Monday, December 25, 2023

Making Pemmican - 2

Today I finished up my first batch of pemmican. I let the dehydrator run overnight at around 115 degrees. Nowadays, it's generally recommended to make jerky at around 170 degrees but this will destroy more nutrients. I figure that a bit lower and slower will be safe. Jerky was originally made by drying for a few days in the wind over a low, smoky fire.

Then I shredded it in my food processor.

I probably would have gotten better results if I did it in smaller batches rather than all at once. I didn't get it as fine as I wanted.

Next I melted some beef tallow over a low heat, poured it into the bowl and mixed it thoroughly. After that I spooned it into the muffin tin to make pucks.

The tallow was fully melted in the pic. When it's melted it's a clear, slightly amber liquid.

In preparation for sealing the pucks I took them out of the muffin papers. They are pretty soft. I think I could have used a little less tallow.

Vacuum sealing:

And all done, ready for the freezer:

I decided to put two pucks in three of the packs to reduce waste.

Later this week I'll be heading upstate for Pennsylvania's late flintlock season. We'll try making a stew or rubaboo with one of the packages. I'll post a review after I get home.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Making Pemmican - 1

A survival food I've wanted to try is pemmican. I've watched several videos about it on YouTube and decided to give it a whirl. Wikipedia provides a good overview of what it is:

Pemmican (also pemican in older sources[1][2]) is a mixture of tallow, dried meat, and sometimes dried berries. A calorie-rich food, it can be used as a key component in prepared meals or eaten raw. Historically, it was an important part of indigenous cuisine in certain parts of North America and it is still prepared today.[3][4] The word comes from the Cree word ᐱᒦᐦᑳᓐ (pimîhkân), which is derived from the word ᐱᒥᕀ (pimî), "fat, grease".[5] The Lakota (or Sioux) word is wasná, originally meaning "grease derived from marrow bones", with the wa- creating a noun, and sná referring to small pieces that adhere to something.[6][7] It was invented by the Indigenous peoples of North America.[8][9]

Pemmican was widely adopted as a high-energy food by Europeans involved in the fur trade and later by Arctic and Antarctic explorers, such as Captain Robert Bartlett, Ernest Shackleton, Richard E. Byrd, Fridtjof Nansen, Robert Falcon Scott, George W. DeLong, and Roald Amundsen.


I'm using the simplest recipe possible: meat and fat. I bought a couple packages of thinly sliced top round steaks and a couple jars of Epic beef tallow at my local supermarket.

The first step is to turn the beef into jerky:

I'm using my Nesco FD-75A dehydrator.

After the meat is dried to the point where I can crumble it with my fingers, I'll put it in a food processor to powder it.

Once the dried meat is powdered it will be combined with melted tallow, poured or scooped into a container, and allowed to set up.

Finally, I plan to vacuum seal each brick or puck of pemmican using my Foodsaver vacuum sealer. Thus prepared the pemmican should last for years if not decades, especially if I put the sealed packages in my freezer.

I will post follow-ups tomorrow showing the next steps.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

A Little Gunsmithing With My Table Top Mill

Back in October I picked up a Northwest Trade Gun put together from Caywood parts by Arizona gunsmith Mike Roby. The NWTG was one of the most important firearms in North American history, being made by the tens of thousands from the mid-18th to late 19th Centuries. It's basically a single barrel shotgun that was wildly popular with Indians and to a lesser extent, whites.

As a smoothbore, it's very versatile in that you can load it with shot for small game and birds, buckshot for larger animals or defense, or a single ball for large game.

The Caywood/Roby NTWG is a lefty, which made it impossible to resist.

It's a 20 gauge which translates to about .62 caliber.  My goal for it is to develop a round ball load that will allow me to hunt whitetail deer out to about 50 yards. That means I need to keep my shots on a paper dinner plate at that distance.

The first time I shot the gun I was getting pretty good groups at around 25 yards but they were about 10" low and a foot left. I decided the best way to correct this would be to add a rear sight, since as it came it only hand a front sight.

Last week I dismounted the barrel from the stock and used my Grizzly G8689 mill to cut a shallow dovetail.

The rear sight as it currently appears. After I settle on a load and get it zeroed, I'll narrow the blade to match the barrel.

I took it to the range yesterday and tried several different ball/patch combinations but failed to get what I consider an acceptable group, so more experimentation is necessary. One thing I'm going to try is 2Fg powder instead of 3Fg.

ASSuming I'm able to develop a good load it'll become a deer gun for me. It's under 8 lbs. and has a nice sling, making it nice to carry. Recoil is not bad at all with a hunting load. The large balls should drop deer nicely.

Many machinists turn their nose up at these small Chinese machines. Would I like to have a Bridgeport mill? Of course! But I don't have anywhere for it. This mill and my 7x14 lathe are quite capable of doing useful work as long as you confine yourself to their working environments. For making small parts or even modifying bigger ones, they've found a place in my toolkit.