View Full Version : Making pemmican

06-23-2009, 05:57 PM
Pemmican is probably the perfect food, as it has all the necessary ingredients to sustain life. It will last years if made correctly and is perfect for a bug-out situation. There are many ways to make it:


In making pemmican, you must render the fat. Here are directions to do that, which is also good for soap making:

Here are a few with good pictures of how to make it:

Pemmican and baked eggs:

06-23-2009, 09:10 PM
Super post. Thanks. I am still going to try replacing the suet with peanut butter.

06-23-2009, 10:12 PM
the most important thing to add to pemmican is pressure. packed in cloth the prepared pemmican should be pressed under a heavy weight to compact and reduce its volume .
and that gives you the indian wonder food. the food reduced to 10% 0f its original volume.

great post!
pemmican is my favorite food

06-24-2009, 05:53 AM
Thanks for this, always wondered what pemmican was, I've learned something today.
Do you think I could make it over here in our moist climate or would it go rancid? Air drying fruit over here is very difficult because of the climate.

06-24-2009, 07:01 AM
Wychwood. You bet. You can dry stuff with a cardboard box and light bulb. Low heat and air movement is all that's required. This will give you an idea:


06-24-2009, 05:35 PM
Oooh thanks for the link Rick it's in my favourites and on the to make list! I think even I can do that!

06-24-2009, 06:39 PM
in one of those links its recommended to sun dry the meat but no mention of smoke or fire. im confused. how are you keeping the flies of the meat if its air drying?
i like the oven idea but it takes a while!

06-24-2009, 06:40 PM
im also trying to imagine the flavor of peanut butter and meat together.... :?

06-24-2009, 11:27 PM
Here is a paper I wrote a few years ago for anthropology class.

