it over the dry stuff and start mixing.
7. Mix in any wet extras (see next section for details).
8. Begin forming this mixture into larger pemmican bars.
One popular way to do this is to take a shallow pan and pour in the pemmican mixture in while it’s still soft.
Let the mixture settle and smooth it out. When the pemmican has dried, cut it into smaller bars for storage.
Again, here’s my recommended “how to make pemmican” video instruction.
A Few Pemmican Recipes
As just meat and fat, pemmican bars are still pretty tasty. And more importantly for survival, ready to provide lots of energy and long term storage.
But it’s always tasty to mix things up. And if you can make your pemmican taste even better, with very little extra work, why wouldn’t you?
As mentioned in the previous section, there are two types of extra ingredients you can add to pemmican:
- Dry ingredients
- Wet ingredients
Unfortunately, you should never add anything fresh. That may sound odd to some, but adding fresh ingredients (like red ripe tomatoes for example) will compromise the shelf life of the pemmican.
Everything you add to your pemmican recipe must also have a long shelf life as well.
Dry ingredients include anything that’s been dried. It opens the door for all kinds of pemmican recipes variations because you can dehydrate (dry) just about anything. Dry ingredients are mixed into your pemmican during step #5 above.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Dried fruits: mangos, blueberries, raspberries, bananas, apples, kiwis, pineapples, tomatoes, grapes, chilies, etc.
- Dried nuts: peanuts, almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, pinion nuts, etc.
- Spices: paprika, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, dried basil, dried oregano, dried rosemary, etc.
As the name implies, anything that is not dry falls into this category.
Wet does not mean fresh, though – do not get that mixed up.
Adding fresh ingredients to your pemmican will drastically shorten its shelf life. Wet ingredients are added during step #7 above.
Wet ingredients you might add to pemmican bars could include (but are not limited to):
- Caramel, syrup, honey, molasses, vanilla extract, etc.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your pemmican. There are a lot of options to customize the pemmican bars you make. You can make them sweet and tangy, or hot and spicy.
Trying different flavors of pemmican serves three purposes:
1. It will increase the flavor value of the pemmican bars.
2. Lets you explore which flavors you like best in your pemmican (and how much of each).
3. Gives you a chance to practice making different batches of pemmican. Practice makes perfect. Your first homemade pemmican bars likely won’t taste as good as your tenth batch.
Storing Your Pemmican For The Long Haul
So, let’s say you’ve successfully made a ton of incredibly delicious pemmican bars. Now what?
Storage! Properly storing your pemmican is crucial to making sure it last for a very long time.
If stored incorrectly and carelessly, it may go bad relatively quickly. However, when stored with care and precision, it can last for decades.
One truth with food and food storage is this: food poisoning sucks and can be dangerous.
If you’re ever in a survival situation with nothing to eat but the pemmican you stored years ago, you better pray you stored it correctly. Getting food poisoning during a survival situation is like signing your own death warrant.
First off, pemmican must be stored in airtight containers. Vacuum sealing the pemmican bars in plastic bags is highly recommended. Vaccum sealing ensures the highest quality storage by removing as much oxygen as possible. But zip locks and Tupperware can also work well.
Mold needs only a few key ingredients to grow. One of them being oxygen. So by eliminating the oxygen, you remove the potential for mold growth.
The location you store your pemmican must be cool, dark and temperature controlled. Light and heat will negatively affect your supply of pemmican.
Basements and pantry’s work, but my favorite is an underground food storage facility.
Make sure the pemmican is stored off the ground, this keeps it away from moisture and hungry critters.
Top Reasons to Master The Art of How to Make Pemmican
Making pemmican is a good life skill to have. It’s extremely functional knowledge. It’s all about self-reliance.
You’ll know how to make more if you need it, but you can rely on it to store well over long periods of time. It’s lightweight and easily transportable, you can make it anywhere with relatively few ingredients. It’s a survival food you can rely on in the event of a serious emergency.
You do not have to use it for emergencies only, either. Pemmican is a great snack for all sorts of outdoor adventures:
- Hunting trips
- Backpacking trips
- Fishing expeditions
- Mountain biking
- Day hiking
- Road tripping
- Mountain climbing
No matter what you are doing – if it’s athletic, pemmican is a great snack to keep you going.
There are also economic benefits to knowing how to make pemmican. First of all, if you get great at it, you can start selling it.
Who knows, maybe you’ll break onto the market as the world’s finest pemmican chef. But also, if shit really does hit the fan, pemmican bars will be a valuable currency for bartering.
People will want them, that is for sure. So if you have a way to make them yourself, you could corner the post-economic market for pemmican bars. It would be like minting your own money right at home.
The Lost Ways – Pemmican Tutorial Guide
The Lost Ways website has an awesome step-by-step how to make Pemmican video. While having a written guide is important and helpful to a lot of people, watching a video guide is even better. They cover a few things I did not and demonstrate how to make your own pemmican.
This video is an excellent pemmican making resource.
Do not hesitate to use it. Even if you have made pemmican before, it is helpful to watch how someone else do it. You might learn a few tricks you did not know prior.
For novices, I would highly recommend watching the video.
The video goes into detail about how much meat to use, how much fat you need and what/when to add to your pemmican.
He makes it all in his kitchen, which is good to see. You don’t need an entire meat workshop and drying facility to make tasty pemmican. All you really need is the will!
With everyday kitchen tools, he takes us through the entire process of how to make pemmican. If any of the instructions in the written How To section of this article were confusing, watch this video!
Plus they go a little deeper into the history and culture behind pemmican. So if you’re interested in knowing more about how the native Americans made pemmican, this video for you.
The Final Word
I am going to go ahead and say it bluntly and not mince words – pemmican is the ultimate survival food.
- If stored and made properly, it can last for up to 50 years and still be fresh and tasty.
- It provides boatloads of protein and fat energy, which will burn long and last you all day.
- You can make it from a large variety of wild game.
- It’s lightweight and easily packable and transportable.
- You can make it cheap and requires very few ingredients.
- It’s incredibly easy to make and can be done in your kitchen right at home.
Any survival food cache without a supply of pemmican is incomplete. It’s such a useful and efficient food; every survivalist should be scrambling to get some (or to make some).
If you get a good supply of pemmican, at the ready, you’ll be ready for survival situations and food shortages – no matter what.
Knowing how to make pemmican is like learning how to fish – once you figure it out, you can feed yourself almost anywhere.
Give a man a pemmican bar, and he has energy for the day. Teach a man how to make pemmican bars, and he has energy for his entire life.