Pemmican: The Original MRE

Invented by the natives of North America, pemmican is the original MRE.

Pemmican was used by indian scouts as well as early western explorers as an instant, ready-to-eat, high-energy food. It was light, compact and high in protein, good carbohydrates, and sustaining fats.

Given the incredible amount of concentrated nutrients and calories, pemmican would be a fantastic addition to any bug-out bag

During my college years, my friend and I would use this (in addition to any wild edibles we found) as a primary trail food when doing extended “survival trips” during our southern-Utah explorations.

As an embarrassing side note, most of those times were spent barefoot while wearing only loin cloths (yeah, I know…we were indian wannabes at the time). In one way it was a good thing because it forced us to pay attention. We sure as heck made sure we saw anyone who we came across first before they saw us. This gave us time to fade into the bush and let them pass by. ;)

So anyways, back to pemmican…

Based on personal experience, pemmican is very sustaining and I found it far superior to any MRE or other trail food out there. It not only provides a lot of energy in a small package, it will also keep for many years.

In this article, I’ll be showing you how you can make your own pemmican

How to make pemmican

Traditional pemmican is very simple to make:

What you’ll need:

  • lean meat (beef, venison etc)
  • raw beef fat (I get this for free from my local grocer’s butcher)
  • (optional) berries (blueberries, cherries (no pits), cranberries etc)

pemmican ingredients

Making pemmican step by step:

Pemmican is a combination of rendered animal fat, pulverized dehydrated meats, and if desired some dried fruits. Here’s the process:

Step 1: Dehydrate the meat and berries

Cut up the meat into thin slices and place the meat and berries on drying racks
Dehydrate until the meat and berries are brittle and break when bent (not rubbery)

In the photo above I used my home dehydrator. In college, since I didn’t have one, we would simply sandwich the meat and berries between two window screens and set them out in the sun to dry for a day or two. It was just as effective.

Step 2: Render the fat

For the fat portion of pemmican, you can use tallow (rendered beef or mutton fat) or lard (rendered pork fat). There are multiple methods of rendering your fat. Here’s the three most common (with my favorite being the Crockpot method) (I’ll be rendering beef fat in this example):

Method 1: How to render fat in a Crockpot

  1. Cut up your fat in small pieces and place the fat into the crockpot.
  2. Set the crock pot on low heat.
  3. Cook until you’re left with mostly clear or golden liquid (they’ll be bits of hardened stuff on top).
  4. Remove from heat and strain into a mason jar through a metal strainer lined with a coffee filter, paper towel or cheesecloth.

Method 2: How to render fat on the stovetop

  1. Grind or chop up fat in a blender/food-processor/meat-grinder
  2. Place a pan on the stove and add the ground fat.
  3. Set the heat on the lowest possible setting. Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally.
  4. Cook until you’re left with mostly clear or golden liquid with bits of hardened stuff on top.
  5. Remove from heat and strain into a mason jar through a metal strainer lined with a coffee filter, paper towel or cheesecloth.

Method 3: How to Render fat in the oven

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Cut up your fat in small pieces and place the fat onto a pan into the oven
  3. Cook until you’re left with mostly clear or golden liquid with bits of hardened stuff on top.
  4. Remove from heat and strain into a mason jar through a metal strainer lined with a coffee filter, paper towel or cheesecloth.

Step 3: Combine the ingredients

After dehydrating the berries and meat and rendering the fat you’ll be left with the following:

Before you can combine the ingredients though, you’ll need to shred the berries and the meat. In the old days they’d pound it with a rock to turn it into a “powder”. In our days a blender is a lot easier:

Blending the meat and berries:

  • Throw the meat into a blender or food processor and blend until it turns to a fluffy consistency
  • Repeat with the berries

Now look at the ingredients:

After you’ve dried/shredded your meat and fruit and rendered your fat, simply combine the ingredients as follow:

Pour the liquid rendered fat over the meat/berries until it becomes somewhat saturated (if your fat has already turned to a solid, be sure to slowly heat it until it turns back to liquid before doing this step).
You’ll want to combine enough of the liquid fat over the meat/berry combination until it is saturated

You’ll know when it is saturated enough when you can easily form a ball and it doesn’t crumble apart:

Some final comments if you don’t like all the fat

If you dislike the idea of using animal fat as a binder you can replace it with honey instead. It will keep for a long, long time just as normal pemmican will.