PEMMICAN: A relatively complicated subject.
One of the most amazing foods attributed to the North American Indian is pemmican. Pemmican, in one form or another, was utilized by many diverse Indian cultures, and was used it as a staple food source, or as an item of trade with other tribes, or Whites . Pemmican was highly prized by Fir Traders, and “much used by Arctic voyagers” . The word Pemmican is derived from a Cree word pime, meaning “fat”. It is a high energy, highly portable food, and has a relatively long “shelf life”. The ingredients of pemmican are simple, with many regional differences. All include dried meat and always (as the name implies) fat. Many variations include some sort of dried berries and sometimes seeds, grain or nuts (normally, but not always, pounded into a flour). For the moment, let us concentrate on what goes into gathering some of pemmican’s major ingredients.
One of the universal ingredients in various pemmican recipes is some sort of dried meat. Deer, buffalo, and elk are some sources for meat, but any mammal or bird with dryable meet can be used. Very few (if any) pemmican variations seem to use fish as a meat source. I have not been able to determine whether this is due to the fact that fish based pemmican may spoil faster, or just the fact that it may taste really bad. For the purposes of this discussion, we will concentrate on how meat derived from mammals and birds.
Hunting was a full time (and time consuming) occupation in many Indian cultures. This conflicted with many European held beliefs that hunting was an Aristocratic activity. “For the class-conscious colonists, the Indian’s audacity in hunting violated the English notion of proper behavior.” This was just one of the perceptions by the early colonists that lead to trouble with the Indians.
Indians had many diverse ways to gather meat producing mammals and birds. Perhaps the most impressive was the extensive knowledge of animal actions, gathered through generations of study. Many times, animals could simply be herded over a cliff using fire, or runners flanking the animals and driving them in the necessary direction. One of the most impressive use of manipulating animal herds was: “In central Canada, the practice of animal hunting and trapping reached a sophisticated complexity among the Chipewyans. Prior to the annual migration of the caribou, the Chipewyans erected a series of brush-and-pole figures that looked scarecrows spread over many miles of the plains and tundra. The human-looking figure frightened the caribou, which steered their herds away from them. By carefully situating the scarecrows into a funnel formation, the Chipewyans could direct a small heard of caribou into a small corral called a surround.” A more familiar way that has been seen to gather game animals has been the bow and arrow, or a spear, although this to requires an extensive knowledge of the animals being hunted. You cannot just walk up to a deer and shoot it with an arrow or stab it with a spear. You must know the habits and traits of the deer, and how to exploit them. Camouflage and misdirection are techniques still practiced in hunting to this day. People used to dress themselves with animal skins and horn to appear like the animal that was being hunted. The façade did not need to be perfect; it just had to appear to the animals that the person stalking them belonged in that environment. Many times a hid or horns was not available and simple deceptive camouflage was used. Grass, branches, and leaves were employed to break-up the human outline and make it appear that they were a part of the background. Human scent was also covered by the use of the hides, grasses, and leaves. By utilizing these deceptions, it is possible to creep very close to an unsuspecting game animal to make a kill.
Another way to deceive a game animal is through use of a call produced from reeds, wood, or even bone. “Museums contain many examples of hand-held calls that were crafted by native hunters long before the manufacturing industry got into the act.” These calls were used to entice or trick animals close enough to be harvested.
After an animal was killed, the meat had to be processed for use in pemmican. Curing the meat through drying or smoking was normally part of the preparation. In drying the meat, it was cut into small strips and then draped over a rack and dried in the sun for a few days. The meat could also be cured by slowly smoking over a bed of coals until it had a dry, leathery texture.
Another important ingredient sometimes added to pemmican were berries. Wild berries of various sorts grew throughout North America. They provided many nutrients; one of the most important was Vitamin C; which helped to stave off scurvy. Gathering berries could be a risky proposition, bears were known to frequent berry patches, and could be territorial over their source of food to bulk up for the winter. Berries were gathered when ripe, then sometimes pounded, and dried to the consistency of leather. Other times they were just laid out to dry in the sun like raisins.
Nuts, seeds and grains were sometimes added to pemmican, which helped to increase the sustainability of the recipe immensely. To gather and process nuts, seeds, and grains was a time consuming occupation. Many types needed extensive, multi-step, processing to become palatable to humans.
The final ingredient to pemmican is fat. It can be called fat, lard or tallow, depending upon how it is processed. Fat comes from the animals that were harvested. The manner of processing of this fat is something I was unable to find much on. It appears that before the White man introduced iron pots for cooking, much of the fat for pemmican was just mashed up with the meat, berries and flour. The only melting that occurred was that which could be accomplished through the heat of the sun, or the person’s body heat that was toting the pemmican. This provided a very rich food, but did not last quite as long as unprocessed fat will go rancid quicker than that which has been heated and strained. After iron pots were introduces by Europeans, fat was able to be processed into lard and tallow by repeatedly heating and straining out the flakes of residual meat. This produces a substance that lasted longer and was able to be molded into cakes and stored for many years (up to thirty years have been reported in cold conditions) , instead of the few months that were typical of pemmican made with unprocessed fat.
Pemmican has many recipes. The Metis (descendants of European Canadian fur traders and Indian wives) were engaged in a substantial trade of pemmican made from dried buffalo meat, fat and sometimes dried berries. These were mixed together on buffalo hides and then pressed, while still warm, into buffalo skin bags about the size of a pillowcase. The end of the bag was sewn shut, and walked upon to flatten into a width of about six or seven inches. A single sack weighed close to ninety pounds. When berries were added to the pemmican mix, the chance of spoilage was increased, although the palatability was greatly enhanced. The Chipewyans made their pemmican from dried meat, berries, and fat. It was then packed it into animals’ intestines (like sausage) to be carried on the trail. A more modern recipe consists of: three cups of shredded jerky, one cup of raisins, one cup roasted sunflower seeds, one-half cup roasted yellow corn meal, and one-half cup of sunflower seed oil. Combine ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well with a wooden spoon or your hands so the ingredients are well pressed together. With your hands, form this mixture into small cakes or patties or roll and pat into bars. Wrap individually and refrigerate or freeze for future use on a trail hike or camping trip. Makes 10 to 12 patties.
Pemmican became such an important item in the fur trade that in 1814 the Governor of the Red River Colony, Miles MacDonnell, issued the Pemmican Proclamation, which forbade export of pemmican from the colony. This was done to assure the area would have food for the coming year. This helped sparked a war between the, mostly Metis, Northwest Fur Company and the Hudson Bay Company. Because the Hudson Bay Company ran the Colony at Red River, the Metis and the Northwest Fur Company saw the proclamation as a threat to their trade and livelihood of pemmican. In 1816 the Northwest Fur Company, twice, destroyed the main Red River settlement of Fort Douglas, and lead directly to the Battle of Seven Oaks.
Without pemmican, travel and survival of the Indians of North America would have been more difficult that it was. Pemmican could be prepared in advance of an expedition, or in anticipation of a time of famine. Although it took many resources, and took time to procure, pemmican could be made at the same time that day-to-day sustenance needs were being met.
Overall, pemmican was (and still) is a very versatile food, with an infinite number of recipe variations. Using fat as a basis, and mixing other ingredients that are on hand, a simple, nutritious, and long lasting food can be developed that packs and stores better than most modern, commercially available emergency rations. There is much to be said for a food, whose basic structure was developed many thousand years ago, and is still efficient enough to use in the modern world.

