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How To Make Pemmican at Home: Easy Step-By-Step Guide

Survival is a fundamental human instinct. For thousands of years, people have adapted to a changing environment: withstanding changing climates, mutating diseases, and declining food sources. With food being essential to life, it has been one of the top topics of survivalists and the most important element, along with water, you can have in your personal survival kit.

While today’s humans don’t face the same threats to survival as our ancestors did, what you eat is still a key factor in how long you live. When preparing for an emergency, it is always important to have the proper type of non-perishable food. Learning how to make pemmican may prove to be a good addition to your food survival plan.

a handful of pemmican

What Is Pemmican?

Native Americans were the original ultimate survivalists. They developed a set of skills that they adapted and passed down over time. Until the Europeans stepped foot in North America and brought disease, Native Americans often lived long, relatively healthy lives. They only ever needed the land around them to provide the necessities. They figured out when and what to hunt, grow, and harvest based on the climate they inhabited. So, they were innovative because they had to be. No one else was going to develop new ways to hunt or build a shelter for them.

It is in this environment that pemmican was first created. Because Native Americans were often nomads, they needed a way to keep food from spoiling and make it easy to transport at the same time. Pemmican was one such creation. They found that by drying fresh meat and using the natural fat to preserve it, the meat would last much longer.

Pemmican Appearance History

The Cree Indians were the first credited with creating pemmican. The word itself derives from the Cree word “fat” or “grease”. When the Europeans came to North America, they learned how to make pemmican. It became an important part of their survival both on land and at sea.

Merchants could set sail for months with only water and pemmican, and they had all they needed to survive on their often-perilous trips. It was merchant ships, most likely run by fur traders, that introduced pemmican to the rest of the world. Once word spread about the tasty, cheap, and vital food staple, people around the globe started using it as a means to survive.

What’s So Special About Pemmican?

You may be wondering why it is that a single food developed all those years ago by a primitive society could be that important for human survival. After all, the Native Americans who lived back then weren’t out of food. They had the entire undeveloped and untapped continent of North America to harvest from. So why, then, was pemmican so special?

  • Nutritional Value: For starters, pemmican is categorized as a superfood. Because of its high protein and healthy fats, pemmican provides your body with the energy and substance it needs to survive. You don’t have to be a Native American braving an unruly and uncharted world to appreciate the importance of such a superfood.
  • Variety: It has been said that variety is the spice of life. This holds true for food like pemmican. It was developed by the Native Americans to preserve their fresh game; however, it can be made with almost any meat that has good fat content. That means you can learn how to make pemmican using just about anything you can think of. The exceptions to this are small games like rabbit and fish. These meats don’t have the proper natural fat required to make pemmican. It is best to stick with larger animals, such as cows, deer, and moose.
  • Storage: The longer the food lasts, the better your chances can be when it comes to survival. Pemmican, if made and stored properly, can last decades. Yes, you read that right. This preserved meat can be stored in a cool, dry place, such as a pantry or basement, for up to 50 years. You can spend a weekend or two making enough food to last for decades. That is something that may be hard to wrap your brain around. How can that be? The secret is in the all-natural processing of meat and fat. When the meat dries and is combined with the heated fat, it allows the salt and other inherent properties in the fat to encase the meat, essentially dry-freezing it. Therefore, all you have to do to keep it is store it away from heat, moisture, and, of course, bugs and other critters.
  • Portability: When considering an item for a survival kit, it is important to consider how easy transporting it may be. One of the best things about pemmican is its portability. You can make each portion into whatever size and shape best suits your needs. If you plan on having some to store in a backpack or traveling kit, then you might consider using a mini muffin pan or cookie dough scooper to pre-portion, making storage and transportation easier. If you need to leave your house for any length of time, taking cans and jars just isn’t really feasible.
  • Taste: No doubt you’re wondering what the finished product tastes like. Sure, you understand it’s a superfood and that the versatility and portability are a definite positive. As with everything that sounds too good to be true, there has to be a downside, right? Actually, in this case, you’re wrong. The taste of pemmican really depends on what meat and spices you choose. If you love beef, then use that. If you aren’t sure about elk or deer, perhaps now is not the time to give it a try. Use what you know, and keep it simple. You will be amazed at how good the finished product tastes.