Just keep adding honey to the dried, shredded meat and berries until it binds enough to form it into a ball shape.

Although this option is a lot more tasty, personally I don’t like the sugar rush (and resulting crash) I get when eating this while out in the bush or on the trail. Using fat as a binder seems to provide a lot more stable of an energy throughout the day.

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111 Comments»

Comment by Gary
2012-07-05 07:41:28

Whoa… That is easy. I can’t believe it stores for years just like that. Where do you store it?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-05 08:13:29

Hey Gary,

I wrap these “pemmican balls” in wax paper and store them in a ziplock bag in a cool, dark place. It will keep for years like that.

Even though they don’t require refridgeration, you can also throw them in a ziplock and refridgerate it. It should store many more years like that.

 
 
Comment by Doc
2012-07-05 08:26:31

This may sound silly but can u make it into strips for easier packing and eating?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-05 08:36:23

Doc,

That’s the great thing about it. You can mold it into any shape that you want so it is very convenient.

 
 
Comment by Tinman
2012-07-05 08:35:33

Good article and very informative.
I tried a couple of variations of Pemmican. One of which was substituting the ‘animal fat’ with peanut butter. That was tasty and sustaining without the sugar rush of honey. I suppose combinations of all three would work as well.
Tinman

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-05 08:41:34

Great suggestion!

I never thought of peanut butter. I think that would taste pretty good.

 
 
Comment by Anna
2012-07-05 08:53:12

What keeps the fat from becoming rancid? I think the peanut butter/honey might be great, and the honey acts as a preservative. I do make my own jerky, but in some situations (when water is an issue) the salt can be a problem. I’ll have to try this. Any idea about proportions? It looks like about equal parts by volume of meat/berries and enough of the binder to hold it together.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-05 09:36:22

Anna,

Good question.

Rancidity basically happens in three ways:

1. via oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids (this is avoided since animal fat has a high saturated fat mix to begin with)
2. via reactions with water, and…
3. via microbial digestion.

Pemmican avoids all of those through rendering the fat (further removing any unsaturated fats), thoroughly dehydrating the meat, and storing it in a waterproof container.

- Erich

 
 
Comment by Jean
2012-07-05 09:02:25

Great article.
When I moved to Oregon as a little girl, this old indian man made a similar item out of acorn meal,dried berries,pinenuts and deer tallow.
The other thing he would make used smoked salmon,dried onions and acorn meal. I don’t know what he used to bind the second recipe with. however the salmon was better.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-05 09:48:54

That’s fantastic Jean. I’ll try that since I’m a big fan of using acorn meal in foods. Check out my article on How to Make Acorn Flour if you’re interested in making your own (and already don’t know how).

 
 
Comment by Keith
2012-07-05 09:04:34

Great questions Anna, I was wondering the exact same things.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-05 09:38:36

Keith,

See my comments to Anna above…

 
 
Comment by Kathryn
2012-07-05 09:19:47

I would imagine that people could melt palm shortening to use instead of the animal fat if they wanted – it doesn’t add any flavor, but it would give you the healthy fat calories you would need if you were going to be living off of this.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-05 09:46:12

Hi Kathryn,

Palm shortening would be great since it is a very stable saturated fat as well (in fact they remove much of the unsaturated fats so it remains solid.

It’s too bad that coconut oil turns to liquid at around 70 degrees Farenheit. It’s my favorite fat source. I could use it for winter campouts though without issue.

 
 
Comment by Maria Keown
2012-07-05 09:35:06

great post, I had something similar in mind. Food for thought: even if you don’t like fat, still make at least half and half for long term storage. Keep in mind that we noadays associate fat with getting fat…back in the days there wasn’t any processed and fast foods, Game meat is very lean and the fat is very much needed by the body. If you use nuts, try roasting them first, because of the fat content in them, should make them last longer,

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-05 09:46:51

Thanks for the comments Maria.

 
 
Comment by Arthur
2012-07-05 09:49:49

Mighty fine information. I’ll have to save this one and try it.

