Jerky and Pemmican

— Written By Teresa Goley and last updated by
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Walking through a heavily wooded area at this time of year tends to make me think back on earlier days. It is comforting to think that our ancestors saw the same Autumn colors that we see. If you can find a spot that is far enough away from the sounds of traffic, you could almost feel the same awe that was felt hundreds of years ago in this area.

The Cherokee families were probably busy putting the final touches on their food preservation that would carry them through the winter. The fruits and vegetables were probably already dried and stored in baskets hanging high enough to thwart the efforts on nocturnal animals ravaging the campsite. The venison was dried over a slow burning fire until completely dried and stored as well. This dried venison would provide the Native Americans with necessary protein to carry them through until Spring. Some of the dried meat would be pulverized and used for Pemmican.

Pemmican was a combination of dried meat, berries and nuts, and suet. This combination was usually stored in a clean part of the animal that would be used to stuff the combination. This “Pemmican” would provide a nutritious staple for hunters who would be away from home for weeks at a time. I envision that the Native American Pemmican looked very much like chain link sausage. This was truly one of the first energy convenience foods. The suet would provide the energy needed for long hunting expeditions. I think that we are now rethinking the role of saturated fat in our diets. I agree that someone with blockages and coronary issues would probably need to monitor consumption of saturated fats. However, for the average person without any serious health issues, saturated fat does not need to be completely eliminated from the diet. I am still a firm believer in moderation, moderation, moderation.

Fats in our diet are needed for energy and are necessary for the body to absorb the fat soluble vitamins. A,D,E, and K. These vitamins cannot be absorbed if the body does not have the fat necessary for absorption. These are not to be confused with the water soluble vitamins, B and C, that must be replenished daily. Fat soluble vitamins are not lost with urination and perspiration.

Having discussed saturated fats, Pemmican might be something that you would like to try- especially if you are planning a long hike or hunting trip. A word of caution about Pemmican. Do approach Pemmican expecting a protein bar that can be easily purchased. Pemmican needs to be appreciated for what it is- dried meat, usually jerky, berries, and suet. (animal fat)

If you would like to learn more about Jerky and Pemmican, Clay County Extension is hosting a workshop on November 28th at the Clay County Center. From 1-5 on the 28th, we will be making Jerky and Pemmican, with an emphasis on the food safety issues involved with making Jerky. The cost is $10.00 and each participant will be able to take home a small portion of Jerky and Pemmican with instructions on making their own batch. Call today to reserve your spot on the 28th!