Pemmican: for men and dogs

Pimekan, or pemmican as we’ve come to know it, is a high-fat, high-protein snack that was eaten as a travel food in pre-colonial America. The word comes from the Cree language, and means “manufactured grease”. Try out the recipe for this essential snack eaten by fur traders, Antarctic explorers and sled dogs

Its ingredients consisted of ground-up dried meat and, on special occasions, berries, which were held together with animal fat and packed into rawhide bags for long journeys. It could be eaten raw, cooked in a vegetable stew (rubaboo in Métis French) or fried with onions and potatoes (rechaud).

The food was traded with European voyageurs in the Canadian fur trade, then found its way back to Europe, where it became part of the provisions of early Polar explorers. Recently, it has become popular with Paleo dieters as a high-energy ‘superfood’

Recipes changed with the climate and what was available,and the ratio of meat to fat rose from 2:1 to 1:1 in the winter. Adjust the recipe based on how and when you will eat it.


  • Firstly, grind the meat (use beef, venison, lamb or buffalo), spread on a baking sheet then cook at 80°C for eight hours or until crispy. Let it cool, then grind into a powder.

  • To render the fat (suet or lard), melt it in a pan until it becomes a golden-brown liquid. Strain to remove the solids and allow to cool. Repeat the process if you want your pimekan to really last.

  • Grind up dried seedless berries such as cranberries, currants, blueberries or raisins, and mix with the meat, then pour in the fat. In warm climes, use just enough to moisten the mixture; if it’s very cold, use equal amounts of meat and fat. 

  • Mix well and press into bars or balls, then pop in the fridge to cool. When solid, wrap the pimekan in waxed paper (or rawhide!) and put aside for your next adventure.


Guy Lochhead is a primary school teacher living in Bristol. He is currently gathering sources via the British Whybrary, putting on gory am-dram classical tragedies and starting Bristol's first co-op gym.