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Pemmican: The Ancient Indigenous Energy Bar That Lasts Years
By Elias Nash
An entire industry of energy bar brands has arisen to provide compact, long-lasting, calorie-dense snacks for people on the go, campers, and professional athletes. However, before energy bars became a part of modern living, there was pemmican, a staple of native Plains cultures like the Cree, Ojibwe, Blackfoot, and Sioux.
Pemmican is traditionally made by pounding dried meat into a coarse powder and mixing it with an equal amount of melted animal fat. Berries, such as cranberries, cherries, currants, and blueberries, may also be thrown in the mix, and the whole amalgam gets sewn into animal hide bags for storage and shipment.
According to Atlas Obscura, a single pound of pemmican can pack as much as 3,500 calories, and it can last for years on end, making it the ultimate survivalist food. The key to pemmican's long shelf life is the fact that its ingredients are dehydrated, which protects the meat from spoilage, because molds and bacteria need water to multiply.
For those who weren't satisfied eating pemmican on its own, it could also be used as the base of a larger meal. The most popular pemmican-based meal was a type of stew called “rubaboo,” which was made with pemmican and vegetables, typically corn and peas. Wild vegetation such as onions, parsnips, turnips, carrots, and mushrooms might also be used, as well as various regional herbs.