 
Comment by maryruth
2012-07-05 10:08:53

I found this article very interesting. I am a vegetarian so I am thinking of ways I could make this veggie friendly. What sort of stuff could one substitute for the meat, ground up? I know TVP is stable.

Recently I read in an old backpacker’s book about making meals ahead of time and just dehydrating. Then all you have to do is add water. He suggested meals like lasagna could be made and dried ahead of time. I thought this would be another way for making meals for one’s BOB.

 
Comment by Ginny
2012-07-05 10:14:40

Actually, Honey doesn’t affect blood sugar the same way that other sugars do:
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-honey-a-safer-sweetener/#axzz1zl1I2l8u
So as long as you’re using high quality pure honey (raw is even better), the sugar spike won’t be so bad.
I have beef tallow that a friend rendered just WAITING to make this snack. I think it will be perfect for me for the high fat content because I am always hungry and the fat can manage hunger far better than anything else.

 
Comment by Juan
2012-07-05 10:36:17

Thanks for the great article.

Could you use ghee or coconut oil instead of animal body fat? Too bad they melt at lower temperatures.

 
Comment by David O
2012-07-05 10:41:11

You’re right about the honey Ginny, it absorbs into the blood much slower than other forms of sugar. I only buy pure honey. It is a multiple use item and should be part of every prepper’s stockpile.

 
Comment by Jim Donaghy
2012-07-05 13:02:38

Won’t the peanut oil go rancid? Also is there any reason that you can’t also use a little of the honey with the lard? JJD

 
Comment by Badger359
2012-07-05 13:47:25

This is awesome, my late grandfather used to make it when I was a kid before we would camping. Said he learned it from a Shawman from a Pyute back in the 1920′s

Badger359

 
Comment by gary taylor
2012-07-05 14:16:33

that is a very informative article.i dont have a dehydrator of my own , that additional comment about the screens is a good alternative i will let you know how it works out

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-06 06:39:38

Gary,

Definitely check in with your experiences. I’d love to hear how it goes!

 
 
Comment by Matt
2012-07-05 14:46:29

How long does the jerky last on it’s own? I make jerky all the time, but it gets consumed quickly. Do you have any information on storage/shelf life of jerky? Assuming the jerky is VERY dry…

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-06 06:45:53

Hi Matt,

Online sources I’ve read say that homemade jerky lasts about 2-4 months max. I’ve eaten jerky that I’ve personally made that had been stored a little under a year without issue (not to say you should do this as well).

I suppose if you vaccuum sealed it using something like a FoodSaver Jar Sealer, and stored it away from light and heat you could get it to store much longer.

 
 
Comment by Ashton
2012-07-06 10:13:12

I also make my own jerky and have had alot of luck using my foodsaver but i use the bags. Make sure your jerky is really dry then put it in the foodsaver bag flat with about half an inch between each piece giving it air chanels. vacume seal on extended seal and store in a dark cool place! I can get 3 years out it that way! Hope it helps!

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-06 10:47:06

Ashton,

Great to hear some personal experiences. thanks!

 
 
Comment by Cyan
2012-07-06 13:29:28

Could you not use dehydrated vegetables instead of fruit?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-07 03:13:32

Sure Cyan, that would not be an issue.

 
 
Comment by MissyCD
2012-07-07 00:57:36

What alternatives are there to honey and rendered animal fat. I’m not anti-fat per se however my body does not tolerate it in large amounts since I’ve had my gall bladder removed. With the honey, we have an agreement – I don’t eat it, it doesn’t make me sick.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-07 03:15:10

Missy,

One commenter mentioned he likes it with peanut butter instead of fat (or honey). Could you give that a try?

 
 
Comment by Robert
2012-07-07 13:46:22

This is a great idea and looks to me than it can be cheaper than the long shelf life food you can buy!!

 
Comment by T.R.
2012-07-07 17:01:16

Mac users : some sites ( like this one ) as you know wont ” print to pdf. ”
here is a work around for that : highlight everything including pics that you want to save as a pdf , copy /paste to text edit app . , from text edit , you can now print to pdf .
Articles like this one are good to keep in your digital library ,
thank you TI for sharing this .