06-24-2009, 11:27 PM

Chandler Beach, The Student’s Reference Work: A CyclopǼdia for Students, Teachers, and Families (New York: C.B. Beach and Co., 1905)
Paul H. Carlson, The Plains Indians (College Station: Texas A&M University Press. 1998)
E. Barrie Kavasch, Enduring Harvests: Native American Foods and Festivals for Every Season (Old SayBrook: The Globe Pequot Press, 1995)
Doug Painter et all, The Complete Hunter (Guilford: The Lyons Press, 2004)
Carl Waldman, Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes (New York: Checkmark books, 1999)
Jack Weatherford, Native Roots: How the Indians Enriched America (New York: Crown Publishers, 1991)

1816 “The Pemmican War” [cited 08 June 2007] available at http://www.oregon.com/history/oregon_trail_timeline_1816_1830.cfm

“Metis Nation and the Pemmican Trade” [cited 08 June 2007], available at http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Atrium/4832/buffalo3.html?20074

John E. Foster, “Pemmican Proclamation” in The Canadian Encyclopedia [online encyclopedia] 2007 [cited 08 June 2007]; available from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0006200

J.E. REA, “Seven Oaks Incident” in The Canadian Encyclopedia [online encyclopedia] 2007 [cited 08 June 2007]; available from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0007299


(Very good recipes on this site)

(This site was invaluable. Why it is on the Cornell Laboratory for Elementary-Particle Physics page, I will never know)

06-25-2009, 02:38 PM
NICE. great info
i love posts i have to take in shifts :)

06-25-2009, 03:03 PM
Outstanding thread on Pemmican!!! Great job "lanahi" and "aflineman"!!!

Ole WV Coot
06-25-2009, 04:31 PM
Outstanding thread on Pemmican!!! Great job "lanahi" and "aflineman"!!!

I can go along with that! I've never tried it but think I will when some free time comes along, or a tender doe behind the house.:sneaky2:

06-26-2009, 01:10 AM
I recall making Pemmican in grade school while we were studying Sioux Indian Culture and Minnesota History and it didnt look like a bar or a lard brownie (Eww) by any means. It looked more like cooked corned beef hash and here's how we did it:

We used some store bought beef roast that we cooked (seared the outside only), and dried in a rack that had screen tacked to it to keep the bugs off. Every day for the better part of a week, the teacher would take it out of the freezer in the noon day sun and place it in a home made rack with a bug screen. The freezer was key as it would not allow moisture to return to the meat and actually help to draw out more moisture as long as it was in an open container. If I remember correctly, you didnt have to cook the outside of the meat, but if you didn't, you had to cut in about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the surface of the meet off to eliminate the most contaminated part of any meat, the outer most portion. This is also why its important to have ground burgers throughly cooked all the way through, and less important for a steak that gets seared on the outside.

While this was going on, we cheated (so to speak) with the store bought corn on the cob by cutting it off of the cobs and roasting the kernals in an oven to remove as much moisture as possible, placing it in the freezer (uncovered). I should also add that roasting would be another good option for nuts and berries if you wanted to add them as well, just remember that the less moisture, the longer it will keep.

Once we had the meat throughly dried, we put it in a flour sack and smashed it with a rubber mallet until it was tiny slivers of its former self. We then added a good dose of salt to the meat both as a preservative and for flavor, added the corn and just enough store bought crisco to be able to coat everything in the mixture to seal out the moisture.

The whole point here is removal of moisture and keeping it dry. Bacteria has a hard time growing in a super dry environment. The corn and nuts are less likely to spoil with moisture, but it acts like a silicone packet in a shipping container, catching the moisture the mixture gets exposed to when opening the container as well as continuing to draw out moisture from the meat. I suppose it would have tasted even better had we smoked the meat or marinated it in some liquid smoke before drying it, but it tasted pretty good just plain.

06-26-2009, 07:41 AM
I don't think I'd add corn because of the sugars. Bacteria does need moisture but it also needs something to feed on and sugar makes a good meal.

Careful on which nuts you choose, too. Some, like acorns, have a high oil content and are really difficult to dry because of the oil.

06-26-2009, 11:50 AM
Wow. The only other time I've ever encountered pemmican was in an episode of Due South.

06-26-2009, 02:01 PM
Actually the Cree word is more like pimic (p'meek, very soft on the "k") and yeah, it's used to define fat or lard.

