Monday, August 17, 2015

It's a Pulverized Meat Miracle!

Pemmican came up in Saturday's post about the classic Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. Despite it being a mainstay of emergency rations well into the 1980s there didn't seem to be a single company offering it today. There are some "pemmican bars" that mix meat with dried fruit, but they're missing the tallow or suet characteristic of classic-era pemmican.

I spent about twenty minutes Googling the subject on Saturday and wrote it off as a product with too little demand to justify production. Imagine my surprise when I ran the exact same search today and discovered completely new results. US Wellness Meats is producing genuine pemmican made from beef, tallow, and dried fruit for the keto market.  According to their company blog it's available in both bars and tubs.  The tub looks like it would be perfect for recreating period pemmican rations.  According to the blog keto users use the bulk material to form up their own pemmican bars, which is exactly what you want for making Antarctic expedition rations.

I can't attest to how palatable the product is, but I did order a few bars to give it a try. This wanders into true geek territory, but it looks like you could put together a pretty accurate expedition ration pack with off-the-shelf products and some custom labels.

Update:  So much for that idea.   The pemmican is a frozen product and there's a minimum order of $75.  That's a bit beyond my experimentation budget.


Brian said...

JAS Townsend is a vender of Colonial Era re-enactment supplies; they also have a youtube channel on 18th Century cooking which includes a segment on making pemmican - (the link has several other tutorials for making pemmican)

Ralph Fletcher said...

I had often wondered about the use of pemmican vs common beef jerky. At those prices, I'll be a jerk.

Lynn C-H said...

That would be way beyond my research budget too! You could try making some? Jas. Townsend did a series of articles on using suet and I'd been hoping he had something on pemmican, but the closest thing was pemmican's 18th century ancestor, potted beef.

Pemmican for frontier trail rations in the American West was dried beef or buffalo pounded into a powder and then mixed in equal parts with suet, sometimes with whatever else you had on hand in the way of dried fruit or spices added. If I can turn up a recipe in one of my period cookbooks that actually sounds edible, I'll pass it along.

Unknown said...

Why buy it? It's easy to make:

Thomas Martin said...

I'm not sure if you are interested in trying to make your own, but one of the people I follow on youtube has a great set of vieos on pemmican. Jason Townsend and Son, does videos related to american colonial period cooking. Here's his playlist page, and the videos are usefully listed under the "pemmican" playlist. Enjoy.

CoastConFan said...

Have you considered using commercial beef jerky products mixed with dried fruits and nuts to produce your own shelf-safe pemmican? A little work with a food processor ought to smash it all up to the proper consistency. You can add tallow to taste … yum. Dried shaved fish flakes from an Asian market can be substituted for beef jerky I suppose.

This would allow you to experiment with small amounts and save money until you find the right ratio of ingredients. Essentially you would end up with a trail mix with shredded jerky added.

I learned something today (in my best South Park voice) that epilepsy can be controlled via diets such as the ketogenic diet. Nor did I know that the diet went back to ancient Greece.

Propnomicon said...

@ Brian

I'm a huge fan of Jas. Townsend and Son. I featured the start of their series on pemmican back in February:

@ Ralph Fletcher

I can see your point. I'm all for the most immersive experience possible, but sometimes you just have to settle for good enough.

@ Lynn C-H

It's looking increasingly likely I'll have to go that route. I just wish I'd had my burst of motivation six months ago when cranking up the over didn't sound like such a terrible idea.

@ Thomas Martin

I love how Townsend goes in depth on these relatively obscure historical tidbits. It's the very best kind of marketing.

@ CoastConFan

The only thing I don't like about off the shelf jerky products are the high salt levels. I know it's necessary because they keep the product's moisture level relatively high, but it's all I taste when I take a bite.

Cobwebs said...

You can buy suet at most grocery store meat departments or any decent butcher shop. It's used a lot in home sausage-making, since it's a nice firm fat that's easy to work with.

It's also super-easy to render tallow from it: Put chunks in water to cover, simmer for a while, then strain into a bowl and put it in the fridge. The fat will rise to the top and solidify into a nice clean disk that you can just pop off the top of the liquid. If you don't want to use it right away, wrap it airtight and it'll keep in the freezer for at least six months.

If you just want to experiment and don't feel like tracking down suet, you can render a lower-quality tallow-ish stuff from other beef trimmings. When you have steak or cut up beef for stew, trim off the fat and collect it in a plastic bag in the freezer. Simmer and cool as for suet. (I like to make soap, and have occasionally used the lower-quality renderings as the fat component in that.)

CoastConFan said...

@ Pronomicon I agree with the salt problem. We used to make our own beef jerky using a dehydrator. It was spicy, but not very salty. The butcher would cut lean meat paper thin for us at the store and the dehydrator did its job in about 12 hours or less. Then again I was living in the high desert: 6,000 feet and 30 percent humidity helps a lot.

Raven said...

Pemmican would of course be the perfect ceremonial meal (á la Passover bitter herbs et al.) to eat on January 24 in memoriam the lost Lake Party camped at 76° 15′ S, 113° 10′ E., and on January 26 commemorating Dyer and Danforth finding the nameless city behind the Mountains of Madness.