Published on March 8, 2013 by Amy

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What is Pemmican? Pemmican is a nutritious, preserved food created by Native American Indians. The term Pemmican is derived from pimii, the Cree-Chippewa word for fat. Pemmican consists of a mixture of cooked, dried and shredded buffalo meat, or fish, which is combined with melted fat. The pemmican was tightly packed into a bag made of buffalo skin and used as a convenient type of long lasting food.

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Pemmican – Cured Meat and Fish

The ability to preserve foods meant life or death the American Indian. Curing meat and fish means saving or preserving meat by using processes such as drying, salting and smoking. The following picture shows how fish was cured over an open fire. Other methods included drying meat by cutting it into strips or sheets, and drying it by hanging it on lines.

Cooking and Preparing Buffalo to make Pemmican

The most traditional ingredient used in making pemmican was buffalo meat. Given there were no pots available other methods were found to cook buffalo. The ingenious buffalo cooking method and process was as follows:

  • The buffalo hide was removed from the carcass
  • A bowl-shaped hole was created in the ground
  • The hole was lined with the buffalo skin
  • Water was then poured into the ‘buffalo cooker’ and pieces of meat added to the water
  • Large quantities of hot stones were heated in a nearby fire and dropped into the buffalo cooker
  • By this process the buffalo meat was boiled
  • A number of Native American tribes cooked meat by boiling in this way and the name of one tribe, the Assiniboine, means the “stone-boilers”. Boiled and dried buffalo meat was used by Native American women to make pemmican.

    How to Make Pemmican – The Pemmican Recipe

    Native American women used dried buffalo meat to make pemmican. How to make pemmican. The method and recipe for making pemmican was as follows:

  • The buffalo meat was first dried
  • The dried meat was heated through over a low fire, and then beaten with sticks or stones into shreds
  • Buffalo tallow was melted and the shredded meat stirred into the hot fat to create pemmican
  • The pemmican was 50 percent meat and 50 percent fat
  • Berries and dried fruit was sometimes added to the pemmican
  • The mixture was tightly packed and fastened into a bag made of buffalo skin
  • The pemmican would then cool and harden
  • Pemmican would last for over a year and was eaten dry or boiled in water
  • Pemmican

    Pemmican is a high-energy, fast food that is easily transportable and long lasting. The Native Americans stored their supplies of pemmican in bags that were usually made of buffalo skin or deer skin. These bags were adopted by the Europeans and became known by the Americans as saddle bags or as a parfleche by the French.

    Source: warpaths2peacepipes Unabridged
    Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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