 
Comment by Janet
2012-07-07 18:51:49

I’ve been interested in trying my had at pemmican for awhile. I would not be too worried about animal fats in a survival situation, actually much argument has been made that animal fats are GOOD for you and NOT the health culprits they have been labelled as in the past.
Anyone who has looked into the ‘paleo’ diet knows that animal fats are considered by many to actually be very healthy and an excellent source of much needed energy.
thanks for the ‘how-to!’

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-09 04:18:29

I’m right there with you Janet (being a primal eater myself).

 
 
Comment by Tony
2012-07-09 12:39:59

Good article and instructions.

Comments suggest the use of fish as a substitute for beef. What about using small game (squirrel or rabbit) or poultry (chicken or turkey)? Also, can oatmeal be added as a filler and fiber source?

Thanks.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-10 06:15:33

Tony,

Yes fish, small game, or poultry is fine. Basically anything you can jerkify (if that’s a word :)) is game (pun intended).

 
 
Comment by Rob
2012-07-10 03:35:40

Pemmican is perhaps not just hundreds, but indeed thousands (if not tens of thousands) of years old. Nobody knows, for sure…

I would consider Pemmican the ultimate survival food as proven through thousands of years of testing by native peoples… it includes all of the necessary survival “food groups”, Fats, Vitamins, Protein, Carbohydrates, Electrolytes, etc…

Supplement that epic meal with fresh spring water and a fresh young fawn roasted on a spit with Lemon Juice added, all while partying around a campfire. Now you are a human! :)

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-10 06:16:24

Very well said Rob.

 
 
Comment by Tinman
2012-07-14 07:39:05

Look into using ‘Agave’ Nectar
It’s a thick, syrupy juice from Agave Cactus. I have a friend who is type 2 diabetic and she uses that as a sweetner because of the low glycemic index.
Tinman

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-18 05:22:19

I love Agave Nectar. Just don’t know how long it stores for.

 
 
Comment by judy
2012-07-14 08:22:50

If you have not a gallbladder you need enzymes, and keeping fresh raw food like sprouts would help in a time where you do not have the enzymes in stock, Betaine HCI helps because it is the liver that does not tolerate fats. You can always grow sprouts and eat them.

 
Comment by WENDY
2012-07-14 18:59:36

FAT IS A NECESSARY FOOD SOURCE FOR OUR BODIES AND IN AN EMERGENCY CAN SUSTAIN BY ITSELF–WHEN IN DOUBT: REACH FOR FAT! FAT IS ALSO VERY GOOD IN DEVELOPING THE MYELIN PROTECTING NERVE FIBERS IN BABIES IN THE WOMB AND WAS HELPFUL TO ME AS WELL IN RECOVERING FROM NERVE DAMAGE. <3+W

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-18 05:23:30

You’re absolutely right. Fat is a crucial part of our diet.

 
 
Comment by Tinman
2012-07-18 11:20:00

Hi Anna,
Proportions?… It’s more about texture than exact amounts.
Rancidity was never a problem because it just never hung around long enough.
It’s one of those things you just have to experiment with for a more personal touch.
Tinman

 
Comment by T.R.
2012-07-21 03:56:47

In Alaska they dry salmon , but even dried into jerky , its still very oily . I wonder if the use of an oily fish would be adverse to this application or not ?

 
Comment by Tiffany
2012-07-24 03:25:40

I was wondering if using sausage casing would be a good idea. I read a lot of books about early native Americans and that was what they used. Could you also use dried onions and such? And how would using dried herbs effect the longevity of the product? I am new to the whole idea of survival stuff, but am very interested. Could you give a list of everything you could use to make it with? Thanks so much!!

 
Comment by Tyler Durden
2012-07-29 07:33:06

Wow. Genius. Will try this when I get home from Afghanistan.

 
Comment by De
2012-08-02 16:04:42

can I use lard from, the store? When I was rendering my beef fat, my husband came in and said “You are not putting that into anything I am going to eat” Throw that away”

 
Comment by De
2012-08-03 16:34:40

I ended up using peanut butter with the beef and blueberries…it tastes great!

