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how to make pemmican - the ultimate survival food

 
Cassie Langstraat
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So I came across this article about "the ultimate survival food" so I was intrigued. I will admit I had never heard of pemmican.. Also it's not the prettiest looking treat I've ever seen.



BUT here you can read about all of the reasons it's cool and how to actually make it.

A few:

- light, compact, high in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and if done properly can last anywhere from a few years (decades) up to a lifetime without refrigeration

- you could subsist entirely on pemmican, drawing on the fat for energy, the protein for strength and vitamins for health.


oh yeah, you're probably wondering what it is eh?

lean, dried meat which is crushed to a powder and mixed with hot, rendered fat. crushed, dried berries can be added as well, unsalted nuts, and a bit of honey


anyway, I obviously am curious if I am the only one who had no idea about pemmican and if anyone else here has made it, and if it tastes alright. haha!
 
John Rogers
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I've been seeing this pop up on Facebook, and had only previously heard of it in the old Tumbleweeds newspaper comics. Always wondered what it was...
 
Geoffrey Levens
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As a 25 year practitioner of Trad. Chinese Medicine and lifetime student of nutrition I have to say you would need to supplement it heavily w/ produce to get enough vitamins and minerals plus all the other micronutrients to live on it long term. Otherwise, within a very short time, few months absolute max, you would be developing a multitude of severe nutritional deficiencies.
 
Chase Anderson
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I've read up on Pemmican over the last year or so, as well as Keto-Adaption, which is kind of the main application that this is for...specifically meaning a diet with an absence of carbohydrates. I've been working towards keto-adaption and I do feel much better and rarely get cravings for food like when I was Carb-based. Read up on this more here hhttp://www.survivalistboards.com/showthread.php?t=97997 Because of this post on this other forum, I have made some pretty significant lifestyle changes, and I am also planning to raise merino sheep because of it! And coconut oil is awesome too! I harvested several deer this year for the first time and made sure to harvest all of the fat off of the animals to use in making pemmican which I plan to do soon. As of yet, I have not tried it.

I am a "survivalist" but I do it from a permaculture standpoint rather than a "prepper" standpoint. I'm not stockpiling MRE's, I'm building greenhouses and raising animals...get what I mean? So that's why I reference to that forum, but take some of what they say with a grain of salt and adapt it to your own needs and vision as necessary. Hope that helps, it's a very good read!
 
Eivind Bjoerkavaag
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How come this thread is not under food preservation? Excellent idea, this pemmican.

Google shows much history and several ingredients. Rabbits is lean meat, and many use honey as well. Awesome!
 
Geoffrey Levens
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Eivind Bjoerkavaag wrote:Rabbits is lean meat
Rabbits is also tasty meat though no real need to worry about leanness since drowning it in rendered fat?
 
Len Ovens
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Geoffrey Levens wrote:As a 25 year practitioner of Trad. Chinese Medicine and lifetime student of nutrition I have to say you would need to supplement it heavily w/ produce to get enough vitamins and minerals plus all the other micronutrients to live on it long term. Otherwise, within a very short time, few months absolute max, you would be developing a multitude of severe nutritional deficiencies.


Tell that to the inuit, who eat nothing but meat for months at a time. The secret here is that the meat is not cooked and so many of the nutritious bits are not destroyed as they are when meat is cooked. (vitamin C being but one example)

Having said that... where most of us live there is plenty of salad plants just about anywhere. Learning what is best to eat would be well worth while. I think foraging is the other part of the equation.
 
Martin Moorhouse
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Read about Earnest Shackletons adventures in the Antarctic after his ship Endurance got crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea in 1915. He and his crew then spent the next 17 months surviving on pemmican and hunted seals while drifting on the ice pack. All 27 men survived, though one lost a foot to frostbite. I'd say pemmican (and general civility) was key to their survival.
 
Wyatt Barnes
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Buffalo pemmican was once the travel and staple food of the fur industry and new settlement in western Canada. Battles were fought to secure supplies to ensure the survival of colonies of settlers and to try to starve out competition. Doesn't really matter how it tastes if it is going to save your life.
 
Bill Erickson
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It amazes me the difference in education of people who grew up in the "same" place. Cassie is, I believe, a born and bred Montanan, and I'm a bred and raised Montanan of probably twice here age - yet I grew up on tales of the fur traders, the Blackfeet, Crow and such all eating and living on pemmican in the lean months - and she didn't. That is wild stuff.

I have eaten some that some buddies and I put together a long time ago - it was edible. I understand that the best way to eat it was as a soup/stew base. It would feed you, but not fill you. I have seen many different recipes popping up for the stuff of late. Some of them look rather tasty. We didn't have any berries to add to ours, so that may be a chunk of it.

