It’s the day before Thanksgiving and while the rest of the US is making pies, I’ve just completed a batch of the best pemmican I’ve ever tasted, thanks to Outside Magazine. I’m a fan of the stuff, having used it not only here in Maine, but also on my 2010 Pacific Crest thru-hike, when the weather turned cold and rainy in the Cascades in Washington in September.
I learned how to make pemmican from Mark Kutolowski, in 2009, while attending the Snow Walker’s Rendezvous in Vermont: Making Pemmican-The Ultimate trail Food. Mark is a Vermont guide and traditional wilderness skills teacher who teaches a course at Dartmouth College that he developed on Bushcraft , Survival, Foraging, and Natural History. He also leads retreats focusing on the intersection between contemporary spirituality and wilderness living www.newcreationwilderness.org . The story of pemmican, which dates to pre-European contact, is tied to cold northern climates, where large game prevailed, snow fell, and the drying and preserving process was essential for survival. Pemmican has historically involved drying strips of meat that has all the fat cut off, to which is added rendered animal fat, berries, and sometimes maple sugar, and salt. Done properly it is edible for years , if not decades, even when held at room temperature. The ability of man to live on meat alone, for periods of years, has been documented in Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s “Fat of the Land” . The product was so important to early settlers that in 1832 the Hudson’s Bay Company purchased from the natives 28 tons of pemmican, in 150 pound bales. We sampled some pemmican that Mark had prepared and were taken though the steps preparing it, which is partly documented in this “how to make pemmican” video.
I just made the recipe below, replacing the brown sugar with maple sugar. There was no pouring involved in my product. In fact, it clogged the blender hopelessly, so I transferred the mix to a small Sunbeam Oskar processor that did the trick. Here’s the pressed-out product that is headed to the freezer. So tasty! It’s in the freezer and plan to take a bar with me on my next fatbike ride, tomorrow on Turkey Day.
The November 2012 issue of Outside Magazine revisited pemmican, and talked to Stewart Copeland about it. ” In 2011, Copeland spent 81 days cross-country-skiing over the Antarctic ice cap, pulling 400 pounds of supplies on a sled—a feat that had him ripping through 10,000 calories per day. ‘You start burning more than you can ingest,’ says Copeland, 48, a British and French national who also kite-skied 1,400 miles across Greenland in 2010. ‘When that happens, your body starts consuming muscle for energy.’ Enter pemmican, essentially an energy bar made of bacon, cranberries, and sesame seeds. ‘I’ll put it on my oatmeal in the morning or eat it on the trail,’ he says of the sweet-and-salty concoction. ‘It’s pure fat calories, and it keeps me going. The harder you’re working, and the more salt you’re losing through sweating, the better it tastes.’
WHY IT WORKS: Bacon has a bad reputation, thanks to all the heart-clogging saturated fat it contains, but Adam Korzun says there are times when it’s perfectly acceptable, like a weekend skiing mission in the backcountry. ‘If you’re going hard all day in cold temperatures, saturated fat is an efficient, slow-burning fuel source,’ he says.
SECRET INGREDIENTS: Sesame seeds and cranberries contain antioxidants that reduce muscle inflammation.
BACON AND CRANBERRY PEMMICAN
1. Cook 1/4 pound of bacon on low until the fat renders. (Make sure the meat remains soft.)
2. Let it cool slightly, then transfer the bacon and fat to a blender, add 1/2 cup of dried cranberries, 1/4 cup of sesame seeds, and one tablespoon of brown sugar. Puree.
3. Pour the mix onto a cookie sheet and freeze.
4. Cut into bars or cubes that can be added to porridge in the morning or eaten on the trail.
CALORIES PER SERVING: 100