Ok everyone, this is it, time to spill the beans! This information needs to get out there so we can finally dispel the myth that pemmican is nasty stuff that you would only eat if you had nothing else just to avoid starvation.
The problem with the way we usually try to make pemmican is that we’re trying to use about 50% tallow by weight in the recipe. 50%-60% are traditional and so we just use that much tallow, as in rendered organ fat (or suet). The problem is that tallow has a melting point of about 120F so when you try to chew pemmican made with only tallow and meat it will never melt in your mouth. You just keep chewing and chewing and nothing happens until you just have to swallow it whole and it just feel really weird in your mouth the whole time. Apparently mouth feel makes a huge difference in how you experience flavor, way more than I could have ever imagined. Pemmican that would otherwise taste great, especially when made with sun dried meat that tastes amazing on it own, tastes really God awful when it doesn’t feel right and doesn’t melt in your mouth after a few chews like any normal energy/protein bar would do.
I solved this issue without really understanding it by producing pemmican that contained a lot of dried fruit, nuts and raw honey. The inclusion of those other ingredients with only 30% tallow ultimately produced a normal enough mouth feel that the flavors of the quality ingredients used could shine through in a pemmican product that wasn’t really that traditional.
So what if you don’t want to use fruits, nuts and honey in your pemmican? A real traditional pemmican with only meat and fat should have much better shelf life and is also perfect for a ketogenic diet where about 80% of your caloric intake comes from fat and the other 20% from protein. Obviously then some other fat could be included. Something with a much lower melting point should solve the mouth feel problem by lowering the over all melting point of the pemmican. I believe that Native Americans had already solved this issue a long time ago by using a combination of tallow and rendered bone marrow fat. According to the amazing historical pemmican resource that I cannot recommend more highly: The Fat of the Land by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, the best pemmican always included marrow fat. Marrow fat has a much softer texture than hard, waxy tallow and substituting enough of it for tallow in the standard pemmican recipe ought to be a huge improvement. Marrow fat is also supposed to have nutritional benefits beyond the very healthy fats already supplied by tallow.
The problem with marrow fat is that it may take a lot of bones to make enough to be able to produce an appreciable quantity of pemmican for you and your family. Also I’ve never tried it myself so I don’t know how much to use. I’m not really in a position to render fat from bones myself right now and I haven’t had any luck getting anyone to do it for me yet. I’m certainly willing to pay a fair price for a small quantity to experiment with (hint, hint…;)). I have tried using pork lard instead, replacing half the tallow with it and it’s definitely easier to chew and swallow but I’m not sure that’s the best solution yet. There are a number of other things you could try though. Coconut oil immediately comes to mind but it changes from solid to liquid so easily in summer heat that I’m not sure that would be such a good option either. A relatively small amount of oil that is liquid through a normal room temperature range might be just the thing, or not, I don’t know, that’s why I’m putting these ideas out there so different people can experiment and together we can build a knowledge base to work from.
I think that marrow fat is probably the best solution as tried and true traditional methods always are but again it might not be that easy to implement so no harm in experimenting with alternatives. As I can attest the fruit/nut/honey alternative worked pretty well. Other alternative might work just as well if not better. If you give it a go please post some kind of short summary of your experience here in the comments, thanks!
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