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HOT FAT! Great Pemmican secret #2

I mentioned that there are a couple of tricks to making great pemmican. One well known online guide cautions against using melted tallow that is too hot as it might cook your dried meat that you have taken pains to keep raw as the heat can activate and denature the enzymes found in raw meat that help you to digest it and derive maximum nutritional value. This is not really a problem though if the meat is completely dry because the enzymes require water in order to be activated. According to the amazing historical pemmican resource that I cannot recommend more highly: The Fat of the Land by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Native Americans would sometimes use fat that was hot enough to fry donuts which is like 350 degrees Fahrenheit!

One good reason to use fat that’s pretty hot and not just melted is to make sure that the ground meat fibers get completely saturated with hot fat. If not then your pemmican will have a weird mouth feel as described in the first secret to great pemmican post. The fat doesn’t have to be super hot when you combine it with the meat as long as you keep the mixture hot until the meat is completely saturated. I will usually mix the ingredients in a double boiler to make sure they stay warm until they are fully saturated and the mixture takes on a much darker hue. You can even cook the mixture a little until it gets even darker. It seems that the darker the pemmican the better. Pemmican that looks very light and pale in color is bound to be unpalatable.

Using a double boiler can also keep the mixture soft enough while you fill molds or pans for making pemmican bars. If you want to get really traditional you can fill a buffalo hide bag with pulverized meat which you then pour hot fat into. This technique would require fat that is very hot, well over 300F as mentioned above.

It’s also worth noting that the temperature required to kill pathogenic microbes on meat is the same temperature that will denature, or “kill”, the enzymes, and that meat has to be wet in order for the microbes to be killed otherwise they can go into a dormant, heat resistant state ready to resume their biological process, which include their own enzymes, at a later date when conditions are favorable again. Of course we want to use meat produced by operations that should be free of pathogens or use other methods besides heat to make sure we are not ingesting these harmful agents.

I’m not sure how much you can fry and brown the dried meat before it reduces the nutritional value and/or how much that would improve the taste of the final product. That’s why I’m sharing this information here so people have a good point from which to start experimenting and then hopefully share their experiences.

6 thoughts on “HOT FAT! Great Pemmican secret #2

  1. Hi Eric!
    Would love to acquire some pemmican from you! Do you have any meat and fat only pemmican available? I use to make pemmican years ago, my wife and I ate so much of it! So healthy! I never tried adding hot fat to the dried meat as you mentioned in the article but often thought that it would be interesting to try! Would love to hear from you!
    Joe Andersen

    1. Sorry I’m not selling any. Are you saying that you used liquid fat that wasn’t very hot?

      1. Yes. We used suet that was just warm enough to be in a liquid state. Always a big fan of Fat of the Land, wanted to try the hot 350 degree temp suet. Your article has inspired me to make up a batch. 🙂

        1. Let us know how it turns out!

  2. Glad to find your site. Made my first pemmican last week using Vilhjalmur and Lex Rooker as guides. Grass-fed meat and tallow only. I did grind jerky in a Vita-Mix blender to a powder form and when mixed with tallow slightly above melting point it formed a very nice consistency and blended well. Really liked finished product.
    p.s. Read “The Fat of the Land” last month and have been trying to learn more about pemmican since.

    1. Well I’m glad you found it! That’s interesting that the tallow was only slightly above melting point, did it seem to saturate the meat fibers? Do you have a photo? Was the meat like a granular powder or were there still fibers of noticeable length left in it?

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