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Pemmican is a concentrated mixture of fat and protein used as a nutritious emergency foodstuff. The word comes from the Cree word pimîhkân "pemmican", which itself is derived from the word pimî "fat, grease".[1] It was invented by the native peoples of North America[citation needed]. It was widely adopted as a high-energy food by Europeans involved in the fur trade and later by Arctic and Antarctic explorers, such as Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen. Pemmican was among the supplies taken by the Burke and Wills expedition across central Australia. It is believed that the pemmican went bad and was not eaten, contributing to scurvy and death among members of the expedition, which became a disaster. Properly packaged, pemmican can be stored for long periods of time.

The specific ingredients used were usually whatever was available; the meat was often bison, moose, elk, or deer. Fruits such as cranberries and saskatoon berries were common. Cherries, currants, chokeberries and blueberries were also used, but almost exclusively in ceremonial and wedding pemmican.

The highest quality pemmican is made from lean meat and bone marrow fat; the pemmican buyers of the fur trade era had strict specifications.


[edit] Traditional preparation

Traditionally pemmican was prepared from the lean meat of large game such as buffalo, elk or deer. The meat was cut in thin slices and dried over a slow fire, or in the hot sun until it was hard and brittle. Then it was pounded into very small pieces, almost powder-like in consistency, using stones. The pounded meat was mixed with melted fat with a ratio of approximately 50% pounded meat and 50% melted fat. In some cases, dried fruits such as saskatoon berries, cranberries, blueberries, or choke cherries were pounded into powder and then added to the meat/fat mixture. The resulting mixture was then packed into "green" rawhide pouches for storage.

[edit] Dog pemmican

British Arctic expeditions fed a type of pemmican to their dogs as "sledging rations". Called "Bovril pemmican" or simply "dog pemmican", it was a beef product consisting of 2/3 protein and 1/3 fat, without carbohydrate. It was later ascertained that although the dogs survived on it, this was not a healthy diet for them, being too high in protein.[2]

Members of Ernest Shackleton's 1914-1916 expedition to the Antarctic resorted to eating dog pemmican when they were stranded on ice for the winter.[3]

[edit] Boer War

In Africa, biltong was commonly used in all of its forms. During the Second Boer War (1899-1902), British troops were given an iron ration made of four ounces of pemmican and four ounces of chocolate and sugar. The pemmican would keep in perfect condition for decades, even in sacks worn smooth by transportation. It was considered much superior to biltong. This iron ration was prepared in two small tins (soldered together) which were fastened inside the soldiers' belts. It was the last ration pulled and it was pulled only when ordered by the commanding officer. A man could march on this for 36 hours before he began to drop from hunger.[4][5]

The British Army Chief of Scouts, the American Frederick Russell Burnham, made pemmican a mandatory item to be carried by every scout.

[edit] Modern producers

  • US Wellness Meats in Missouri currently sells pemmican in bar and bulk form. The pemmican is made from grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef and contains 45% tallow and 55% dried jerky.
  • Native American Natural Foods, an Oglala Lakota business in Kyle, South Dakota manufactures and distributes the Tanka Bar - based upon traditional wasna (pemmican). It is made from a combination of buffalo meat and cranberries with an herbal-based preservative.

[edit] Modern commercial usage

The brand name Pemmican currently refers to at least two unrelated food products marketed primarily for outdoor enthusiasts in Canada and the United States.

  • A brand of beef jerky, based in Omaha, Nebraska and owned by ConAgra.[6]
  • High-energy food bars sold under the brand names MealPack and Bear Valley Pemmican by Intermountain Trading Co. Ltd. in Albany, California. These bars are baked from malted corn and barley (with no meat). Bear Valley Foods was threatened with a lawsuit over the use of the Pemmican name, by a multinational corporation; however, they were ultimately allowed to keep the name.[7]

[edit] References

  1. ^ Sinclair, J.M. (ed) English Dictionary Harper Collins: 2001
  2. ^ Taylor R.J.F. "The physiology of sledge dogs", Polar Record 8 (55): 317-321 (January 1957), reprinted The Fan Hitch, Volume 5, Number 2 (March 2003) [1]
  3. ^ Alfred Lansing, Endurance, (New York: McGraw Hill, 1969) Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 58-59666
  4. ^ Stefansson, Vilhjalmur (1946). Not by Bread Alone. New York: MacMillan Company. pp. 263–4, 270. OCLC 989807. 
  5. ^ Burnham, Frederick Russell (1926). Scouting on Two Continents. New York: Doubleday, Page & company. OCLC 407686. 
  6. ^ Pemmican Beef Jerky by ConAgra Foods[2]
  7. ^ Intermountain Trading Co. Ltd. web site[3]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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