By almost any account you read regarding the subsistence of the indigenous people of the prairies, it is indisputable that Pemmican was the favorite food of the Indians and the Metis.
Pemmican can be made from the flesh of any animal, but it was usually made from buffalo meat. The process of making it was to first cut meat into slices, then to dry the meat either by fire or in the sun. Once the meat was dried, it was then pounded into a thick flaky “fluffy” powder. Once rendered down, the meat was put into large bags made from buffalo hides. To this, rendered, melted fat melted fat was poured. The quantity of fat was nearly half the total weight of the finished product, in a portion where for every five pounds of powdered meat, four pounds of fat would be poured. The best pemmican generally saw berries and sugar mixed in for flavor. Once complete, the whole composition formed a solid block that could be cut into portions for later use.
Fish was also used to make pemmican. During sturgeon fishing, much of the sturgeon flesh was cured and stored for later use. This was made by drying and pounding sturgeon flesh into a powder, to which sturgeon oil and berries were added. This mixture was then packed into sturgeon skin bags, and used similar to bison pemmican.
A person could subsist on buffalo (or fish) Pemmican in good times and lean. Pemmican, with its high fat content, provides a high calorie source of energy that is almost unrivaled. Thus, it was an important food throughout the year, but especially in winter because it stayed “fresh” almost forever and could be stored without worry for years without spoiling.
Pemmican could be eaten when other foods were scarce, it could be used to stretch a meal, or it could be eaten on its own just like a block of fatty jerky – a great, portable source of food energy on long hunts or while doing any task where energy was needed. When cooked, Pemmican was easily turned into rubaboo (the most popular method by far) making a delicious stew that could feed an entire camp. Another method was to serve it fried – mixed with a little flour – to create a tasty roux that could be sopped up with bannock bread for a filling meal.
So what does pemmican taste like?' The only way you can describe the taste, is that it tastes 'Like pemmican.' There is nothing else in the world that bears the slightest resemblance. In terms of its quality as a food, it is a ‘super food’.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities