This excerpt comes from Jack Lawson straight out of Chapter 14 of his two volume masterpiece, “Civil Defense Manual”. You can grab a copy of his book here. Jack is a strong supporter of American Partisan, and even had NC Scout write the chapter on Radio Communications (Chapter 17 in Volume I). I bought my copy the day it become available and I highly recommend you do as well.
Pemmican will provide you with all the protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins necessary to sustain you indefinitely. It is the perfect survival food store if made from the proper ingredients. Pemmican is a combination of tallow, dried meat (sometimes dried fish and dried duck) and dried berries prepared in a manner that preserves it for long periods of time as a food.
Pemmican was an important food of Native American and Canadian Indians of North America and they still make this today. The word ‘pemmican’ comes from the North American Cree Indian tribe, native to Canada, Montana and the northern border areas of the United States.
It’s a variation of their word pimihkan, which comes from the Cree word pimi for ‘fat or grease.’ This food kept them alive during harsh winters where hunting and fishing were next to impossible to provide enough food.
Depending on the ingredients, it has a flavor of sweet and salty. Pemmican is portable, efficient and convenient food source that gives you all the protein, fats and carbohydrates necessary for sustenance. Folklore has it the North American Indian didn’t put berries in their pemmican… supposedly that was the white man’s idea. Who knows? …but the berries make it verrrrrry tasty.
European trappers, fur traders and Arctic explorers quickly adapted this high-energy food source for their own needs. In the late 19th Century, the British Army issued thousands of emergency rations containing primarily pemmican.
If you’d prefer to buy prepared pemmican rather than make it, go to https://grasslandbeef.com/pemmican …or look for pemmican ‘Tanka Bars’ and other pemmican products from Lakeside Gourmet.
How to make pemmican by hand
How to Make Pemmican: Meat or fish
- Meat (venison or beef-it’s important to use grass fed beef… lean-lean) or salmon fish
- Fat (substitute tallow if beef or venison fat trimmings are not sufficient-store bought tallow will most likely be rendered)
- Berries (blueberries, cherries, chokeberries or currant berries)
One of the best essays on pemmican was written by, in my opinion, ‘the authority on pemmican, Lex Rooker. He has quite the amazing story as to his personal journey with nutrition. Lex Rooker’s “The Pemmican Manual.” You can access it at…
Pemmican properly prepared will dry into a very hard, almost wax-like texture. You might have to cut it with a knife to eat… as gnawing a piece off, may take some teeth out. 10 pounds will provide all the nutrition requirements of an adult for about one week. No food is as nutrient and calorie dense as pemmican.
Expect that it will take 48 to 72 hours to air dry meat/fish and berries. The colder, the longer and vice versa… the hotter, the shorter time. Be patient… the meat/fish and berries must be thoroughly dry. I use the same drying process to make South African biltong (beef jerky, but waaaay better). Many more ingredients are added to biltong, but that, you don’t do in excess with pemmican.
Most herb additions are okay, but if you add untried ingredients, it may make your pemmican spoil or spoil quicker… that is, if you wander off the path of the recipe too far. So, it’s best to stick to the recipe adding a few common sense ingredients for some taste variations.
Rendering is cooking the fat over low heat until it turns to liquid. If you buy tallow from a grocery or store it will most likely be rendered. Strain the melted fat into a fire compatible container. Rendering of fat simply puts it in a more pliable state, enabling it to mix well with the other two ingredients.
Let the rendered fat cool in another container. It’s the same principle as trying to butter your toast with cold hard cut pieces of butter compared to having room temperature butter. Rendered fat spreads, works and adheres better in making pemmican.
You can use your oven and blender, but try the Grid-Down air dry and mortar and pestle pulverizing method so you know how to do this when the lights go out. Store in the dark away from moisture and pemmican will last for years. Freezing pemmican will give it an almost indefinite shelf life.
Prepare the ingredients
The basic pemmican ingredients
- Lean meat-1-pound meat/fish (grass fed beef or venison-try salmon; you won’t be disappointed)
- Dried berries… 12 ounces berries (blueberries, cherries, chokeberries or currant berries-but make certain your mixture is still mostly the first two ingredients) or use raisins
- Fat… 12 ounces of rendered fat
- 1 teaspoon of salt per pound of meat (half that much if I salt or vinegar coat the meat for drying)
Extras for a sweeter tasting pemmican
- 8 ounces of nuts (use unsalted nuts, sunflower seeds or almond flour)
- 8 ounces of raw honey (make sure there is no High Fructose Corn Syrup in it)
Dehydrate the meat or fish
Normal Civility Method: You can speed up the process of drying meat/fish in your oven if sliced very thinly. Place it on a flat tray in your oven for 8 hours at about 115o Fahrenheit. If you heat lean meat at a higher temperature, it virtually ‘cooks’ it and removes much of the nutrition, ruining your pemmican. After the oven, lay the meat/fish out on paper towel lined trays to let it finish air drying. Depending on its environment… about another 12 to 36 hours.
