There’s little else as critical for survival as food; and it’s not just about humans either – everything and anything that lives needs some form of nourishment. There are however some foods that reign supreme when it comes to nutrients and health benefits and pemmican is such an example. Introducing the little known super food – a recipe for your survival.
The Little-Known Super Food
Dating back to the times of the Native Americans, this one-of-a-kind food is so resourceful that it can cater to the ‘heavy-duty’ physical needs of athletes (especially long-distance bikers and runners), as well as those of outdoor adventures (especially hikers and campers), fitness enthusiasts and just about anyone looking to add a nutrient-dense item to their diet.
Despite its seriously cool health benefits, only a few people today know what pemmican is and even fewer know how to make it on their own. Take the time to go through this article and you’ll find out more about its composition, nutritional value and a great pemmican recipe that is totally home-cooking-friendly.
So what is pemmican? in a nutshell: a high-calorie, nutrient-dense mixture of dried, powdered meat and rendered fat.
The traditional meat used in pemmican is bison but deer, beef, elk, moose, caribou, or any other meat can successfully replace it as long as it’s thoroughly dried. Berries – cranberries, chokeberries, blueberries, June berries etc. – cherries, currants, nuts, honey and even maple syrup can be added for additional flavour and nutrients. When ready, pemmican is dark in colour, with a dense texture, tough consistency and strong flavour. Some enjoy it without reserve, for others it takes practice. Taste pallets aside, this food’s value is undeniable and its ‘power-house’ status rightfully earned.
Health Benefits At A Glance
Pemmican will boost your protein consumption and energy level (after all, it was what helped Native Americans survive strenuous journeys and brutal winters for centuries), a feat made possible by its condensed composition:
- Healthy Fat
it’s the combination of pure protein and fat makes pemmican such a great survival food. In fact, according to Dr. Loren Cordain (a Professor Emeritus with the Department of Health & Exercise Science at Colorado State University) pemmican was the reason Plains Indians, unlike 19th century frontiersmen, were not affected by ‘rabbit starvation’ – a disease that occurs when the physiologic protein ceiling (¬35 to 40% of the normal daily calories input) is exceeded on a daily basis.
This food’s pure fat content is one of the reasons pemmican can last for such a long time without refrigeration. The same is instrumental in nutrient absorption as well. Needless to say, moderation is key to harvesting all the benefits of pemmican while avoiding unwanted consequences.
Protein is an essential nutrient. Bones, muscles, blood, cartilage and skin are all made up (at least in part) by protein; which also plays a vital part in muscle recovery (the restoration process of microscopic tears in muscle fiber). And that’s not all: enzymes, hormones and vitamins need protein as well, in order to be produced.
Due to its high concentration of meat, pemmican is extremely high in protein. Most types contain over 20 grams of protein per serving, therefore supplying more than one-third of the recommended daily amount.
- Antioxidants & Vitamin C
The variety of berries used while producing pemmican gives it its high level of Vitamin C and antioxidants. The human body uses Vitamin C to maintain tissues and bones, boost the immune system, support the healing process and prevent a number of diseases (from the common cold, to the ill-famed scurvy). June berries are of particular interest since it was proven that they are significantly higher in protein, calcium, fiber, vitamins C and A and are uniquely able to beef up their antioxidants level when combined with meat. Also, antioxidants facilitate pemmican’s exceptionally long shelf life, one more of its many attributes.
The ‘How-To’ Guide
If you decide to make homemade pemmican and have June berries available do not hesitate to use them – this way you’re sure to add extra flavour and extra benefits to your final result. But first things first: meat choice.
Buffalo meat (coming from bison) is traditionally used in pemmican. It’s very high in essential vitamins and minerals, protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and it particularly stands out as a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. They support healthy brain function and reduce the risk of high-risk conditions such as cancer, arthritis and heart disease. However the human body is not able to produce omega-3 fatty acids by itself, it needs external input. This is where healthy, good quality food makes all the difference – make sure to purchase grass-fed bison, as grass feeding is a more eco & animal-friendly method of meat production than common grain feeding.
As mentioned earlier, other types of meat can be used in the process, provided that they are thoroughly dried. Let’s roll our sleeves up with this traditional recipe from the Alderleaf Wilderness College.
4 cups of a lean ground meat (choose your favourite)
3 cups of dried fruit, any variety will do
2 cups of rendered fat (always buy from trustworthy sources)
Slice the meat and spread it very thinly on a baking sheet. Place the meat in a 180 degree F oven to dry out for at least 8 hours – you know it’s ready when it shows a crisp, leathery texture and no moisture left.
Transfer the dried meat to a blender (or food processor) and grind it to a powder-like consistency. Add the dried fruit in and grind again, but not as fine-textured as the meat – leave small lumps. Warm up the rendered fat separately, until it becomes a liquid (small saucepan, medium heat). Next: combine meat and berries in a large bowl then slowly add the fat to the mixture and blend it by hand. Only add enough fat to make the meat and berries come together. Shape the resulting pemmican into balls or bars and you now have bite-sized power banks to use while travelling or camping.
Facing The Great Outdoors
Calorie consumption is indispensable for all types of physical activity, which is why Pemmican makes such an ideal companion for outdoor recreational activities such as biking, hiking, camping and backpacking. It will allow you to cut down on bulk without sacrificing the quality fuel your body needs – plus, it doesn’t need refrigeration to stay fresh and useful. Packing in some 800+ calories per serving, this lightweight ‘friend’ will help you do the heavy-lifting in intense, challenging situations.