 
Comment by Josie
2012-08-09 18:04:15

I learn so much here and end up doing more research on these topics. Thanks for the great blog & comments.
Pemmican would be good to share with my dogs. I like that the recipe is tweakable.
Thx

 
Comment by William Fagan
2012-08-16 01:40:33

Hi everyone…hope there are still ppl reading this blog. My question is why hasn’t anyone mentioned bringing the meat up to 160 degrees before dehydrating????? Is that just a given? My little dehydrator only gets up to 150 degrees so I think before I dry any beef I will cook it first. Also, I added dried tomatoes and dried onions in my first batch, put them all in a blender together and they were pretty good. Used honey because the fat had gone bad in the refrig and that gave my little round pems a great taste. But none of my family would try them because I hadn’t cooked the meat first!!!!! What do you think?? THX Rusty

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-08-16 09:59:33

Hi Rusty,

I know the recommendation for drying meat is to bring the internal temp up to 160 before (or after) drying, but for me I’ve been drying meat out in the sun and in my dehydrator (that only reaches 150° F) since college with no ill effects. After all the Native Americans as well as many other primitive tribes have been sun drying for millenia. If it works for them it works for me.

If you’re still concerned about safety though, what you can do is dry your THINLY sliced meat at 145° – 155°F for at least 4 hours followed by heating in a preheated 275°F oven for 10 minutes. This will raise the internal temp to 160° F and kill any pathogens.

 
 
Comment by William Fagan
2012-08-17 19:05:27

Thanks for getting back to me on this….I was a little concerned, however I agree about the native Americans and I will take your advise on the oven heating. Never thought about heating after I dehydrated>>>> learn something every day here…. thanks a million Rusty

Comment by TI
2012-08-17 19:19:19

You’re very welcome!

 
 
Comment by Jed
2012-08-19 18:33:37

I made some with lean beef, lard from the grocery and my “brilliant” idea of using raisins. My assumption was that they were already pretty much dried. I did put them in the dehydrator with the beef, but they really didn’t seem to change.

When I put them in the food processor, they made a huge ball of “nougat”. The mixed ingredients look just like your picture, but i wanted to make strips. I rolled them flat, and used a pizza cutter to slice them AND to pick them up off the cutting board, since they kept falling apart. I thought a few days in the dehydrator might bind them better, but i was wrong.

Will this be the same outcome with any fruit? Also,
Won’t using Honey and/or Peanut Butter just create a big sticky mess?
and about the temperature, why don’t you want the meat to be fully cooked?

Thank you for this information and sorry if you’ve already answered these questions.

J

 
Comment by Mark
2012-08-29 13:04:11

smoke the meat for an hour or 2 helps with preservation and adds flavor too

 
Comment by Peter
2012-09-08 22:32:27

I was also curious as to what temperature to set my food dehydrator to. I always assumed above 140 was good, since milk is pasteurized at 145 and some government regulation (it’s law somewhere ) stipulates that the minimum surface temperature for commercial kitchens is 140 degrees Fahrenheit. I also consume my jerky quickly, so I never really gave long-term storage a thought. So I guess I have two questions: what is the highest temperature meat set out in the sun can reach in the northeast? And two: will dried meat that is not really “cooked” such as sun dried or cold- smoked last longer than cooked meat? I remember an instructor from the Tracker School in NJ saying that pemican should be made from cold-smoke dried meat since this has a longer shelf life. Something about cooking it making it spoil sooner.

Anyways thanks for the great articles, keep up the good work

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-09-14 14:21:40

Hey Peter,

That instructor is right on. In my experience cooked meat does not last as long as dehydrated “raw” meat. Ultimately, I think it comes down to the moisture content. If you pre-cooked the meat then dehydrated it though, it should last just as long as raw dehydrated.

- Erich

 
 
Comment by Carl
2012-10-06 03:43:11

Great recipe. I have seen other recipes before but nothing this “modern”. The local Native Americans made pemican with venison, chokecherries and vension tallow. Would pork lard from the store be a suitable pre-made fat for this.? Is there any thought on what the “stuff” in the fruit does for preservation, some better than others? I used to visit with an older Native American lady years ago and she said her mother made the dried meat. It was sliced very thin and sun dried hanging from pole racks. The meat was sliced from a large cut and not cut all the way through at the bottom and then flipped over 180 degress and sliced again almost all the way through again. It sort of turned out out like an accordian when pulled from the ends. Between the UV rays and heat from the sun and drying all the moisture out of the meat, it was safe to eat.

