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  • 5000 year old energy bar

    Posted on April 26th, 2021 cwmoore No comments

    Inspired by the Recipe From FirstNations.org

    1 cup dried meat (bison, venison, or beef)
    1/3 cup dried berries
    2 tablespoons lard (do not substitute shortening or butter)
    Optional: sugar to taste

    1. Dry the Meat

    Whatever you choose for your meat, make sure it’s lean. Remember that it’s going to shrink as it dries (condensing nourishment into a smaller package is one of pemmican’s greatest qualities). For instance, about 1.5–2 pounds of raw beef will yield about 1.5–2 cups when dried. Cut against the grain into strips (chilling the meat in the freezer for an hour beforehand makes for cleaner cutting), lay out on a sheet, and place in an oven preheated to its lowest setting, typically around 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the thickness of your meat, it could take up to 12 hours to fully dry. You’ll know the meat is ready when it’s dry but still pliable.

    For anyone who thinks buying beef jerky is a nice shortcut, think again: As historical-food re-creator Jon Townsend points out, commercial jerky has preservatives such as nitrates, which will negatively alter the final flavor, and it’s cut with the grain, which will make it more difficult to grind the meat into a powder.

    2. Dry the Berries

    Chokecherries or saskatoons are the most traditional choices, but blueberries, cranberries, and most other berries will also work. If you have fresh berries, you can either use a food dehydrator or an oven set to low heat. Depending on your equipment, times for drying out the berries can vary greatly, from several hours to a full day. If using an oven, break the berries’ skins (slicing or poking holes works fine) to allow their juice to evaporate. Keep an eye on them. You’ll know they’re ready when they’re completely dry with no juice left.

    3. Make the Lard

    If you don’t have lard lurking in the fridge, you can buy it premade or make it yourself. The first option is easier, but requires some sleuthing, as many prepackaged lards use unhealthy preservatives. Look for non-hydrogenated options.

    But if you want reliably high-quality lard, you should make it yourself. Order some fatback or leaf fat from your local butcher. (Call ahead to see if there’s a way to arrange safe delivery or pickup. They won’t find it weird if you ask for a big batch of fat. People use lard for a multitude of reasons, so they’ve likely done this before.)

    As with the meat, briefly chill the fat in the freezer, then cut it into small cubes. Place the fat in a slow-cooker or a pot on the stovetop with ¼ cup of water. Both should be set to low. The process typically takes two to four hours. Periodically check the pot, stirring occasionally. You’ll know it’s ready when most of the cubes have liquified. Filter out any cracklings with a strainer and cheesecloth or paper towel, then place the liquid in an air-tight container. Leave out at room temperature until it starts to set, then move to the refrigerator.

    The ground-up meat-and-berry powder.
    The ground-up meat-and-berry powder. Sam O’Brien for Gastro Obscura

    4. Make the Pemmican

    Now it’s time to make your meat powder. Grind the dried meat in a food processor or, if you want to approximate the traditional method of a pounding stone, get your hands on a mortar and pestle. Repeat with the berries and combine the powders in a bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons of lard, then add to the bowl and mix until it’s sticky enough to be formed into patties. Add another tablespoon of lard if the mixture is still too powdery. If you’d like to add sugar, use about one tablespoon. Shape into patties and let dry.

    The results won’t be beautiful, but appearances don’t seem to stop anyone from eating today’s bland-brick energy bars. Grab a piece of pemmican and savor the flavor of one of history’s oldest enduring meals.

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