If anyone makes some, they really need to share the experience. I need to look into this one myself again.
 
R Scott
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The original power bar.

I have made it, poorly. Had a friend that made it wonderful. It doesn't make you feel full if you are used to bulky high carbs meals, but it will keep you going.
 
Geoffrey Levens
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Len Ovens wrote:
Geoffrey Levens wrote:As a 25 year practitioner of Trad. Chinese Medicine and lifetime student of nutrition I have to say you would need to supplement it heavily w/ produce to get enough vitamins and minerals plus all the other micronutrients to live on it long term. Otherwise, within a very short time, few months absolute max, you would be developing a multitude of severe nutritional deficiencies.


Tell that to the inuit, who eat nothing but meat for months at a time. The secret here is that the meat is not cooked and so many of the nutritious bits are not destroyed as they are when meat is cooked. (vitamin C being but one example).
They do and have well documented very high rates of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, etc. When you live in traditional way in very harsh, survival threatening climate, and your main way of gathering food is dangerous hunting, you tend to die quite young, before the diseases can really manifest life threatening symptoms. And they did eat plants, partly fermented/digested from the stomachs of the whales, seals, etc that they killed and ate.
 
Len Ovens
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Geoffrey Levens wrote:
Len Ovens wrote:
Geoffrey Levens wrote:As a 25 year practitioner of Trad. Chinese Medicine and lifetime student of nutrition I have to say you would need to supplement it heavily w/ produce to get enough vitamins and minerals plus all the other micronutrients to live on it long term. Otherwise, within a very short time, few months absolute max, you would be developing a multitude of severe nutritional deficiencies.


Tell that to the inuit, who eat nothing but meat for months at a time. The secret here is that the meat is not cooked and so many of the nutritious bits are not destroyed as they are when meat is cooked. (vitamin C being but one example).
They do and have well documented very high rates of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, etc.


My wife works in a hospital... these are the same things 1st world people are dying of. Anyway, I have no wish to argue. I do think there are other things worth while eating besides meat.
 
R Scott
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Made with meat that was dehydrated with minimal head and vitamin powerhouse berries like wild blueberries and the fat from grass fed animals, it is surprisingly well rounded nutrition.
 
R Scott
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Len Ovens wrote:
Geoffrey Levens wrote:
Len Ovens wrote:
Geoffrey Levens wrote:As a 25 year practitioner of Trad. Chinese Medicine and lifetime student of nutrition I have to say you would need to supplement it heavily w/ produce to get enough vitamins and minerals plus all the other micronutrients to live on it long term. Otherwise, within a very short time, few months absolute max, you would be developing a multitude of severe nutritional deficiencies.


Tell that to the inuit, who eat nothing but meat for months at a time. The secret here is that the meat is not cooked and so many of the nutritious bits are not destroyed as they are when meat is cooked. (vitamin C being but one example).
They do and have well documented very high rates of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, etc.


My wife works in a hospital... these are the same things 1st world people are dying of. Anyway, I have no wish to argue. I do think there are other things worth while eating besides meat.


Yup, those are mostly recent problems after adding white flour and sugar. They had nutrition problems in the past, but due to hard life and lean years, not from the food lacking nutrition.
 
Dan Boone
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Cassie Langstraat wrote:dried berries can be added as well


All my life I have been seeing casual references to pemmican, typically described as a compact stable trail food made from meat, fat, and berries. I always assumed that the berries were primarily for flavoring.

And then I discovered the hackberry tree. Hackberries are sweet and delicious, but have flesh that's thin and dry and scant, surrounding a toothbreaking hard seed.

Hackberries are also often described as one of the common ingredients in pemmican, although I couldn't find a truly persuasive ethnographic source for that info in a fast search just now.

As I gnawed the scant sweetness off my hackberries, I wondered "would it really be worth the trouble to put this in pemmican?"

Then I finally saw this at Foraging Texas, and everything fell into place for me:

The ripe fruit of hackberries are less than 1/4 inch in diameter and consist of a thin, sweet skin surrounding a large, hard seed. This edible seed is rich in protein and fats, but is extremely hard. Trying to crush the seed with your teeth can easily result in a broken tooth. You are better off crushing up the berries in a mortar & pestle to make a sweet, energizing paste.


Suddenly this makes much more sense as a pemmican ingredient. It's not just for flavoring; it's a substantial component of the nutrition, adding carbohydrates and phytonutrients along with additional calorie-dense plant oils and protein.

 
D. Logan
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R Scott wrote:The original power bar.

I have made it, poorly. Had a friend that made it wonderful. It doesn't make you feel full if you are used to bulky high carbs meals, but it will keep you going.


