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Pemmican-Making Tips from Steadfast Provisions

by Steadfast Provisions on August 21, 2022

We've learned a thing or two about how to make pemmican. In this post we'll share a bit of this knowledge.

Congratulations – you’re going to make some pemmican. This is awesome. Here are some basic tips gleaned from months of experimentation about making the best pemmican we possibly could. It is organized in three categories: the meat, the fat, and the pemmican.

 The Meat

  • Choose the LEANEST cut you can find. Bottom round and London broil have worked best for us. This is where getting grass-fed beef gives you a big advantage.
    • Heart is also a good option, with a great texture, although the mineral-rich flavor is a bit too intense for most people. 
  • Thin-slice the meat while it’s partially frozen, if possible. Aim for ¼” thick slices.
  • We have found it best not to salt or otherwise season the meat at all – just simply dehydrate it.
  • Dehydrate at ~150º F for 12-14 hours, or until your slices are easy to snap. 
  • After the meat is dry, shred it up. Shredding in a strong blender works well for us. Don't fill the blender above 2/3 full. 
  • Don’t turn all the meat into powder – it’s fine (better, in fact) to leave some shreds and small chunks. This creates a more satisfying and interesting final product.
  • Prepare the meat BEFORE you render the fat, and then mix the two together as soon as the fat is done rendering – this way you don’t have to melt all the fat again.

 

The Fat

  • We highly recommend the use of suet, or kidney fat. This can come from a cow, pig, or sheep. All are good, but the cow or sheep version will likely have the highest saturated fat content, which is good. Saturated fat will retain more structure, because it is much harder than unsaturated fat. 
  • If you have a meat grinder, use that to grind your raw fat, before you cook it. If no meat grinder, dice it up. This is easiest to do when the fat is partially-frozen
  • Don’t render too hot or too long. The best render we got was at 220º Fahrenheit, for about four hours, on an induction burner with a temperature that we could control within 10º. You can also render in the oven, just make sure to crack it open occasionally, to let out any moist air.
  • If you like the flavor of your fat (the “beefiness”), then go ahead and render it straight.
    • (OR, if you want a “cleaner” fat with less flavor, then we recommend a wet render: add 1 or 2 cups of water in with the fat, at the beginning of the render, and a big pinch of salt. Then once the fat is rendered, cool it down in a round-bottom bowl. The water and salt will be at the bottom of the bowl, liquid, while the fat will float solid on top. Then scrape off the bottom layer of fat (it will be brownish and salty). If you want it even purer, then you can repeat this process again and you’ll end up with an almost flavorless pure white fat.)

 

The Pemmican

  • Measure all ingredients BY WEIGHT. Not by volume. 
  • Mix all of your dry ingredients BEFORE you pour in the fat.
  • Mix your meat and fat 1:1 by weight. This will result in approximately 80% of the calories in the pemmican coming from fat – a good recipe for ketosis and satiety. (Fat contains 9 calories per gram, while protein only contains 4 calories per gram.)
  • For seasoning, we’ve had the best results with simplicity: 
    • Add a bit of salt: up to 0.75% of the total weight of the meat and fat.
    • If you add black pepper, go very light on it. It’s easy for the spice to overpower the flavor palate.
    • We like to add a dash each of onion and garlic powder. Less is more.
    • Raw honey is a great addition. We max out at 4-5% by weight.
    • Traditionally, many cultures added DRIED FRUIT.
      • It’s hard for us to find dried cherries or cranberries without added sugar and sunflower oil, so we don’t add those, for now. But both are high in benzoic acid, which helps inhibit mold growth, leading to a longer shelf life. Other berries could add some nice flavor and tang, too. Just don’t overdo it.
  • Shape: Some people just hand-shape their pemmican into balls, and that’s fine, but it’s more pleasant for the end product to have some shape. We prefer silicone molds for our pemmican, because the fat doesn’t tend to stick to them. 

(Order small bar molds hereOrder larger brick molds here.)

  • Vacuum-sealing leads to the longest shelf life, as oxygen, combined with light, is the main culprit that can degrade the fat in your pemmican. 

 

BONUS: Eating Pemmican Right

  • Pemmican isn’t like any other food: it’s super-concentrated. This means that your belly won’t think you’re full, at first, even if you’ve taken in sufficient calories. This will take some getting used to – don’t overdo it! 
  • Make sure you sip some water when you eat pemmican, because of the dried meat. But don’t chug the water while you eat it – too much water will dilute the stomach acid that breaks the pemmican down. 
  • Enjoy the high saturated fat diet. Many people say they need less water and fewer calories overall, with high sat fat intake. They also feel less afflicted by both hot and cold temperatures. BE STRONG IN THE WILD!
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