This past week, we led a pemmican making workshop as part of the Woodwards’ Indigenous Winter Market and Festival! Pemmican, for those who are not familiar, is an indigenous food that was and is made by a number of indigenous peoples across Canada.
Pemmican, a combination of finely ground dried meat and rendered animal fat (nuts, seeds, fruit may be added), was used by indigenous peoples as an easily transportable high energy food source for long hunting and other journeys. Kept out of sun, and away from moisture, pemmican would be stored in caches along trails, allowing hunters to travel lightly. Being made from cured (note, not cooked meat) and animal fat that is heated (to remove moisture ), pemmican can be stored for years without other preservation methods.
We like to think of pemmican as being the original ‘power bar’. Made with whole ingredients, pemmican is high in protein and if seeds, nuts and dried fruit are added, micro nutrients, minerals, fiber and vitamin c allow for a food that contains a complete complex of important nutrients. It is a great food for snacking when you don’t have time for a full meal, but need something nutritious, and without added sugar, it is excellent for folks concerned about blood sugar issues.
We like to feature pemmican on our charcuterie and anti-pasti trays when catering, giving people a chance to try something a little different (but not so new!).
If you don’t want do the meat curing yourself, you can make pemmican easily at home, by starting with a high quality cured buffalo/bison meat from a reliable supplier.
Here is a simple recipe to try at home:
1/2 pound dried, cured bison meat (neutral flavor)
1/2 pound animal fat (lard)
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried wild blueberries
1/2 cup dried wild cranberries
1. chop then grind the meat in a food processor or old school style with a mortar and pestle (if you’re up for it!).
2. toast pumpkin seeds (you can also use sunflower seeds or other nuts if you are wishing to change the flavor) lightly, then add to the ground meat in the food processor.
3. add the dried cranberries and blueberries to the meat and seeds. Process the mixture until it starts to clump together. Place this mixture into a bowl.
4. render the lard, by heating up to 200 degrees F. This separates the fat from moisture and other elements that would lead to the fat becoming rancid.
5. add the rendered lard to the meat, seed and fruit mixture and combine well. Store in cool, dry setting. Form into balls or squares, eat and enjoy!