CM

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-10-07 00:22:06

Yeah, I did sun drying all through college without issue.

As far as the pork lard (tallow) goes that is fine as well.

 
 
Comment by C.L.
2012-10-27 04:35:02

For those who are worried about getting fat from using fat the human body requires 30% animal fat in its daily diet so it does not store the bad fats in the body. A regular consumption of animal fat found in meats and dairy keeps the body from storing fat to use as a supplement.
For another dieting tip. Eating cucumbers in a vinegar and salt broth will fill you up good to eat before large holiday parties empty calories keep you from pigging out.
Suppose to have been used by gypsies for hundreds of years So the gypsy girls can stay thin despite the large festivals and feasts they are accustomed to.

 
Comment by T
2012-11-05 20:37:04

Thank you for posting this. I am going to use rendered bear fat and venision with cherries for my fist experiment. I really appreciate you posting this recipe.

 
Comment by JLynn
2012-11-05 21:48:39

No, no! Please do not use lard from a store! It is almost always hydrogenated, which is the opposite of healthy.

 
Comment by Lee
2012-11-06 15:12:59

Thanks for the post! a nice simple way to make the separate components and put them together.

i am not a fan of fruit pemmican, but do find the meat/fat only version rather …. boring. my ‘re-vention’ is to season the mixture as if it were jerky or steak (but with lower concentrations of spices)

my fave is to add garlic powder, coarse ground pepper, and a pinch of salt to the powdered meat, just before i add the melted fat. yum!

thanks for a great post!

 
Comment by Rod Salm
2012-12-03 11:40:35

Great method!

Bison was the traditional meat of choice for pemmican used by the Cree and others in Canada (you can still find Bison at some select butcher’s here in Manitoba and some independents). Pemmican should be our national food, as Pemmican allowed for the settlement and development of Canada’s interior (prairies). It’s safe to say many fur traders and settlers would have died from starvation without it.

Rod Salm
Death At Your Door a weekly webcomic about Death living a life.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-12-03 23:15:43

Thanks for the great info Rod.

 
 
Comment by Jazz
2012-12-23 23:04:52

Can I make pemmican using ground meats (beef, turkey, etc.)? I know that ground beef can be cooked and dehydrated into “rocks” for food storage, but all the fat is rinsed away in this process. Can it be used at all after that? Or should I stick with steak-like meats to dehydrate?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-12-24 08:49:50

Hi Jazz,

For pemmican you don’t want to have any fat on the meat if possible so the lean steak meats are the best. There’s potential that the fat will go rancid during the drying process and can ruin your whole batch. Fat should be added after the meat has been dried.

 
 
Comment by joe
2013-01-22 08:30:32

You can dry the meat using a solar oven see http://www.ehow.com/how_2083_make-solar-oven.html . I have made an oven like this and added something. Using the cardboard roller from 2 toilet paper rolls inserted into the lower and upper portion of the oven and makeing regulator flaps over them you can vary the temperature in the oven fairly well. Getting the meat to the 160 degrees is easier this way.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2013-01-22 10:38:46

Great tip Joe. Thanks!

 
 
Comment by John
2013-01-31 16:07:26

Some good info on here, great. Just a quick question please – why not use a FATTIER meat in the first place, e.g. Ribeye, skirt, sirloin etc and then there’s less need for the added tallow surely?

Am I correct with this? Sorry if this may be a naive question but answers appreciated.

Cheers,

John,

(Sheffield, UK)

 
Comment by Kit
2013-02-06 18:59:51

John – The reason not to have fatty meat has to do with the moisture content of the fat on the meat. When you try to dry fatty meat on a dehydrator it doesn’t give up it’s moisture well, and can wind up going rancid from oxidation during storage. That’s why you use fat that’s been “rendered” or cooked long enough to drive all the water out of it, then filtered to remove solids. Low moisture meat, fat, and berries (etc) will keep much longer without spoilage.

Peter – My understanding about why “cooked” meat spoils faster versus “dried” meat has to do with what happens when meat reaches that “sear” point. Y’know, when that tasty browning action happens on a steak? It’s from some of the proteins chemically combining with sugars… and the more of that high temperature stuff that happens the less other processes that stabilize the meat can continue to exist (positive, fermenting bacteria, like in summer sausage, etc.) Most sites recommend “cooking” meat ‘cuz of our litigious society. Don’t wanna recommend just drying meat the way humans lived on it for millennia. Somebody might get sick, blame you and come after your assets.