This would be my take on what they are. Every account I have heard or read of them was that they were generally used as travel rations to offer a lot of energy for their weight, as well as a food stuff that could be stored for long periods of time when sealed in wax or fat. Most varieties that are authentic (IE: Made with rendered fat, dried meat and berries) have been somewhere between awful and edible.

I admit that I haven't had many variations, so maybe there are some decent tasting ones out there, but with the ones I have tried, I have to say I understand why it was mostly eaten only when they had to. I had one variety that wasn't authentic (substituted peanut butter for lard) that tasted more like a snack bar than anything else and that was on the so-so end. I think one of the big problems I have noticed with a lot of pemmicans I tried is that the person making them used jerky. Salted and heavily flavored meat seems to clash with the berries for my tastes. The ones that moved into more acceptable territory were the ones where the meat was dried without cures.
 
Jessica Gorton
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Yep, I'm going to say as well that while it makes sense as a travel and survival food, the pemmican I've eaten was not at all a tasty treat. It does, however, taste better the hungrier you are...
 
Dan Boone
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I found this manual for making pemmican in another thread:

http://www.traditionaltx.us/images/PEMMICAN.pdf
 
Rick Howd
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Salted jerky makes nasty pemmican and most commercial jerky isn't dry enough to powder properly anyway. I have made it many times over the last 30+ years and carry it on SAR missions.

Starting with very lean meat dried to be brittle and then powdered works best, this prevents the fat from becoming rancid. I use commercial lard melted slowly and adding only enough to moisten the jerky then I make 1x1" rectangular loaf as long as needed depending on how much I have.

I usually add some salt and cayenne pepper but dried blueberries, cranberries and lemon or lime rind is nice too.

I've tried the peanut butter version with a little honey and it wasn't bad but it seemed odd with meat to me.

I don't think I'd try to live on it but it does make a decent snack/meal when I need something in the field and even a couple years old it tastes the same.

 
Geoffrey Levens
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Rick Howd wrote:Starting with very lean meat dried to be brittle and then powdered works best, this prevents the fat from becoming rancid.
Ahhh, so that's why lean meat best for this!
 
Cj Sloane
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Geoffrey Levens wrote:
Len Ovens wrote:
Geoffrey Levens wrote:As a 25 year practitioner of Trad. Chinese Medicine and lifetime student of nutrition I have to say you would need to supplement it heavily w/ produce to get enough vitamins and minerals plus all the other micronutrients to live on it long term. Otherwise, within a very short time, few months absolute max, you would be developing a multitude of severe nutritional deficiencies.


Tell that to the inuit, who eat nothing but meat for months at a time. The secret here is that the meat is not cooked and so many of the nutritious bits are not destroyed as they are when meat is cooked. (vitamin C being but one example).
They do and have well documented very high rates of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, etc. When you live in traditional way in very harsh, survival threatening climate, and your main way of gathering food is dangerous hunting, you tend to die quite young, before the diseases can really manifest life threatening symptoms. And they did eat plants, partly fermented/digested from the stomachs of the whales, seals, etc that they killed and ate.


The Inuit had ZERO Western diseases till they adopted the Western diet. 80% fat based diet and they were very healthy - no cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease...
 
Cj Sloane
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Chase Anderson wrote:I've read up on Pemmican over the last year or so, as well as Keto-Adaption, which is kind of the main application that this is for...specifically meaning a diet with an absence of carbohydrates. I've been working towards keto-adaption and I do feel much better and rarely get cravings for food like when I was Carb-based.


There is a Keto thread here at Permies. We've been focusing on weightloss/health but the prepping part has crossed my mind. I've been thinking about how to adjust my food storage based on that diet. I certainly have lots of protein "on the hoof" and the main thing is to switch the fats to good fats, lard, coconut, & olive oil.

I wonder how many carbs that pemmican has? You wouldn't want your survival food to knock you out of ketosis!
 
Cj Sloane
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Cassie Langstraat wrote:So I came across this article about "the ultimate survival food" so I was intrigued. I will admit I had never heard of pemmican.. Also it's not the prettiest looking treat I've ever seen.



I think it IS very pretty! It just looks more like an arts & crafts project then dinner!

Haven't tried it yet though. Also need to try some other versions of this, regular homemade jerky, biltong....
 
Len Ovens
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Cj Verde wrote:
I wonder how many carbs that pemmican has? You wouldn't want your survival food to knock you out of ketosis!


