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Re: pemmican and storage

Hi guys,

I have been around for awhile now and have been trying to learn as much as possible concerning prepping and 'do's and dont's' for everything, especially food. Now I have been fascinated recently with the idea of pemmican as an option for a long term food option. I recently started making it and through trial and error believe I have found a quicker way to do it here in South Africa. I posted it on the SA threads, but someone asked how long it could be stored in plastic buckets like I have done. I then went and re-read things I had read in the beginning of my endeavor and found that there is no real consensus on how to store this stuff and/or any suggestions on how BEST to store it. I have read a few of the threads on here and people argue about it but I have not found anyone who stated that 'this is the way to store pemmican so it will last many years', as I have seen claims online that it can. So my questions are...

What is the best way to make pemmican for the longest storage? How is it best stored un-refrigerated? How long will it safely store?

One of the things I read in a couple of places is the following...

By rendering the fat, you remove all the water and protein. If you are rendering suet, you are left with a very high saturated fat tallow. Saturated fat is pretty stable stuff. If you protect rendered suet from light and water, it should stay edible for years.

Rancidity occurs three basic ways: via oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids (you avoid this by having a high saturated fat mix to start out with), via reactions with water, and via microbial digestion. Pemmican avoids all of those through rendering the fat, thoroughly dehydrating the meat and hopefully being stored in a waterproof container.
I found this quote a couple of places including on the following site...

https://www.paleohacks.com/jerky/why-doesn-t-pemmican-turn-rancid-706

I know Mike has said more than once that the fat will turn rancid, but people also make a big deal out of stating that the rendered fat is tallow and that it should keep well, but I would like to KNOW and not guess about this. Any help, especially from personal experience, would be appreciated. Thanks.:)
 

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Sorry for not replying sooner, this is one of my long work-weeks and I haven't had the energy. I first had pemmican before I was out of diapers, and I've been messing about making it and researching experimenting for about 35 years; I'll try to do a quick synopsis of what I know.

I read of your experiment with using prepared biltong powder, and some of the alternate recipes that were suggested. Here's the problem with those: pemmican and other similar products (some sausages, for example) were developed--often before written records--to preserve meat for later use, and to provide a storable food for famine times in a time when famines or starving times came most winters. It can be eaten "as-is", but there are almost as many accounts of using it as the base of soups or stews.

Spiced pemmican (such as you were making with the biltong powder) makes a great snack, but when eaten as a staple or even "only food", the spices can get to you. Food in those situations has to be palatable; the spiced stuff can turn people off from eating as much as they need to in order to maintain energy levels.

There were times when I was working manual labor 60+ hours a week while studying full-time as a graduate student. I lived on pemmican for months at a time, but it was the plain meat/tallow recipe. I could never stomach pemmican made with spiced meats for more than a few weeks. (This diet wasn't so much laziness as recognition that if I didn't have to cook during the semester, I could spend more time studying.)

To answer your questions, the best way to make it for long-term storage seems to be to use grass-fed meat, of a species that doesn't carry parasites such as trichnosis (as bear or pig may do--I winced when I read in "Lucifer's Hammer" of eating dried bear meat, that bothered me more than the cannibalism). The meat should be dried at temps not exceeding approximately 135-140 degrees F, to the point that it is brittle. The meat should be pulverized (most folks today use a food processor) until it is a sort-of stringy powder. Just barely melted tallow, from a grass-fed animal, should be added to the meat "until the consistency is correct". Consistency will vary slightly depending on a number of factors including ambient temperature, the source of meat and/or tallow, and the part of the animal the tallow was originally sourced from.

Substitution of grain-fed meat or tallow, not drying the meat adequately, not properly pulverizing the meat or rendering the tallow, or substituting oils or fat sources, will all shorten shelf life, or take away from the viability of the pemmican as a primary food source for extended periods of time.

Storage can be a tricky issue. You can wrap it in butchers' paper and freeze it to give an indefinite life as long as frozen. Storage at temps above approximately 80 degrees F will greatly shorten storage life. You can still eat it--at least I did--but it tasted terrible. You could can it, but canning involves heat, and makes it taste like dreck.

On the other hand, it might be worth looking at storage methods mentioned in ethnographic accounts. Before pemmican became a staple in the North American fur trade, it was a staple of many Nattive American groups. At times it was cached for later usage, usually by burying it in hide-wrapped balls. As an item of the fur trade, it was prepared in 90 pound bundles, sewn in rawhide covers impregnated with tallow. Either way would keep it in good condition for a year, which was all it was intended to last anyhow. Accounts that mention pemmican from the previous year sometimes mention having to dig or cut away the outside of the ball or pack in order to access the pemmican that was still "good"--still tasted right. The tallow on the outside had gone rancid, just as happens with high storage temperatures.

I've sampled pemmican that was 20 years old, that had been stored in a root cellar. The pemmican was prepared in balls, placed in a crock, and covered with melted tallow. A wooden cover was placed on top, then the crock was placed in the root cellar. It was OK; taste was a bit "off" but in the years since I've wondered if maybe that was all in my mind. I know that prepared in this manner and stored in a root cellar, it will keep at least ten years: I've done it as an experiment.

It strikes me that one problem you may encounter with this approach is due to your locale: grass-fed game may be readily available, but from what I've seen and heard, there may not be enough fat on them to provide the necessary tallow.

Anyhow, just a few random thoughts but I probably forgot something. Hope it helps!
 

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I know Mike has said more than once that the fat will turn rancid, but people also make a big deal out of stating that the rendered fat is tallow and that it should keep well, but I would like to KNOW and not guess about this. Any help, especially from personal experience, would be appreciated. Thanks.:)
All fats turn rancid eventually. But the variance can be extremely wide.

The quote you inserted was a good one. Properly rendered pure tallow from a good commercial source will last as long as the various palm oils, namely 5 or 6 years. When you adulterate it the longevity slips depending on the water content of the adulterant. So how dry the meat powder is makes a difference. But extremely dry meat powder shouldn't take more than a year off the predicted longevity. With really dry powder components and top quality commercial grade tallow then you should get 4-5 years in a waterproof container. I highly recommend adding some common desiccant packs, like you find in medicine bottles, to the container when you close it up. The desiccant will absorb the humidity in the container. Doing this during your driest months would be smart too.
 
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High quality way to make Pemmican (my opinion)

http://www.traditionaltx.us/images/PEMMICAN.pdf

Using recipe above, I store ours in 1 & 2 lb Mylar bags with my own DIY food grade recipe desiccant sachets, then store the Mylar bags in 4G metal drums pictured below.



When used in conjunction with a high oxygen/moisture barrier bag (MylarFoil bag) and a sealed pail, desiccants offer protection against putrification, rancidity and the growth of mildew, mold or fungi.

A number of wood smoke compounds act as preservatives. Phenol and other phenolic compounds in wood smoke are both antioxidants, which slow rancidity of animal fats, and antimicrobials, which slow bacterial growth. Onion, garlic, lemon juice, ascorbic acid, rosemary, thyme, cloves, cinnamon and sage all have antibacterial properties.

So, I brew up a broth containing liquid smoke & everything above, add salt, let it all go into solution, pour the solution into 2 or 3 LARGE wide deep baking trays. Stick them in my solar dehydrator during summer, (use oven in winter), until all the moisture evaporates & the resulting salt mixture is solid rock hard sheets, break them up, screen & bag.





Have opened/eaten our Pemmican stored that way that was 5 years old & tasted like it was made last week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you everyone. I believe I will try the mylar bag and desiccant route, but will at least try to put some desiccant in the pails and keep them in a cool dry place, as much as possible. God bless.
 
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