 
Comment by Kellie
2013-02-12 12:20:40

i got this from Prepper Chicks on FB. Super article! Thanks!
:)

 
Comment by Jason
2013-02-13 11:18:50

Hey, I believe I saw this in the USAF manual, and as you said you were primitive in your younger days, I was curious if you’d used the teepee method of smoking meat. Where you dig the trench with the hole at one end and teepee at the other.. .

 
Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2013-02-13 18:01:50

Hey Jason,

Yes, but not with the hole. I’d just create a tripod (teepee) rack to hang the meat and place that next to a smoking fire (the heat and smoke helped preserve it)

 
Comment by Rick
2013-02-23 23:39:09

Thanks for the great article and recipe. I want to make some pemmican, however, my body doesn’t like beef all that much and my nutritionalist suggests I eat more turkey, chicken, and pork. Can I substitute the beef and beef fat called for in your recipe with turkey breast and pork fat and would anything else have to be different for these ingredients to work for pemmican.

Thanks in advance.

Rick

 
Comment by Penny
2013-03-09 17:19:29

If I didnt want meat in this recipe what could I substitute the dried meat for?

 
Comment by Amanda (Penny's sister)
2013-03-09 17:30:21

Could you replace the dried beef with beef jerky? PLEASE respond quickly!

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2013-03-17 20:29:10

Yes, if it’s natural beef jerkey (not slimjims)

 
 
Comment by Pat
2013-03-19 20:38:03

I dehydrate all kinds of fruits and veggies and vacuum seal them for long term storage. I have some sweet potato powder that I made a couple of years ago. I bet that would taste great in this recipe. As soon as I put it together I will let you know.

 
Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2013-03-19 22:18:50

Great Pat. Look forward to it!

 
Comment by Pat
2013-03-21 12:38:43

Made some this morning after I dehydrated the meat overnight. I partially froze the meat to make it easier to slice. It was a 3lb top round roast. I added 1c crushed dehydrated blueberries, about 1/4c dehydrated butternut squash powder for dry ingredients. I added 1/2 honey and 1/2 rendered suet for wet ingredients adjusting for texture along the way. It is delish!
I shaped it into golfball size balls and put in the freezer. Once hard, I will slice and vacuum seal for storage in small packets. I am thrilled with pemican. I had heard about it long ago but it just came up in conversation at Cabela’s last week so I thought I would look it up.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2013-03-23 00:57:25

Thanks for posting Pat! I love hearing from everyone’s experiences.

 
 
Comment by Pat
2013-03-21 22:37:16

Jerky can last for years if you package and store correctly. I vacuum seal and store in plastic bags or jars and increase shelf life to at least twenty five years. I have found if you can vacuum seal all your food stuffs you increase the shelf life by at least 5 to 10 years if not indifinetley. You must keep vacuum sealed food in a dry, dark, cool place.Just last week I was making some gluten free almond bread and realized I did not have any almonds to chop up. I went into my stores and found some almonds that I had vacuumed sealed three years ago. I cut open a bag and the smell of fresh almonds bowled me over. Just like the day I packaged them. Took what I needed and resealed the rest. If you do not have a vacuum sealer you are missing out on tons of food storage opportunities.
There is a great pemican recipe on this site which will give you meat preserved as long as you need. Just did up some pemican for the first time today and love it.

 
Comment by JTwig
2013-03-28 16:43:41

Would adding nuts, such as chopped almonds or sunflower seeds, affect its shelf life?

 
Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2013-03-28 17:40:06

JTwig,

Yes it would lower the shelf life due to the non-rendered fats in the nuts/seeds.

 
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2013-06-08 21:17:49

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Comment by Rosemary
2013-06-10 02:26:21

Wow! This is amazing! I have been looking for something that I can stuff in a pocket and forget about until its needed, and this sounds perfect! Is there an advantage to using berries rather than vegetables?

 
Comment by Jesse
2013-07-16 21:12:43

I read in a book about Tecomseh that the Indians of the old north west(great lakes)liked to use the red berries from sumac trees.very high in vitamin c etc.