Just from what I have read so far, it depends on what you put in it. There does not seem to be a fixed recipe. Even in ketosis, there has to be sugar in your blood or you would first not have energy to do anything and then die. It is the sugar level that counts. In ketosis, the body is mining stored fat to generate sugar and the sugar level is low. The odd small blimp will not disturb that. That is munching on something like pemmican while working or grazing on berries while walking should be able to balance energy input with energy use. I think scheduling eating is probably more important than what is eaten. Our standard eating schedule is based around a slave like work schedule rather than what the body needs. I have read (for example) that eating between about 3am to 10 am is bad because the body is doing a detox event during that time. But very few people are going to be allowed a meal break at 10am and so they eat before work. Then there is lunch. This has to be portable and is often cold. Using a high starch bread is common just to avoid plates/forks/knives/etc. Then there is a very big and energy full meal at the end of the day when the body has no use for it. Probably something like pemmican that is munched on all day long while working would be better. Berries even with a higher sugar content would be fine too.

Just a quick thought on sugar vs. starch. (I would include table sugar as a starch BTW)

I wonder how big the same amount of sugar and starch are for the same number of sugar molecules. In general a more complex molecule does not use more room than a simpler one because there is a lot of space between them. This would say to me that table sugar which is two sugar molecule starch would be half the size of a monosacride found in fruit. (monosacrides tend to be only found in liquid not powder which makes this hard to measure) It would be interesting to find out how many sugar molecules are in a ripe sweat blackberry as compared to a single wheat berry. Now think about how many wheat berries in a slice of bread and how many blackberries fill up the same space. This is why seeds with a lot of starch make good bird food, but maybe not good people food. I suspect eating enough blackberries to ingest the same amount of sugar as one slice of bread might give one a "tummy ache".

The body adapts to diet and taste of food. The sweet varieties of fruit are mostly relatively new (and do not store as well) and it seems the older varieties are more sour (and do store better besides) yet these older varieties were just as much of a treat in their day. In a permaculture system (or any food system that is highly controlled) where one chooses the plants and grows all their own food, it should be no problem to adapt to whatever the diet is and learn to enjoy things that one doesn't like right now. Most people do not like kefer on first taste, but a few weeks down the road it can be refreshing and tasty. The less starch and sugar one consumes, the better fatty meat starts to taste... at least that is what I have seen with my son who is on a carb restricted diet.
 
Cj Sloane
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Len Ovens wrote:Even in ketosis, there has to be sugar in your blood or you would first not have energy to do anything and then die.


The body can easily make the small amount of glucose required (Gluconeogenesis).

Generally, this is the reason you can't eat too much protein (>30%) on a ketogenic diet because you'll convert the extra protein to glucose - throwing you out of ketosis.

The fuel during ketosis is fat (either your own or dietary) - that's the whole point. It's not during fat to sugar - just running off the fat which is why they call it fat burning not sugar burning.

I guess I need to look at the recipe because it may be too high in protein for my purposes. Not sure how stable/storable a high fat pemmican would be.
 
Travis Boulden
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Rick Howd wrote:...isn't dry enough to powder properly anyway...Starting with very lean meat dried to be brittle and then powdered works best


I've made pemmican a few times, going to make another big batch soon, but I prefer to grind the raw meat, put it through a jerky gun, dehydrate, then re-grind the dried product. Has worked well so far.
 
Geoffrey Levens
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Cj Verde wrote:
Chase Anderson wrote:You wouldn't want your survival food to knock you out of ketosis!


In addition to comments on this above, if you were really using it as survival food, ketosis vs carb/sugar burning would likely not be a big concern, really not even on the radar in the distance. At least so it seems to me from my comfortable, middle class perspective
 
Sarah Joubert
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I know this is about pemmican but jerky and biltong were mentioned in the thread. Being a South African living in the UK I missed my biltong. Necessity is the mother of invention so I learned to make my own. I always thought that jerky was the USA version of biltong but I believe it's not. Biltong is just raw meat salt cured with spices and air dried-no smoke etc. I cut, salt and then hang my biltong for 24 hrs, then run a fan under it for about 2 days. after that I leave it and it desiccates naturally but I can rarely get it dried completely as the family eat it so quick! I've done venison and beef successfully but I believe lamb and mutton are not good candidates for biltong.
 
John Master
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I make it from the nourishing traditions cookbook much like the manual posted. We add some maple syrup and cranberries and the flavor is great. "Fast food" that is nutrient dense and tastes great.
 
Ola Kindom
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Excellent idea, this pemmican.
 
Devin Lavign
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Dan Boone wrote:
Cassie Langstraat wrote:dried berries can be added as well


All my life I have been seeing casual references to pemmican, typically described as a compact stable trail food made from meat, fat, and berries. I always assumed that the berries were primarily for flavoring.

