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Photo of an older Native woman sitting on the ground turning pieces of meat

A Native woman making pemmican

Our word “pemmican” comes from the Cree word “pimikan”. Pemmican was a sort of energy bar: not great food, but a lot of fat and sugar and protein to keep you going in winter or if you were traveling or working hard. This is how you make pemmican:

    • First take 1/2 pound very fatty raw beef or buffalo and cut it into small pieces. Separate the lean meat from the fat carefully.
    • Dry the lean meat slowly over a fire, or on a barbecue grill, or in an electric oven – this will take several hours at least so you might want to do this part ahead. The meat is dried when it is not at all red anymore.
  • Pemmican meat in small pieces draped over strings to dry

    Pemmican meat drying

    Now grind those pieces up into mush either by hand (with a mortar and pestle) or in a food processor. When it is all ground up it will be crumbly.

  • Add 1/4 cup dried berries like dried currants or raisins and grind it all together.
  • Take the pieces of fat (suet) and chop them as fine as you can. Heat the fat slowly over a fire or a burner on your stove until there is no red left and the fat is all melted. Simmer it for a while. Strain it through a strainer and let it cool. To get it more solid, melt it again and strain it again. This is tallow.
  • Mix 3/8 pound of the cooled marrow grease or the tallow into the fruit and meat mixture and then seal it up or refrigerate it. When it is cold you can cut it into bars for serving, like brownies. It will keep for a year without refrigeration.
  • You can eat pemmican plain, or boil it to make a soup or a stew. Sometimes people added roots or wild onions when they boiled it.

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