Pemmican Benefits

Being ready for an unforeseen emergency is crucial these days. Between extreme weather events, natural disasters, and unstable economic times, you never know when you might be temporarily cut off from modern conveniences. It is always better to be ready in advance than to try and scramble at the end. Pemmican is a food that you can make ahead and have just in case. Knowing how to make this meat product is critical. It could end up saving the life of your family, and even the lives of others you come into contact with during a catastrophic event.

It doesn’t only have to be used in the case of an emergency. Pemmican is a great item to bring when you’re hiking or camping. It’s portable, lightweight, and can sustain you between meals, or it can replace meals if need be. If you aren’t able to fish or hunt for your own food, or if you become lost and disoriented, pemmican will be on hand to keep you nutritionally sustained until you are able to get back on track.

How to Make Pemmican: Basic Recipe

buffalo pemmican

Now that you’ve talked yourself into adding pemmican to your survival arsenal, it’s time to make a batch and give it a try. The basic recipe hasn’t changed much since the time the Cree Indians created it. Obviously, you will most likely have the benefit of modern conveniences to aid in the creation of the batch. However, if you ever find yourself in a more primitive situation, knowing how to make pemmican will most definitely come in handy.

  • Choose Your Meat: Make sure you choose a type of meat that you already enjoy. This isn’t the time to try something new. Choose the meat that’s got good natural fat, such as beef or venison.
  • Dry the Meat: Slice the meat into thin strips. Cut away all the fat and set it aside. Place the slices on a pan in the oven on low heat. The meat will be done when it cracks when bent.
  • Grind the Meat: Use a food processor or blender to finely grind the meat. The smaller the granules, the better. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, mince the meat and grind with whatever is at hand.

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  • Process the Fat: Put all the fat in a large pot over low heat. Once melted and boiling, strain the fat through a mesh strainer.
  • Mix the Fat and Meat: Pour the fat over your meat granules and mix thoroughly.
  • Portion the Mixture: You can either use mini muffin pans or just a regular bar pan to form the pemmican. Make sure to dish out the mixture while it’s still soft and pliable. Lay it out on the pan and let it cool and harden somewhat. After it cools, you can cut the bars into smaller portions for long-term storage.
pemmican for picnic

How Do You Make Pemmican at Home?

Congratulations, you’ve just made your first batch of basic pemmican. There are different variations as well as dry and wet ingredients that can be combined to add some more flavor and nutrition to the mixture. However, if you know how to make pemmican with this basic recipe, you can rest assured that you will be able to survive if the time ever comes.

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Katy Willis is a writer, lifelong homesteader, and master herbalist, master gardener, and canine nutritionist. Katy is a preparedness expert and modern homesteader practicing everyday preparedness, sustainability, and a holistic lifestyle.

She knows how important it is to be prepared for whatever life throws at you, because you just never know what's coming. And preparedness helps you give your family the best chance to thrive in any situation.

Katy is passionate about living naturally, growing food, keeping livestock, foraging, and making and using herbal remedies. Katy is an experienced herbalist and a member of the CMA (Complementary Medical Association).

Her preparedness skills go beyond just being "ready", she's ready to survive the initial disaster, and thrive afterward, too. She grows 100% organic food on roughly 15 acres and raises goats, chickens, and ducks. She also lovingly tends her orchard, where she grows many different fruit trees. And, because she likes to know exactly what she's feeding her family, she's a seasoned from-scratch cook and gluten-free baker.

Katy teaches foraging and environmental education classes, too, including self-sufficient living, modern homesteading, seed saving, and organic vegetable gardening.

Katy helps others learn forgotten skills, including basic survival skills and self-reliance.

She's been published on sites such as MSN, Angi, Home Advisor, Family Handyman, Wealth of Geeks, Readers Digest, and more.

Last update on 2024-03-03 at 07:18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1 thought on “How To Make Pemmican at Home: Easy Step-By-Step Guide”

  1. Hello, can pemmican be vacuum sealed and stored for a few years? Also, can I use oxygen packs for freshness to eat up moisture?
    God bless!

    Reply

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