How to Make Pemmican – What is it and Why Eat it?

Have you ever wanted a meal that you can store forever and eat whenever? Something that you could easily prepare with the simplest food ingredients available?

Pemmican is your answer. While it could be strange or sometimes unbelievable that some food hardly spoils, pemmican is a superfood that can be stored forever if prepared correctly.

So how to make it? Mix dried meat, fat, and berries, and you have yourself a highly nutritious meal that can last. Simple, right?

Before getting into details on how to make pemmican, we should look at some interesting bits of information about it!

sliced pemmican and the garlic on the side

A Quick Look at Pemmican

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Pemmican originated in Inuit tribes in North America. It was widely used when hunters needed a light yet sustainable form of food that could stay edible during long adventures.

Many people love hiking and adventures, while others have a lifestyle that forces them away from the comfort of their houses. Learning how to make pemmican is a useful skill for anyone who would spend a long time in a place where no food services are accessible.


Why Would You Eat Pemmican?

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The main reason is its nutritional value. Around three-quarters of a pound (approximately 340 grams) of pemmican have a nutritional value that ranges between 2300 to 2900 calories, which is the number of daily calories an average adult would need. It can help you endure harsh conditions should the time come.


Ingredients for Pemmican

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First, you need to select your meat. Venison, beef, pork, sheep, or even moose would be a good choice. Avoid lean meat like rabbit and fish meat. They would shorten the lifespan of your pemmican and reduce its nutritional value.

Keep in mind that approximately 5 lbs. of meat will form into one lb. of dry meat. Along with other ingredients, 1/4 lb. of dried meat should give you around 340 grams of pemmican.

sliced meat on a board with herbs

Second, you need some animal fat. You can purchase rendered fat if you like. But your meat source can also be your fat source. Cut off any fat from your meat since you’ll need it later on.

While you can mix meat and fat properly yet still make long-lasting pemmican, you could also add some optional ingredients. They could be wet ingredients like honey, syrup, and caramel, or dry ingredients like dried fruits, nuts, herbs, and berries. They make the taste a lot more tolerable. Last but not least, you need some salt and pepper.


How to Make Pemmican


Here are the steps, along with a simple Pemmican recipe.


1)   Dry Your Meat

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Cut off any fat from the meat and save it since you’ll need it for later, then cut the meat down into strips. Follow that by dehydrating the meat using a dehydrator. Simply spread the cut meat onto the dehydrator tray after covering it with non-stick sheets. Keep the temperature at 145 °F for 4-6 hours.

Some fat may appear on the meat surface. Use a brush to clean it off. You should know the meat is adequately dried when it’s completely brittle and breaks down with the slightest effort.

If no dehydrator is available, a conventional house oven would still work. However, raise the temperature to 170 °F for around 15 hours. Open it every couple of hours to clean off the excess fat and let any trapped moisture escape.


2)   Prepare Your Fat

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It’s not advisable to use the fat as it is. It must be rendered to remove impurities. Rendered beef or sheep fat is called tallow. This is what you would need for your pemmican.

Bring over the fat you removed from your meat. Cut it down into small pieces and put them into a food processor until they look and feel like ground meat.

In case no food processor is available, use a sharp knife to cut down the fat into small pieces. Try to make them as small as you can to reduce the time of rendering as much as possible.

Put the pieces into a cooking pot and apply low temperature, typically 130 to 140 °F. The fat should take around 5 to 6 hours to be completely rendered. You’ll notice small particles floating over the surface (the impurities you are trying to filter).

The process is complete when there’s a clear liquid with impurities floating over the surface. Use a food filtering spoon to extract the clear tallow.


3)   Grinding

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You can use a food processor if available. If not, use a mortar and a pestle to grind your meat for around 10 minutes or until it reaches a powder-like consistency. If you want to add any other dry ingredients like berries or almonds, you can grind them now as well.

Keep in mind that berries will change the flavor considerably. They also take a long time to grind (around 20 minutes) if you don’t have a food processor.


4)   Mixing Your Pemmican

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Use the mortar and pestle to mix 110 grams (⅓ of a cup) of ground meat with 75 (½ of a cup) grams of your ground dry ingredients. It should take 5 minutes to reach a homogeneous consistency.

Put your mixture of ground meat and dry ingredients into a bowl, and add 100 grams (½ of a cup) of tallow onto it. Use a tablespoon to stir your mixture correctly.

This is when you could add ingredients like salt, pepper, and herbs to the mix. You don’t have to add all of them or just one of them. But they all should be in powder form.

To avoid making your pemmican too salty, don’t use more than ⅛ teaspoon of salt or pepper. Don’t forget to mix again after adding anything till the mixture is homogeneous.


5)   Wrapping and Storage

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You’ll need a relatively large plate and wrapping plastic. Place the plastic over the plate, and then add a portion of your desired size onto the plastic.

Carefully wrap the portion while making sure there’s no room for air to go in or out. Then press it against the plate to form any shape you feel comfortable with. Most commonly, Pemmican is shaped into bars, balls, or stripes.

It’s preferable to have an additional wrapping of foil over the plastic wrap since it can tear easily, and that would spoil your food. Keep in mind that you don’t need to store it in a refrigerator. At this point, the pemmican is ready to go into your bag.


Tips to Keep In Mind

Refrigerate the fat for 5 hours before cutting it. It should come out with a butter-like consistency which is much easier to handle than warm fat.

Instead of mortar and pestle, you can use a food processor to mix your ingredients much faster.

If you had purchased rendered fat, it would be in solid form. Liquefy it in a pan. Regularly use a thermometer till its temperature reaches 120 °F. This process should take 5-10 minutes.

If your mixture feels too dry, add another ¼ cup of tallow into the mixture. Keep stirring till it’s all mixed nicely, giving a moist appearance.

sliced meat on a board

How to Make Pemmican – Wrap Up


Pemmican is a great survival companion for harsh times and fun camping adventures alike. The previously mentioned ratios don’t have to be exact. Don’t be afraid to experiment with pemmican until you reach a taste that you accept. You may not get it right the first time, but with practice, it should look, feel, and even taste better.