Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
The Process of Producing Pemmican
Display Avatars Sort By:
Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
The Process of Producing Pemmican on 03/17/2012 00:35:22 MDT Print View

After reading some of the Paleo and ketogenic threads here, and recalling some of my NaDene friends' favorite foods, I decided to make some basic pemmican with an eye to using it as a primary food on a trip yet to be determined. Sadly, I have no current access to my northern friends' moose, nor any local grass fed beef. This pemmican is made from standard American food industry produced beef. Maybe next time I can get the good stuff...

Pemm 01

I started with about 4 lbs of beef round, fat removed, which I sliced thin across the grain. I sliced it across the grain thinking it would be easier to reduce to shreds than slicing with the grain - which proved to be true. The meat was unseasoned in any way, just the way the NaDene prefer.

Pemm 02

Next I loaded the slices into the dehydrator.

Pemm 03

Eighteen hours later, my 4 lbs of meat had become 1 1/4 lbs of dry meat.

Pemm 04

Here's the bowl full of dry meat slices...

Pemm 05

...which I broke down by hand to smaller bits to fit into the food processor.

Pemm 06

Pulsing the Ninja food processor reduced the quarter sized pieces of dry meat to a fibrous powder.

Pemm 07

Pemm 09

Before long I had a bowl full of what looked like Mexican Carne Secca.

Pemm 10

Meanwhile the chunks of suet were being rendered.

Pemm 11

Note the very low flame to keep the fat from burning.

Edited by grampa on 03/17/2012 00:47:36 MDT.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
The Process of Producing Pemmican 2 on 03/17/2012 00:46:44 MDT Print View

Rendering the fat took several hours.

Pemm 12

Shortly after beginning, I chopped all the suet into much smaller pieces, hoping to reduce the rendering time. I'm not sure it worked!

Pemm 13

Once the fat was reduced to liquid, I began mixing it into the shredded dry meat.

Pemm 14

I decided I had enough fat in the meat when it didn't absorb any more liquid fat!

Pemm 15

It took well over another hour for the mixture to cool to the point where I could begin forming it into patties.

Pemm 16

Pemm 17

Once completely cooled, I wrapped the patties in Saran wrap, and bagged them for storage in the freezer.

I sampled some of the cooled pemmican - it is quite bland with a very meaty taste. It is very dense! I suspect that a patty (a bit over 2 oz), some dried fruit and a few nuts would make a very filling and enduring meal.

Assuming this works out okay on the trail, I'll likely try berries or spices in the next batch.

As this is the first time I've tried making this Paleo delicacy, any suggestions or ideas for improvement in product or process would be welcome!

Edited by grampa on 03/17/2012 00:54:34 MDT.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: pemmican on 03/17/2012 05:42:52 MDT Print View

Stephen,
What temperature setting did you use to dry your meat?
About how thick were your slices?
Been thinking about trying this with some of our pastured beef.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Temp and Thickness on 03/17/2012 09:36:54 MDT Print View

The top setting on the dehydrator is 160*F, which is what I used. Slices were between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick.

Jon Franklin
(Junto01) - F
Re: The Process of Producing Pemmican 2 on 03/23/2012 11:27:02 MDT Print View

Thanks for the report on your pemmican experience, with pics. Next, I'm awaiting your report on a 100% pemmican 7-day backpacking trip.

By the way, were you a member of backpackflyfishing.com? I seem to remember your forum name...?

Harald Hope
(hhope) - M

Locale: East Bay
too hot on 03/31/2012 13:26:18 MDT Print View

Pemmican dried meat isn't supposed to be cooked, 160 cooks it. I made that mistake on my first batch of dried meats too, was wondering why the meat tasted so cooked. I checked mine before modifying it, the dehydrator, and it was running at 140 plus, which definitely cooks not dries the meat, not good. A top fan modded from a computer case fixed the problem.

Recommended temp is 120 or less, that works well I find, takes a bit longer to dry. The flavor difference is amazing between cooked and dried, dried it tastes exactlye the meat almost, cooked it just tastes like any cooked meat.

For rendering fats, suet is mentioned but not recommended by most because it's a harder fat, and has a stronger flavor, regular fat works well and is easy to find. The less time you spend looking for the fat the better, any butcher is usually happy to give it to you for free. Always grass fed if you can find it, if you can't, unfortunate, the taste difference is quite significant.

Cube the fat into 1/2 inch or so chunks, seems to work well, otherwise the chunks are too big and you probably lose a lot of the fat in the centers, while the surrounding fats get too hot. Use a thermometer, keep fats under 240, if they go over, you can taste the burnt taste, a friend of mine who sampled my first batch correctly detected the fact the fat had gone a bit too hot, 250, 255, by taste alone. As soon as temp in rendering pot hits 240 and you can't lower it by lowering heat, remove from heat, you won't get much more rendered fat and risk overheating it.

Also, mix by weight, I tried a few different percentages, but the recommended 50/50 is right, weigh dried meat when done, then mix in the same weight of rendered fat, it works. More, and it's a bit too greasy, less, and a bit too fluffy.

I read every online resource I could find on making real pemmican, and the above is what all the serious ones agreed on, and I can see why, it's a basic time tested method and requires no real change.

No need to freeze it if you did it right, it lasts years. Only variable is plastic bags, First Nation people used skins, about 80/100 pounds sealed with fat into a skin pouch, skins will breathe a bit, unlike plastics, so that might be a matter for concern. I've left mine out at room temp now for a few months, seems fine.

For regular dried meats, dried at 120 or below, with fat, however, you want to probably freeze them until you use them, that's my feeling, they don't have the advantage of no water at all like pemmican properly done has.