 
2013-08-09 05:06:47

Spot on with this write-up, I actually believe this site needs a lot more attention.
I’ll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the info!

 
Comment by Carol
2013-08-23 19:49:54

Nuts and berries are Vegan-friendly, as is peanut butter… You could use dried nuts to make flour (almonds, acorns, pine-nuts and hazelnuts all make wonderful flour!) and just make your ball from that. It really wouldn’t be “Pemmican” however, without the meat. Check out

 
Comment by Carol
2013-08-23 19:51:59

Sorry, it won’t let me past the link, just google ‘ehow.com’ – how to make nut flour.

 
Comment by Dave's Horney Brother
2013-11-04 13:18:33

Hey Dave I feel you man you gotta do what you gotta do, try vegetable oil it feels better

 
Comment by Daves Horny brother
2013-11-04 13:26:45

U should try that internet porn

 
Comment by Lynn
2013-11-29 05:23:59

The Native Americans lived on this stuff for thousands of years before we even dreamed up MRI’s or anything like that. I plan to make some and put it in my hurricane kit for next year. Great idea. I think the sourness of the mixture is part of why it keeps. I’m going to have to look into that further. I’m actually very curious about the reason.

 
Comment by Pat
2013-12-01 18:44:30

Peanutbutter will go rancid. Not a good idea for long term storage.

 
Comment by Pat
2013-12-01 19:11:45

I have been buying beef fat from the butcher in 20 lb batches. I render it in the crock pot and then can it in sterilized quart jars. I use the pressure cooker to can. I have about thirty quarts done. This is something to keep on hand for all cooking. You never know when you won’t be able to buy a bottle of cooking oil. Would make a great barter item as well.

 
Comment by bob bigelow
2014-01-10 22:25:23

Is there a good use for the leftovers solids after rendering other than dog treats? There is this boneheaded Labrador of my family that can’t wait for the next batch!

 
Comment by Littlebear
2014-01-25 18:34:20

I was making some of this, when this made me stop and think:

“If you dislike the idea of using animal fat as a binder you can replace it with honey instead. It will keep for a long, long time just as normal pemmican will.
Just keep adding honey to the dried, shredded meat and berries until it binds enough to form it into a ball shape.”

OK, I have some cranberries left…. and some TVP…..

Added some dried Almonds (before I read the comment about unrendered fats)

and Behold! … Vegetarian Pemmican.

 
Comment by AussieSurvivalGal
2014-03-06 20:43:49

I’m a newbie to survival training and meat preservation so apologies for a potentially dumb question, but can someone explain to me the ideal method and heat range to preserve meat at to avoid botulism?
Why does cooking the meat and then preserving it increase the risk of botulism? I would have though the incidence of bacteria would be higher in raw meat in something like pemmican? Is it because the spores can survive the cooking process and then multiply without competition from other bacteria? In a survival situation is there anyway to treat botulism poisoning apart from seek medical aid? Cheers for the info- great site!

 
Comment by Miriamele
2014-03-24 12:27:47

My nieces read a recipe in a novel (Wolf brother by Michelle Paver) where the people make a sort of pemmican using dried salmon, deer fat and juniper berries. They really want to try it but we haven’t gotten to it yet.

 
Comment by JC Aaro
2014-04-10 10:29:04

Further up on this blog I read this in a post, so in case you look back here I copied and pasted it for you:

Comment by Kit
2013-02-06 18:59:51
John – The reason not to have fatty meat has to do with the moisture content of the fat on the meat. When you try to dry fatty meat on a dehydrator it doesn’t give up it’s moisture well, and can wind up going rancid from oxidation during storage. That’s why you use fat that’s been “rendered” or cooked long enough to drive all the water out of it, then filtered to remove solids. Low moisture meat, fat, and berries (etc) will keep much longer without spoilage.
Peter – My understanding about why “cooked” meat spoils faster versus “dried” meat has to do with what happens when meat reaches that “sear” point. Y’know, when that tasty browning action happens on a steak? It’s from some of the proteins chemically combining with sugars… and the more of that high temperature stuff that happens the less other processes that stabilize the meat can continue to exist (positive, fermenting bacteria, like in summer sausage, etc.)

 
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