The Backwoods Gourmet’s Guide to Homemade Pemmican

The dirty little secret of hikers, backpackers, woodsmen, and hunters is that the ingredients in our beloved trail mix are little different from the contents of your average seven-year-old’s trick-or-treat bag. The truth will set you free, and the truth is that we’re basically scarfing down on the equivalent of Milky Ways, M&Ms and Swedish Fish.

Jedediah Smith, Jim Bridger and Liver-Eatin’ Johnson didn’t rely on candy to survive in the wild (the latter liked human livers, usually extracted from members of the Crow tribe, but that’s another story). Instead, they often chowed down on pemmican.

Native Americans created pemmican. The Cree word translates to “fat,” and a pound a day will keep you going in the toughest conditions. Sub-zero explorers like Robert Scott and Roald Admundsen swore by the stuff. It’s a little like Chinese food, in that you’ll still feel hungry after you eat a third of a pound. Just give it time. Pemmican expands, and provides a long-lasting boost that won’t rot your teeth.

Materials Needed (10-lb batch)
• Jerked lean meat, 5 lbs (preferably beef, buffalo, venison or moose)
• Brown sugar, ½ lb
• Raisins, ¾ lb
• Grease, 4 lbs (rendered from suet . . . butchers will pretty much give this away)
• Dehydrator
• Food processor or blender

1. Dry 5 lbs. beef over a fire or in your fancy Ron Popeil dehydrator. Remove all moisture and don’t add salt.

2. Grind the jerky until it’s the consistency of corn meal.

3. Add the raisins and sugar. Mix well.

4. Melt the suet (that’s the hard, white, beef fat found around a beefy critter’s loins and kidneys). Pour the grease into your dry ingredients while it’s still hot and liquid. Stir well.

5. Mold into balls, bars, cookies or whatever suits your fancy. Let it dry.

Bag your pemmican. It keeps for several months on its own, and much like a Twinkie, keeps indefinitely if you vacuum seal the bag. You can fry it, boil it, or eat it raw when it’s time to dine.

You’ll have loads of energy, lose the hunger pangs and mightily piss off the dentist who was making a killing off your addiction to commercially prepared candy-corn trail mix.

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