Edited by hhope on 03/31/2012 13:32:42 MDT.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Pemmican on 03/31/2012 16:51:11 MDT Print View

@Jon: I think I was/am a member there, though I haven't been there in a while. That was one of Jason's forums, right? He seems to move from one thing to another with great frequency!

@ Harald: Thanks for the info. The native folk I knew just dry meat over the wood stove. The "modern, civilized, hygienic" things I read insisted on 165*F as minimal temperature for drying meat.

I got the fat I used from the butcher, free, from oxtail trimmings. I started with the fat as received from the butcher, but before the process got too far, I pulled the pieces out and chopped them much finer, as the photos show. All done on extremely low flame, no burning or burned taste whatsoever.

I did not measure amounts of meat to fat, either by volume or weight. Just added fat until the mix felt both malleable and cohesive.

FWIW, my First Nations friends did not make pemmican - they preferred separate dry meat (moose or caribou) combined when eating with dried fat globules from the animal's gut area (fat around the kidneys, intestine, etc.).

If you go here:

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=62208

...there's a follow-up on adding spices to the mix. Personally I find the addition of spices makes it much tastier, and I can't see any reason to think it would make it less preservable.

Harald Hope
(hhope) - M

Locale: East Bay
pemmican is an odd one on 03/31/2012 18:06:05 MDT Print View

I believe not many first nations people back in the day made pemmican, I think though I'm not certain it was mostly in the plains area. Not further north, and haven't read about that being done in the west. Drying meat, of course, all over, but pemmmican is a very specific thing.

From what I've read, drying on racks, with or without fire, was the norm, makes sense to me. How they do it today of course will reflect the tools present today, like wood stoves, and how cold/warm it is, and when the animal is killed, re time of year. The idea is to preserve as much of the meat's vitamins and such as possible, I guess anyway.

I've debated a bit about the temp, the flavor difference is unmistakable however, if it's raw meat, it's way better than if it's cooked meat. Risk of bacteria in the raw? of course. That's why I'd never make this for other people, and especially not commercially. The meat gets a very cool flavor when it's dried not cooked, it's an interesting thing, almost like you're eating it raw, but it's dry. The fat too tastes really good when it's done that way.

Wonder what the temp over a wood stove actually is. I was surprised by the temperatures when I measured them.

Your friend's dried meat sounds excellent, I did something similar, but with leaving the fat untrimmed, so it dried as a glob with the meat, and it tastes absurdly good. Would be even better with discreet fat globules, I can see that, it's a good idea.

I see no reason for spices, with good meat and good fat, grass fed, this stuff is so absurdly good I have to stop myself from just eating it all before I hit any trail. But I guess if one likes such things. There's something with salt though, that's especially frowned on in the pemmican stuff I read on, which makes sense, salt is going to pretty majorly change the chemistry. Pepper, probably not much.

Edited by hhope on 03/31/2012 18:12:38 MDT.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Dry meat taste on 03/31/2012 21:38:03 MDT Print View

To be perfectly honest, my friends' dry meat, dried at a relatively low temp over a wood stove, with no smoke, salt or spice, tasted pretty much like an old dried blood scab to me. My California cuisine-raised taste buds did not find it appetizing! The fat was, well, fat. Moose and/or caribou, like the meat, raised on all natural forage!

Obviously I am not well equipped to enjoy the wondrous flavor of plain dry meat and fat. But I wish you joy of it indeed!

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: The Process of Producing Pemmican on 04/04/2012 12:48:27 MDT Print View

You make this look so easy. Did you put salt in your pemmican? I bought pemmican and it contains salt and I think that is what helps it taste less bland. So if I make it I will put salt in it.

Is your pemmican shelf-stable? That's my big issue with purchasing pemmican is that it is not shelf stable.

How many estimated days worth of pemmican did you get out of your 4lbs of beef?

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Salt! on 04/04/2012 14:57:30 MDT Print View

@ Piper: It wasn't hard to make at all. I'll have to experiment on the trail before I know how many days worth I made - and whether or not to supplement!

Here's a follow-up on adding herbs and spices...and salt!

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=62208

The only possible downside to adding salt is that it seems to attract moisture, which means some sort of moisture barrier would be needed.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Salt! on 04/08/2012 12:45:08 MDT Print View

Another question for you. I'm really considering ordering some kidney fat and beef and going for it. Have you found that your pemmican is shelf-stable? I won't really NEED the pemmican until July. And then I want to take it on a 10-day trip. So it's got to last at least 10 days unfrozen.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Shelf stable? on 04/08/2012 15:51:47 MDT Print View

Sitting on its shelf in the deep freeze, it's quite stable! ;)

With the addition of salt, which might draw in moisture, I'm keeping it frozen until I use it. I'm not really wanting to test its shelf-stable-ness in this condition.

Kidney fat would be great! Historically, I understand that marrow fat was regarded as the best for pemmican.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Shelf stable? on 06/10/2012 15:28:19 MDT Print View

I finally got around to trying my own hand at pemmican. I used London broils on sale at Ralphs and already rendered beef tallow from US Wellness meats.

I bought a food processor especially for the job. The thing didn't work at all. The meat would get stuck between the blades and the side of the bowl and then the whole thing would get hot. Our blender ground it up effortlessly.

I used a cheap Ronco dehydrator that doesn't have a fan or temperature control or anything.

Managed to make 11 "hockey pucks" (muffin tins) from about 4 lbs of meat (4lbs when it was raw). I added the melted tallow without measuring. Just added it until it looked right. I used no salt or spices. It tastes really bland and sort of crunchy but not bad at all. I hope the dried meat softens after a while. I hope I didn't use too little tallow. Any more and it might have gotten kind of soupy.

The US Wellness tallow smells and tastes great, by the way. Kind of toasty and comforting. I worried the meat smelled too much like dog food. The tallow makes it all taste like people food.