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OUACHITA BUSHCRAFT AND SURVIVAL: PEMMICAN IS EASY TO MAKE

By Steven E Stillwell

Spring is finally here. The turkeys are gobbling, and the fish are biting! I’m looking forward to hearing about your hunting, fishing, and camping trips, so keep me informed. If you have the ability to teach others, or an exciting story you’d like to share, let’s talk, because I’m constantly interviewing potential guests for our podcast show. 

Let’s make some Pemmican. Knowing how to prepare simple survival foods are how our ancestors survived. Allegedly, the northern plains Indians were responsible for this concoction, and the early settlers even traded with the friendly factions. The recipe is simple and easy to make. Beef, venison and bison were often used, and these will suffice for modern times as well.  The first process is to make some jerky, preferably several pounds, but avoid using any marinades, sauces, or sugars because these can taint your recipe and cause mold or spoilage. You can prepare everything over an open fire-pit, but you have to regulate your temperatures; approximately 120⁰ degrees for 12-15 hours or until the meat is hard and thoroughly dry. Remember, moisture is your enemy. You can also use a modern dehydrator if you’re working inside. 

The next thing required is to render some beef tallow, aka fat. Cut your fatty chunks into smaller cubes, place them in a cast-iron Dutch-oven or similar pot, and let everything simmer until the fat liquefies, and these pieces turn into cracklings. The tricky part is; don’t let them scorch or burn, because this will affect the flavor. Again, you want to regulate the fire’s temperature to approximately 250⁰ degrees. It’s imperative that the fat separates from the crispy cubes. When done, remove the cracklings and let your fluid slowly cool; you’ll reheat it later. 

Find a suitable cutting board, the thicker the better, because you’re going to pulverize and grind your jerky into a fine powder. If you’re in the field, you can use a smooth, round creek stone to accomplish this task. For extra flavor, you can toss-in some finely ground hickory nuts, crushed dehydrated black berries, or you can forego this extra process.  

When you’ve completed these steps, it’s time to combine all of your ingredients. The recipe books advise using a 50-50 mixture of tallow, and jerky, but the trick is to combine everything instinctively like your grandmother use to do, and roll this concoction into small balls or flattened strips. Go slowly until you make a fine paste, and when you’re finished, let everything solidify and dry. Do not store in an airtight container, because any moisture, whatsoever, will cause your survival food to mold or go rancid. Some of the early settlers wrapped their pemmican in bandanas or cheese-cloths, and they stowed it away in their haversacks. 

Pemmican is an excellent survival food to use in the woods, or on the trail, because it’s high in calories, and protein. If you’re exerting a lot of energy, you’ve got to replenish it, and this is one of the easiest, and probably the least expensive ways to sustain yourself.

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