How to Make Delicious Pemmican with Venison or other Wild Game Meat
Not only is pemmican delicious—but it's packed with protein and lasts for ages. Which is why it may just be the perfect survival food
Pemmican is a high-energy food that Indigenous people of Canada and the U.S. have been eating for centuries. The word pemmican is derived from the Cree word pimîhkân, which comes from the word pimî, meaning “fat, grease.” Pemmican is made from dry meat, animal fat, and sometimes dried berries. Traditionally, pemmican was made from bison meat, but you can use whatever meat—moose, elk, caribou, whitetail—is available to you.
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Pemmican is pretty much the perfect survival food. There are stories of people surviving solely on pemmican for months on end. You get nearly 300 calories from one 2.2-ounce bar, which means you’re getting a lot of energy from something that won’t take up much room in your pack. What’s more, pemmican lasts for a long time—years if you store it properly in a cool environment. It’s also delicious.x Here’s how to make your own pemmican:
Easy and Delicious Recipe for Pemmican
1) Dry the Meat
- Thinly slice whatever lean meat you’re going to use. For the best-tasting pemmican, use a food dehydrator. Spread the meat slices on the dehydrator trays, and dry the meat for 5-6 hours at 160 degrees. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use an oven. Lay the meat on a baking sheet, and dry for 7-8 hours at 180 degrees. Whichever method you choose, the key is to dry the meat to the point where it becomes very dry and brittle.
- Once the meat is dry, pulverize it into a course powder. A blender works here, or you can go the traditional route and use a mortar and pestle.
2) Dry the Berries
- Next, squash some berries and spread them out thinly on a dehydrator tray. Dry for 6-8 hours at 145 degrees. Again, you can use the over here. Simply spread the squashed berries on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and dry the berries for 5-7 hours at your oven’s lowest temperature. Saskatoon berries and cranberries were used in traditional recipes, but you can make pemmican with blueberries, raspberries, or even cherries.
- You’ll know the berries are done drying when they’re still semi-pliable but no longer tacky in the middle. At this point, pulverize the berries in a blender, then keep them separate from the heat.
3) Render the Fat
- Place the raw chunks of fat in a large pot and simmer on low for several hours, allow the fat to melt slowly into a liquid. When the chucks of fat shrink in size and become hard and crispy, it’s done. Scoop out the chunks and strain the liquid fat to remove any remaining bits. Pour the liquid fat into mason jars for storage. The rendered fat will harden as it cools and last for several months.
4) Mix, Make, and Store the Pemmican
- Combine equal parts meat, berries, and liquid rendered fats into a bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the pemmican mixture onto the sheet into an even, 1-inch-thick layer. Place the sheet in the fridge and let cool for several hours.
- Once the pemmican has hardened, cut it into bar-size portions for eating. (Note: You could have also formed the pemmican into balls before placing in the refrigerator.)
- Store the pemmican for the trail or backcountry by placing a piece of parchment paper between each bar. Stack a few bars on top of each other, then tightly wrap with cellophane. Place pemmican pack in a Ziplock bag, and store in a cool place.
Experiment with Your Pemmican Recipe
Keep tweaking your recipe slightly until you find one that you like best. For example, when I was using raspberries, which can be sour, I started with a smaller batch of equal parts to gauge the flavor before going all in. I ended up dialing it back on the raspberries for the remaining batches, and wound up with better-tasting pemmican.