And then I discovered the hackberry tree. Hackberries are sweet and delicious, but have flesh that's thin and dry and scant, surrounding a toothbreaking hard seed.

Hackberries are also often described as one of the common ingredients in pemmican, although I couldn't find a truly persuasive ethnographic source for that info in a fast search just now.

As I gnawed the scant sweetness off my hackberries, I wondered "would it really be worth the trouble to put this in pemmican?"

Then I finally saw this at Foraging Texas, and everything fell into place for me:

The ripe fruit of hackberries are less than 1/4 inch in diameter and consist of a thin, sweet skin surrounding a large, hard seed. This edible seed is rich in protein and fats, but is extremely hard. Trying to crush the seed with your teeth can easily result in a broken tooth. You are better off crushing up the berries in a mortar & pestle to make a sweet, energizing paste.


Suddenly this makes much more sense as a pemmican ingredient. It's not just for flavoring; it's a substantial component of the nutrition, adding carbohydrates and phytonutrients along with additional calorie-dense plant oils and protein.



Typically adding berries to pemican by natives was only done for special circumstances. Weddings and celebrations etc.. As berries lower the shelf life of pemican dramatically due to moisture in the berries (even after dried) and often fungus and bacteria on the berries. The fur traders however almost always wanted berries in their pemican so the natives learned to make plenty with berries for the traders who took flavor over shelf stability.
 
jay wong
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Can pemmican be sustainable?
 
Dan Boone
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Jay, welcome to Permies! I have to ask what you mean by your question, though. Can you expand on it?

Since pemmican is mostly meat, maybe the thread The Myth Of Sustainable Meat will help answer your question.
 
Len Ovens
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jay wong wrote:Can pemmican be sustainable?


sustainable, Hmm now theres a word. What does it mean in this context?

It can be used to sustain one's health.

it comes from meat which has sustained itself for thousands of years.

plants also self sustaining.

the energy to make it comes from human muscle.

All of the embodied energy comes from the Sun originally... the Sun has been sustaining itself for a long time but I hear it will burn itself out sometime.... then nothing on Earth is sustainable any more.
 
Keira Oakley
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Depends where you live... the colder, the more meat and fatty food, the hotter, the more fruits.
Try to be a fruitarian in the far north: you'll never be able to feel warm, no matter how many calories you eat...
On the other hand, if you eat mostly meat and fat, in a very hot climate, you'll sweat and feel very heavy and slow.
I heard about a polar team, I think during the 1980', having completed their expedition, were waiting for the helicopter to bring them back. They had lived mostly on pemmican (no berries there) mixed with butter and porridge, and where dreaming about all the food they would have... they ALL asked for the same thing to bring them on the flight back: "APPLES", they were so tired of fatty, meaty, mushy food, and were dreaming of something crisp and fresh...
 
Keira Oakley
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I forgot one more thing: there was this guy who, after having lived with eskimos, tried to prove that it is possible to live on meat only, I think he did it for a year... The key was to eat mostly raw meat (though he included some cooked meat), and to avoid lean meat and have lots of fatty parts and offal. The worst for him was lean, cooked meat...
I was a vegan for a long time, but started to get sick... I tried to eat "normal" cooked meat, but felt absolutely awful. I have now found something that works quite ok, although it's not optimal: organic salami, or chorizo or other fatty meat that has not been cooked and is full of fat. The only real problem is the amount of salt...
Is there a way to preserve meat and bits of fat without salt...?
 
Keira Oakley
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The name of the guy who did this "only meat" experiment was Vilhjalmar Stefasson, and he did this in the 20' and 30'. I do have to say though: I saw a picture of him, and he did have a very puffy face... and what's very interesting to notice... is... if you look at fruitarians, they are the total opposite, they have this unnaturally thin skin in the face...
 
allen lumley
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-maybe this and much that proceeded it should actually be in the primitive ,or ancestral skills department !

With what has been already said -what little I can add will get little traction, but here goes -

Back in the days when 80%+ of the "White Fur Trappers'' and explorers of the virgin North America were French-Canadians the Three meats that were regarded

as the best, most nutritious, and tastiest were Moose Nose, ( high gelatin content ) Beaver tail, ( high gelatin content ) and Buffalo hump ! ( high gelatin content )


The Native Americans drank a Spruce Bud Tea every spring not as a medical item of necessity - but as early spring green - as such this material acted as an

abundant source of Vitamin C

I just want to add that the Native Americans introduced the immigrant Europeans to Maple Syrup - "English flies'' or stinging bees were unknown on the American

Continent Before the early European Settlers ! - Fact check me please ! For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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