We live in an age of superfoods! Everyone is searching for that one food that is packed with nutrients and beneficial for our health and well-being. People are raving about benefits of almonds, flax, avocado and some other foods.
But, we are forgetting our very own native superfood that is hundreds of years old! This food was invented by the Native Americans and then adopted by European explorers and fur merchants.
The name of this super food is Pemmican. Pemmican, is a traditional food which was made by the Native Americans. Pemmican is a mixture of dried and powdered meat mixed with animal fat and powdered berries. It is a calorie dense and protein rich food which makes it a superfood.
How to make Pemmican?
There are many ways of making Pemmican. Some families have their special recipes. But the core process remains the same. Natives made pemmican with their hunt which could have been a bison, deer, elk or moose. They separated the fatty meat and lean meat themselves from these animals for the recipe. That can prove to be a little cumbersome. So, we will make it slightly easier and use a lean meat along with tallow and can be easily prepared at home.
- Beef or any low fat red meat- 6lbs
- Tallow (preferably beef)- 2lbs
- Blueberries or strawberries-1/3 cup
Note: your meat should be fresh. Aged meat is not advisable for this recipe.
Step 1: Cut the meat
Cut the meat in very thin slices. Use a sharp knife. One can even refrigerate the meat for a few hours before slicing. It makes slicing easier.
Step 2: Dry the meat and berries:
Drying your meat properly is the key to prepare a good Pemmican. One can dry meat under the sun, by using a dehydrator or in an oven.
- For sun drying: If you are drying in the sun, place the meat slices in a rack and leave it under the sun for a few days.
- For dehydrator: Place the slices in a dehydrator. Follow the dehydrator instructions for drying time and temperature.
- For oven drying: Place the slices of meat on a rack. Set the Oven to the lowest temperature, put the rack in and leave the oven door slightly open. This avoids the build up of moisture. Dry in the oven for 15 hours.
- Blueberries/strawberries can also be dried by any of the above techniques. If you are using an oven, place the blueberries/strawberries in a foil holder and place it along with the beef slices for drying.
How long should I dry the meat slices?
Your meat slices should be crispy and devoid of any moisture. That is how long you need to dry the meat.
Step 3: Powder the meat and berries:
Toss the dried meat slices in a food processor and powder it well. Repeat the same for the driedbluebe rries/strawberries.
The dried and powdered meat weighs slightly less than 1/3rd of the original weight. So, your dried and powdered meat should now weigh around 2lbs.
Step 4: Process the fat from the Tallow
Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat. Here we will use tallow from beef fat.
Cut the tallow into pieces. Put them in a pot and place on a stove. Keep the temperature low throughout the process. Increasing the temperature only destroys the essential fatty acids.
Keep stirring the tallow every minute. In about ten minutes you will see a pool of fat at the bottom of the pot. Slowly the fat starts boiling. Now you can stir the pot every five minutes. In about thirty minutes the fat would have melted and will cover the tallow chunks. After about an hour the boiling would have stopped and the melted fat will be bubbling away.
This is when you turn off the heat. Remove the bits and pieces of tallow that is left over with a strainer.
Step 5: Measure and Mix
This is the penultimate step to making your Pemmican.
The amount of powdered meat and melted fat should be equal. So, the proportion is 1:1.
On the safer side measure both the key ingredients 1:1 and set aside any excess quantities.
First, mix the powdered meat and powdered berries well. Next, pour the melted fat into the mixture. The fat can be warm for this process. Ensure that all the fat is incorporated well while mixing. Keep mixing the ingredients together until it is one thick ball.
Your Pemmican is ready!
Step 6: Cool, Cut and store
Cool the Pemmican mixture in a Casserole. It will harden slowly. You can now cut it in desired shapes.
Storing your Pemmican properly is the next key step. Remember any storage process should ensure that the Pemmican is kept away from air and moisture. Even a little bit of air or moisture can spoil the Pemmican. The shelf life of the Pemmican increases when it is stored properly.
You can store them in Ziploc bags, vacuum seal them or store them in airtight containers. Store them in a cool, dark and dry place.
One need not refrigerate Pemmican, but if you would like to do that, there is no harm.
Pemmican Nutritional Information (per bar)
Calories:360, Protein: 17gm, Total fat:43gm
The nutritional value of a Pemmican proves that is nutrient rich and research has proved that Pemmican is good for health. Read more about the centuries old superfood here.
When to eat Pemmican?
The native Americans, the Western explorers and the fur traders all ate Pemmican during their long expeditions. They were in the wild, without any social contact and with very little resources available to them. At such times the Pemmican was a life savior for them.
In today’s world we rarely get away from our daily lives and routine. But Pemmican can be incorporated into our meal. It can be that snack in the evening. Pemmican can also replace your lunch on that very busy day when you do not have time for a proper lunch.
If you are the adventurous sort, do not forget to pack pemmican bars for your next camping, hiking or mountain climbing trip. It needs no cooking and is easy to carry too!
So, the next time some one raves about a new super food that they have started eating, give him/her a bar of your home-made Pemmican.
By adopting and eating Pemmican you are not only making a healthy choice but also keeping an age-old tradition alive!