Pemmican is a paste mixed of dried, ground jerky and rendered fat, called tallow. Pemmican was originally made by Native Americans, and was adapted by Arctic explorers. It doesn’t taste great, but the high-protein energy food can keep the fat on your body and bulk on your muscles in the winter when food is scarce. As a survivalist and explorer, I keep a container of this in my pack during the colder months. The best part about pemmican is that it lasts forever—literally. Some archeologists allegedly found an ancient pueblo jar at an excavation site. It was full of pemmican  preserved by the tallow, which seals the mixture from water and air: two components that would otherwise cause the ingredients to spoil.

The basic premise is to separate the meat from the fat, turn the meat into jerky and the fat into tallow, and then recombine the two. The result is a concoction of dried jerky perpetually sealed by melted fat.

If in a KITCHEN, you will need:

  • a knife
  • an oven
  • a stove
  • a baking sheet
  • paper towels
  • a wide pan, like a skillet
  • a food processor

If you have a DEHYDRATOR, you will need:

  • a knife
  • a dehydrator
  • a stove
  • a wide pan, like a skillet
  • a food processor

If you’re in a SURVIVAL SITUATION, you will need:

  • a knife
  • a small fire
  • a meat rack (you can make this by lashing sticks together)
  • mortar and pestle (two rocks, one harder than the other)
  • the stomach pouch of a large animal


yields 12 oz.

1 lb. fat

1 lb. lean meat

4 c water


Separate any and all fat from the meat and meat from the fat. Both meat and fat must be isolated from the other or the pemmican will lose its characteristic preservative powers.

Slice and dice the fat and meat as thin as your patience will allow. The smaller and thinner the pieces are, the less time the process will take. If you’re using a dehydrator or meat rack, slice the meat into thin strips instead of dicing so you can hang it over the rack and keep it together.

Dry the Meat

If using an oven, set the temparature as low as it will go; no more than 110°F. Layer 2-3 paper towels on a baking sheet. This will absorb any grease that sweats out of the meat. Place the strips or diced meat on the baking sheet. Let dry for several hours under the heat until pliable like jerky.

If using a dehydrator or the survival method, hang the slices of meat over the rack now until dry and pliable.

Let cool, then shred the jerky in a food processor or grind between a mortar and pestle until the meat is a fine powdery substance.

Render the Fat

Combine the fat and water into a container (either a pot or stomach pouch mounted on a tripod in a survival situation) and boil over low heat (about 250°F) until fat has melted and the water evaporated. This can be time consuming, but it’s important to keep the heat low so as not to cook the fat. If the fat cooks, it will lose its sealant properties.

When most of the fat has melted, remove from heat. Strain out the solid chunks of fat with a slotted spoon. Pour into a bowl and place in the refridgerator until cool (Note: if you’re in a survival situation, you’ll have to skim the liquid tallow off the top). In the fridge, the tallow will separate from the other liquids and harden on top. Pry the hardened tallow from the bowl and melt again in a pan on low heat. Once again in liquid form and free of impurities, the tallow takes on a fine golden hue.


Once the tallow and shredded jerky are made, recombine the two in a bowl, mix thoroughly, and let cool. At room temperature the tallow remains solid, so you’ll have to do this after it’s been heated.

The total combined mixture should yield less than half of the original materials in weight. Water is lost in both ingredients and should now keep indefinitely. Store in a cool, dry, dark place.

Tip: Use pemmican to augment your rationed food supplies throughout the season. It’s a great way to get your meat protein, but not a substitute for a diverse diet.

Tip: You can also add dried fruit, seeds, and spices into the mix to add some flavor and added nutrition (recommended).

Warning: This food is intended for individuals with high levels of activity, such as that required of outdoor exploration, especially in the winter. It is not intended as a snack food beside your computer or television. Such habits may result in heart disease or other maladies.


Pemmican Recipe. Tamarack Song. 7 September 2009 [].

The Pemmican Brief. Rix White. February 2007. WildeRix. 7 September 2009 [].

How to Render Duck Fat. Katy. 20 March 2008. Sugarlaws. 8 September 2009 [].

Adapted and submitted to Demand Studios, by Ryan Hochstatter.