Thursday, September 17, 2009


I tried my hand at making pemmican the other day and documented the process. I found a couple of sources to guide my inspiration and piecemealed a recipe together. I must say that the outcome was less than desirable, but the stuff seems to be holding together quite well. It's a bit greasy and looks and tastes a lot like canned dog food, but I let it sit out on my counter for a few days and it doesn't seem to be spoiling.

If done correctly it should last forever. And when I say forever, I mean FOREVER. Some archeologists supposedly found some of this stuff in an ancient pueblo jar in an excavation site. It was full of pemmican and it was apparently still good.

The idea is to separate the meat from the fat, turn the meat into jerky and the fat into tallow, and then recombine the two. The result is a concoction of dried jerky perpetually sealed by melted fat. No air or water can get in to spoil the meat. This stuff has a high protein and high fat content to maintain fat and muscle mass through the winter. Of course you can eat it any time of the year for the same purpose, but the idea is that food is typically scarce in the colder months and is used to augment your rationed food supplies throughout the season.

So with that, lets delve into the process that I used. You can double, triple or quadruple the recipe to make more, and you probably should if you're going to make a season's supply. I made only a small amount as an experiment. Here's my recipe:

yields 12 oz.

1 lb. fat
1 lb. lean meat
4 c water

Separate any remaining fat from the meat and meat from the fat. Slice and dice the fat and meat as thin as your patience will allow. The smaller/thinner the pieces the faster the process will go. If you're using a dehydrator or meat rack, slice it into thin strips instead of dicing so you can hang it and keep it together.

Rendering the Fat
Combine the fat and water into a container (either a pot or stomach pouch on a tripod in a survival situation) and boil over low heat (about 250°F) until fat has melted and the water evaporated (this took
about nine hours for me, but I could have sliced mine a lot thinner; and it works much faster in the oven than it does on stovetop). Careful not to cook the fat or you render it useless.
Remove from heat and let cool. The tallow will separate from the other liquids on the top. You can either scoop the liquid tallow from the top with a spoon or refrigerate and pry the solid tallow from the top and melt again in the pan as I did in the photo below (left). When liquid it makes a fine golden substance (right).

Drying the Meat
Use an oven (as low as it will go; mine set at 170°F) or a dehydrator (or a small fire under a meat rack in a survival situation). Put paper towels under the meat in the oven to absorb the grease. Let dry for several hours until the meat looks like jerky. Let cool, and shred in a food processor or grind between a mortar and pestle until the meat is a fine powdery substance.

Once the tallow and shredded jerky are made, recombine the two into a pan/bowl, mix thoroughly, and let cool. It should yield less than half of the original materials in weight. What was lost in both ingredients was water and should now keep indefinitely. Store in a cool, dry, dark place.

I think you can also add dried fruit and seeds into the mix to add some flavor.

I've also heard that you can soak rags in the melted tallow, wrap them around a sturdy stick, and let them dry to make torches.

Pemmican Recipe. Tamarack Song. 7 September 2009 [].

The Pemmican Brief. Rix White. February 2007. WildeRix. 7 September 2009 [].

How to Render Duck Fat. Katy. 20 March 2008. Sugarlaws. 8 September 2009 [].

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