The Comanche, Apache and other Native American Indian tribes that roamed Texas did not have MRE meals or power trail bars in their hunting bags or packs. If they were on the trail and were not able to hunt or forage they still had to eat. The foods they carried must provide protein, fats, sugars and enough energy to sustain them for extended periods of time with enough strength to fight, hunt or whatever else was needed. Through out the study of their histories it was found that they carried three major types of food. These were Pemmican, Jerked Meat and Parched Corn. They also supplemented with local foods such as tubers, acorns and other foods. I have covered making Jerky several times and will cover how to parch corn in a later article. This week I want to talk about Pemmican. Most will ask what is Pemmican. Basic Pemmican is dried or jerked meat pounded or shredded and added to crushed and dried fruits and berries. This is all held together with rendered fat and pressed into cakes or balls and dried. It provides a nutritious meal that can sustain one indefinitely. It was and still is easy to prepare, keeps for long periods of time and is relatively easy to carry. There are all sorts of ways to vary it from the basic recipe with the additions of nuts, honey, veggies and your other favorite trail snacks. I have even made it with M&M candies in the mixture, not very authentic but it sure was good on a long backpack hunting trip.
Here is the basic recipe for Pemmican
You will need dried or jerked meat and crushed dried fruit. You may make your own in a dehydrator or oven. Store bought dried fruits and jerky will work fine if you are in a hurry. I use about equal parts meat and fruit but you can adjust the amounts to your taste. I shred mine in the food processor, instead of pounding it with a rock as the Indians once did. Place the dried meat and fruit mixture along with any other ingredients you want in your pemmican in a bowl and add rendered fat until you can form a ball without it crumbling or breaking apart. Press the mixture into a glass or Pyrex dish and let sit until firm or place in the frig to speed up the firming. Cut into bars or squares and wrap. This will keep for months unless you add honey or nuts and then the shelf life is shorter.
If you do not wish to use as much fat you can also use some honey which will of course make it very sweet. I like to add honey to mine but I don't go overboard to avoid a sugar high and the later crash.
I have been asked if one could use Coconut or Palm oil instead of rendered fat and the only problem I see is those oils will melt in our Texas heat. If the trip is in the cold it would most likely work fine.
You can use lard and even add bacon drippings if you like the flavor. I prefer rendered beef fat. Just put some beef fat in a pan or a crock pot and melt the fat until you have a clear golden liquid. Do not let the fat smoke which would mean you are burning it and then it would go rancid. Strain the liquid from the solids and discard the solids, this is the fat you use to bind your pemmican ingredients.
My favorite ingredients include some pecans, walnuts, chocolate chips or M&M candies as I make mine for the food value and taste. I just buy already dried fruit like craisins, blue berries, cherries and apricots. I like it best with dried venison but lean beef will work too. I press mine into a Pyrex dish and let it get firm and then cut into bars. You can wrap in wax paper or just stack the bars and wrap with saran wrap. If I am in a hurry I just put them in a zip lock bag instead of wrapping individually but they will stick together. They will freeze or keep in the refrigerator for years. Some say you can just store them in a dark dry place but I am leery of that in Texas because of our heat.
Not only is Pemmican a great trail food there is also the coolness factor and pride of pulling out your own homemade tasty energy bar when your buddies are pealing the wrapper off of something they bought at Cabelas or REI that tastes like cardboard. Enjoy your efforts, Wild Ed