You're stranded in the wilderness; there's not a soul in sight for kilometres and you're starving. Your only hope is in your backpack. Quick! What have you got packed?
An experienced adventurer will answer - pemmican. This ultimate survival food has been used as the indispensable part of any adventurer's emergency kit for centuries.
Pemmican has a fascinating and long history, and adventurers still make sure to pack it whenever they go on physically demanding trips.
Source: Heather Atwood
The story of pemmican begins in the 18th century when it was first made by the North American indigenous people. These people lived in severe conditions and needed to find a way to survive during the cold winters when there was very little or no food available.
Then they came up with an idea - they mixed dried meat with animal fat and ended up with a highly nutritious food that could last for years. They called it Pemmican, coming from a Cree word pimî, meaning "fat, grease."
The most famous pemmican producers were Métis people, who were the children of French voyageurs and their Native American wives. Métis people created their whole social structure on buffalo hunting. The men were trappers who hunted buffalos, while their wives processed them.
Interestingly, they managed to use up everything, not letting anything go to waste. One of their products was pemmican, which they used and stored as food but also traded with the Hudson Bay Company and the competing North West Company. The competition was so fierce that a battle broke out in 1814, called the Pemmican War. Just a small preview of how important pemmican actually was.
So, what exactly is pemmican, and how is it made?
In the 18th and 19th century, buffalo meat was the go-to choice. Sometimes it was replaced with deer, moose or elk. The meat was cut into thin strips and laid on wooden racks to dry near the fire.
Once the meat was dry and brittle, it was pulverized and put into rawhide. Then, liquid suet was poured over the meat and the bag was sewn shut. Adding some dried berries was an optional way to make the pemmican tastier.
Prepared and stored like this, pemmican could last 10 to 30 years. That's why it was named the iron ration - the food that was available when nothing else was.
From Survival To Adventure
Natives depended on pemmican for survival. Today, it is used by adventurers around the world as the ultimate companion in extreme conditions. Campers headed to the colder parts of the planet count on pemmican to keep them energized.
Pemmican is the best bet against hunger and exhaustion, especially for those planning to stay longer and far from food sources. In fact, pemmican is so calorie-dense that just a little bit can keep you going all day.
The preparation goes a little differently today. We mostly use beef, preheat the oven to the lowest possible temperature, and let it dry. A dehydrator can help too, but you will still need to bake the meat for half an hour in your oven before you use the dehydrator.
Remember that the meat needs to be dry and brittle enough so that you can grind it and make a powder from it. You can do this quickly and simply in a food processor. Then, melt an equal amount of suet and mix it with the meat powder. Your pemmican is all done.
If you want to add more flavour, you can add dry berries. Blueberries, cherries, cranberries, or any other fruit that can be dried and crushed into a powder will work just fine. Some people even add nuts, raisins, peanut butter and honey.
Source: Primal Survivor
After that, just put it in a Ziploc bag and store it in the freezer to prolong its shelf time.
Pemmican is supposed to be consumed slowly. Just take a bite and chew on it for a while. This power food is so filling because of the fat that slowly breaks down in your body, giving it energy for hours.
You can eat pemmican as is, or try one of the delicious trappers' recipes. Here are our favourites.
Quick and simple to make, Rub-a-boo is a soup with pemmican as its main ingredient.
Before you head out to your extreme camping trip, prepare everything for the perfect Rub-a-boo, including this stylish and useful Iron & Resin Camp Mug available in red and blue, to eat your soup from.
Here’s what you'll need:
- A pot
Gather your ingredients and start chopping! Cut the veggies and pemmican into chunks. Then put them all in a bowl of boiling water and cook. You can use just potatoes and carrots, but the point of Rub-a-boo is to use everything you have available. Use the spices you like and make the soup thicker by adding some flour.
Not all adventurers are fans of pemmican, so you can make some delicious soup at home instead and bring it on your camping trip. An insulated bottle like the S'well Bottle will keep your soup hot for 12 straight hours.
Another super simple dish to make with pemmican, and it's even tastier than the soup.
Here's what to bring:
- A pan
Cut the pemmican into chunks and put it in a pan over the fire. You don't need any fat because there's already plenty in the pemmican. Cut up the onions and potatoes and put them into the pan. Then add whatever spices you want and pour some water into the pan to make a sauce. You can add some flour for thickness.
Pemmican mixes great with all vegetables and spices, so you can even create your own tasty recipes. If you already have a great recipe in mind, share it with us in the comment section!
Clever Adventure Hacks
Pemmican could literally save your life in an emergency. But, there are a couple of similar essentials to pack before you head to another great adventure.
Camping enthusiasts know they have to say goodbye to the comfort and convenience of the city life while they're in the great outdoors. Some of you probably know some of these things by heart, but we want to share these tips with the adventurers-to-be out there.
First of all, make sure to bring along everything you might need for food preparation. A lot of popular camping sites are located close to supermarkets. But, if you're going deeper into the wild, a bag full of essentials will save your neck.
For all your meals, bring the basic spices (salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, paprika) and whatever ingredients you will need. Don't forget your utensils - a knife and a spork are always a good idea - and small pots and pans for preparing the food.
To keep all your food utensils and ingredients safe in one place inside your backpack, place them in a smaller bag like this convenient Patagonia Black Hole Cube.
Or, you can bring some aluminium foil that can serve as a cooking surface when pans and pots are not around. Just shape a piece of foil as a container and put the ingredients inside. You can make French fries, lumberjack breakfast, paella and even cinnamon rolls this way.
When it comes to the spices, they don't have to take up much space either. Instead of bringing whole containers, just pour the amount of spice you'll need into a straw. Seal up each end by heating it with a lighter, and don't forget to label the straws.
If pemmican isn't your protein of choice, consider going with eggs. It's a little tricky to transport them without breaking them. So, break them beforehand. Then you can scramble them up if that's how you like your eggs, or keep them whole and pour them into a plastic bottle. Packing done.
When it comes to preparing eggs, there is cool hack you should definitely try on your next adventure in nature. Pour the scrambled eggs into a Ziploc bag, add some salt, cheese and tomatoes. Put the bag into a pot of boiling water and poach the eggs. You will end up with a perfectly delicious omelette.
If you can't live without coffee but don't really want to pack a coffeemaker, all is not lost. Put a scoop of ground coffee in a coffee filter, and tie it tightly with some dental floss. When you're ready to drink it, just put a bag into boiling water and your coffee will be ready in a minute.
There are other super-foods you can bring on your camping trip to keep you energized. Here are a couple of survival foods that are highly nutritious and can keep well:
- Unsalted nuts
- Beef jerky
- Canned meat (tuna, ham, chicken)
- Energy bars
- Peanut butter
We don't have to tell you how important food is on a camping trip, especially a longer one. If you're not close to a supermarket, what you decide to pack will decide your whole trip.
You will spend a huge amount of calories, especially in the winter, and the food you eat must replace the energy lost. Less demanding trips will require fewer calories, but prepare objectively, and take no more and no less than you need.
And even if pemmican doesn't sound like your cup of soup, make sure to still pay attention to your nutrition in the wild.