06-27-2009, 12:02 AM
Actually the Cree word is more like pimic (p'meek, very soft on the "k") and yeah, it's used to define fat or lard.

I found both pronunciations in my research, but went with the one I used as my instructor said that it was the most correct. As I have only spoken Nez Perce and a bit of Cayuse (many many years ago), I went with his interpretation (especially since he was grading the paper). :)

Survival Guy 10
07-07-2009, 09:25 PM
i was gonna try the recipe but read the warnings and ingredients and then had other thoughts but still a good post

07-07-2009, 09:37 PM
I don't think I'd add corn because of the sugars.

more so than berries? if berries are safe to use why not corn? corn meal? dry is dry right? as stated it the fat sealing out moisture and bacteria eh?
just curious. for some reason pemmican is hyper fascinating to me

07-08-2009, 08:31 AM
I think your point is excellent. Corn would hold no more sugar than berries. Corn it is!!

07-08-2009, 02:33 PM
although after more reading i have come across references to berries whos sugar content are higher than others and how they might not be the best. like modern cranberry harvesting produces a sweet cranberry that isnt good. but berries have SIMPLE sugars and corn is a complex dextrose sugar so would that make a difference since simple sugars break down easier than starches? i dont know why that would make a difference but for some reason i think it would haha.

07-08-2009, 02:39 PM
Okay. Well, in that case, I told you so. Or not, whichever is right.:innocent:

07-08-2009, 03:55 PM
I found both pronunciations in my research, but went with the one I used as my instructor said that it was the most correct. As I have only spoken Nez Perce and a bit of Cayuse (many many years ago), I went with his interpretation (especially since he was grading the paper). :)

Well, I speak pretty good Cree and everyone I know who's fluent says it the way I wrote the pronunciation. That's why I posted. If he was grading the paper you definitely went the right way, often in the language a "k" sound is so soft on the end of a word that it's barely audible. Not trying to nitpick, just sayin...

07-08-2009, 05:59 PM
I think your point is excellent. Corn would hold no more sugar than berries. Corn it is!!
I would go with the berries,they seem a little more easily digested by the body than corn.

07-08-2009, 11:19 PM
found this interesting video. part of it is a good breakdown on corn. part 2 he shows how to roast osage red corn. which is basically just watching him stir a pot of it but anyway...


he says the osage red will keep forever when toasted so it could presumably be used in pemmican

rick: i win. :)

that said, he also claims pemmican is disgusting.

im interested to know who here has eaten it and who likes it (or what they have done to make it taste good) and who doesnt.

07-09-2009, 10:24 AM
I've eaten it plenty, I like it. Considering the recipe it probably isn't too terribly appealing to most modern day palettes.

07-10-2009, 01:49 AM
:clap:Everything tastes better with Tobasco!!!!:clap:
even :spam::clap:

08-17-2009, 04:09 AM
You've hit one topic I wanted to broach on this forum, right square on the head! Fine info, my thanks!

04-09-2011, 01:06 AM
Does anybody have a link or info on how to render fat? The link in the first post is down and the article didn't mention how.

edit: nevermind. quick google search provided me with all the info needed

04-12-2011, 11:43 AM
Glad this was brought up as I was researching Pemmican a month ago going into early Summer here. The wife and I do a ton of canning and ehydrating as well as freezing when the farmers markets get going.

I;m finishing 100# potatoes in the next day and working through 100# onions as well as shelling about twenty # pecans and Brazil Nuts. Next week we'll be picking strawberries and shortly after blueberries then the FM again.

Any way back on topic...

As far as drying meat? Simplest method is one of the round dehydrators with a fan one can get at Wally World [[or whatever the equivalent is in great Britain] Humidity does not factor in.

I make a LOT of jerky and my old method used in Texas and Florida with high heat/humidity is to season the meat, marinate in Worscheshire and pepper sauce overnight then take a metal clothes hanger. At one end on the straight bottom metal right before it loops upward simply cut it then use pliers to bend a fish hook on that end. Where it goes up with the curve use the pliers to bend another fishhook so the two hold together when 'hooked'.

Push the strips of meat along the bottom wire leaving a gap until it it full then hang it from a nail outside underthe eaves or porch where there is a breeze. Heat of the day and breeze and it is done in a day.

If not '

04-12-2011, 11:49 AM
~sigh~ One coherent sentence would be nice, eh?

If not dry you can finish in the oven on about 100*.

Never had an issue with bugs just some grit and drippings outside so newspaper is good if over carpet.

Now that's a basic jerky recipe but it might work for the Pemmi. I would not hang it without the seasonings however.