Grid-Down Method: You can dry meat or fish in most climates by slicing the meat/fish very thinly. You must use lean meat. Make certain it is cut very thin so the inside part will dry as well as the outside. Then, on meat, put a liberal amount of salt or lightly coat it with red wine vinegar, covering it thoroughly. Lay it in a paper towel lined cookie pan or hang it inside on wire or coat hangers, out of reach from flies, at room temperature until completely dry (48 to 72 hours).
I’ve cured meat outside in the sun from just about everything that walked or crawled in Africa (except humans) with no ill effects. I do this now when making South African Biltong. Another recipe that will be going into the Civil Defense Manual. You won’t eat American Made beef jerky again after one bite of Biltong.
With either method: When you think it’s dry, cut your thickest pieces open to ensure they have dried inside. Any moisture or areas that are not dry of meat/fish may cause the pemmican to spoil quickly, defeating the feature of long shelf life of pemmican.
Dehydrate the berries
Normal Civility Method: Spread out on a cookie pan and heat in your oven for 4 hours at 200o Fahrenheit.
Grid-Down Method: You can dry berries inside at room temperature (48 to 72 hours).
With either method: Lightly crush the berries to expose the inner moist parts to air drying. Lay the berries in a paper towel lined flat cookie pan and dry at room temperature. Again, they must be completely dry or remaining moisture may spoil your pemmican.
Render the meat or fish fat
Normal Civility Method: Heat in a pan on your oven until all fat has melted.
Grid-Down Method: Heat over a low fire until all the fat has melted.
Strain out impurities: Separate out the impurities and any pieces out of the fat with a wire mesh strainer by pouring the rendered fat through a strainer into a fire compatible container.
Pulverize the ingredients
Blend, pound, crush or hammer the dried ingredients… meat/fish, and berries into a saw-dust like consistency.
Normal Civility Method: Use your blender to make into the closest consistency of a powder you can get.
Grid-Down Method: Use a large, flat and smooth river stone as your grinding base (the mortar, so to speak) and a smaller smooth river stone that you can hold in your hand as your crushing tool (a sort of pestle. Not pounding so much, as rolling the ingredients to crush. Roll and crush the meat or fish. Let it dry while you roll and crush the berries. You want as close to a saw-dust type mixture of meat/fish and berries as you can get.
Mix the ingredients
Combine all ingredients. Wash your hands thoroughly. The more bacteria on your hands, the quicker your pemmican will spoil. Using a round bottom mixing bowl, pour your saw-dust ground ingredients into it. Heat your rendered fat back to liquid form and pour some of it over the ingredient in the mixing bowl. Squeeze the liquid fat into the other ingredients through your fingers, like when you were a kid squeezing nutty putty through your fingers, until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
Form the mixture into a pan
Take a pan or whatever you want to use. I used a cupcake tray once. Press the pemmican mixture into the tray evenly. Pemmican will dry further the more it ages. Cut it into pieces the size and shape you want. Refrigeration or freezing makes pemmican last longer.
After a week or so of continued open-air drying, I wrap mine in paper towels with a rubber band around or it in sandwich baggies with a hole poked in the baggie to let any further moisture out. I don’t seal mine air tight in baggies at room temperature, because moisture accumulation in the sealed bag will actually cause pemmican to spoil.
One of my favorite English actors… Toby Jones (Dr. David Pilcher in Wayward Pines) made a quote about life threatening Catastrophes and issues in the television series “Wayward Pines” that goes something like this…
The problem is the concept of time… it seemingly goes on forever… nothing is of a demanding urgency to some and the problem isn’t real unless it affects them directly… and then it’s too late.”
The same is true of encouraging people to have stored water and Emergency Foods when disaster strikes. It isn’t real until it directly affects you… then it’s too late. Don’t live in gloom and doom… prepare.
Think of your family… you’d do anything for them…
Then live how I live as follows…
– Jack Lawson
It’s interesting to note Mr. and Mrs. American… that in some of the ‘Liberal Areas’ there’s a growing movement back to localized food production. This started as producing organic food but has evolved into providing much of the food needs of people on a localized basis. People put their heads together to address a real-life issue and have come up with a transition back to the “Garden to Table” food supply system.
In these areas, local farmers are beginning to bring their produce to ‘Farmer’s Markets’ which are, along with stores that are dealing only with natural and organic produce from area farmers and suppliers, providing the primary food sources for these areas.
Many of these areas are starting community gardens out of necessity because of the ever-increasing cost of food. This is a real positive movement. Nutrient dense organic foods… without the complex, sophisticated and prone to stoppage normal grocery store supply chain.
As for this time of abundant food stocks… go to your favorite ‘Big Box’ store and buy rice, beans and bottled water. It’s just sitting there waiting for you… and it’s cheaper than taking the family out for one dinner.