Wednesday, 18 April 2018

P is for Peter Pond's use of Pemmican ...




It is thought that Peter Pond (1739 - 1807), the fur trader, realised the value in the native people's staple food ... named Pemmican from the Cree word 'pimikan' ...

Some Pemmican made up


Peter Pond opened up the Canadian West ... with proverbial Yankee shrewdness realising the rich pickings away from the Great Lakes area ... before fading south in disgrace ... 



Showing N America and Canada
with the spread of the Saskatoon
berry tree - also giving an idea of the
territories needing to be surveyed,
explored and developed


Trading occurred between the natives, and the explorers and settlers - the Hudson Bay company's (incorporated 1670) trading posts along with expansion by entrepreneurial intrepid explorers searching this new land.  Pemmican as a food sustained people in these early days, as it had for the natives for centuries before ... 




Peter Pond's second-in-command during 1787-88, was Sir Alexander Mackenzie after whom the Mackenzie River basin is named.  Such interesting history here. 


The pomes of the
Saskatoon plant
Traditionally Pemmican is made from dried, ground meat, usually bison (moose, caribou, venison or beef), mixed with an equal quantity of fat (where the name Pimikan comes from - you might want to look away now! - "manufactured grease")  to which occasionally saskatoon berries, cranberries were added ... or on special occasions other small fruits.




A North American bison


It was then cooled and sewn into bison-hide bags in 41 kg (90 lbs) lots, which were easily transported across the trading regions - the prairies and further north ...


Fridtjof Nansen


Subsequently Pemmican has been recognised as 'an essential' - being used by Mackenzie on his crossing of Canada in the 1790s - twelve years before Lewis and Clark.



First Edition cover 1930


Other North American traders used it, as well as being taken up for use in the Boer War, the polar expeditions ... Shackleton, Scott, Amundsen, and by the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) ... another extraordinary person ...


Arthur Ransome, in his Swallows and Amazons series, had his children refer to their bully beef potted meat tins as Pemmican ... adding to their fantasy world ...



That is P for Peter Pond's sustaining Pemmican ... from Aspects by a British 'girl' in Canada ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

38 comments:

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
An essential survival requirement, no doubt... but this vego did have to shudder a couple of times! I guess it was similar to what ended up as 'sausage' in Europe. Ways and means. YAM xx

Liz A. said...

That would be very useful. It sounds like it travels well, which is what traders and trappers would need.

Elephant's Child said...

Peter Pond's Pickled Pimikan?
I have no doubt it filled a need, but I am very glad to be able to avoid it.

Vallypee said...

I remember reading Swallows and Amazons as a chold, but I don’t remember Pemmican. What a fascinating piece of local information, Hilary! It is interesting that his side Kick became a Sir and I suppose he didn’t?

Lenny Lee said...

sounds like a great survival food. reminds me of Inuit Muktuk. keeps for a long time. i'd like my Pemmican in a crust...Peter Pond's Pemmican Patties. but... no matter how it's served, for sure it's an indigestion special. lol

by the way if you want to make your own Pemmican, just google the recipe. and...if you don't want to make it yourself, you can buy it on amazon.

thanks for another interesting post.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Yamini - so good to see you - I quite understand your feelings re that 'meat' or equivalent and yes I guess in those days - the 'cooks' made the best of what was around .. and that meant making the best of food available ... as you say - ways and means ...

@ Liz - it certainly was well used as an early exploration combination of food available ...

@ EC - I know it was an essential on the explorers' list .. and thus filled an essential need ...

@ Val - I certainly hadn't come across the word .. but couldn't resist it for here in my post - exactly I just found the connection so 'pulling' to include that snippet in my 'P' post.

I'm guessing you're meaning that Ransome was never given a Knighthood because of his possible connection to the Soviets ... ?

@ Lenny - lovely to see you ... I think it must still be a great survival food - having seen versions with chocolate in ...

But Peter Pond's Pemmican Patties - I think I could do without ..!! I know there's recipes I could use .. but for this 'short' P post I thought it was unnecessary and everyone could work it out ...

Just glad you enjoyed it ...

Cheers to you all - thanks for your visit and interest in Pemmican ... Hilary

Bob Scotney said...

I remember reading about pemmican in books when I was young but I cannot remember which ones. Guessing at Fenimore Cooper was the author. Had not heard about its origin though. It has saved a few lives I suspect.

Marcy said...

I always imagined pemmican to be something of a mixture between beef jerky and fruit leather. I wonder, does anyone still make it today?

Nilanjana Bose said...

Sounds like a giant spiced sausage, no doubt a great item for the explorers' bags. I am learning heaps from your A-Z as I always do.

Sara C. Snider said...

The first time I heard of pemmican I thought it sounded like the most disgusting thing ever. But now, I don't know, just sounds like a good source of calories. ;) I find colonial North American life pretty fascinating.

Keith's Ramblings said...

Pemmican doesn't sound too bad, certainly better than Spam-in-a-can! I just Googled a recipe for it. My next dinner guests are in for a real treat!

My Friend Rosey - P is for Poetry

Liza said...

The original beef jerky...

Sue Bursztynski said...

When I was growing up, my mother used to make schmaltz, purest chicken fat, which we spread on bread with salt, sometimes with griebaleh, which were little bits of crunchy fat stuff. Sounds disgusting, and certainly bad for you, but we loved it. Each to their own! And I bet the people who made it in those days burned a lot of calories in their way of life. Definitely a survival food!

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I am not sure that I would want to eat that but I would imagine that one couldn’t be picky in those days.

Emily Bloomquist said...

A 90 lb bison hide bag full? I can see where that might get a lot in trade value once it reaches it's destination. Very interesting product that I had never heard of before. Thanks for another interesting piece, Hilary.

Emily In Ecuador | Palo Santo Products Made in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Kali Delamagente said...

I've read a lot about pemmican in my Western reading passion. I still don't understand why it doesn't spoil faster--but it doesn't. As you say, it's a staple.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Bob - I think you're probably right ... I'd never heard of Fenimore Cooper - but seeing as he's an American author - that makes sense. I think it sustained many a traveller - be they trader or explorer ...

@ Marcy - it probably is as you describe ... there are recipes around so in some form it's still used today - good for hiking trips ...

@ Nila - I think I'd rather have spiced sausage ... but if Pemmican was what was on offer - then I'll eat that! So pleased you're enjoying and learning a little from these posts ...

@ Sara - I think it sounds pretty horrid too - but in those early pioneering days I bet it was excellent to have on trips ...

@ Keith - I guess it could well be much better than spam-in-a-can ... and a whole lot more nutritious. Well done for thinking so kindly about your next dinner guests?!

@ Liza - I guess so ... similar to biltong in South Africa - which I was never very keen on ...

@ Sue - your schmaltz sounds like our dripping, which we had on toast when I was growing up ... sounds awful doesn't it - yet was so delicious!! We're still here - so that's ok.

Pemmican doesn't sound very appetising does it ... but all of them are survival foods, or families making use of the larder sensibly ...

@ Arleen - exactly - they can't have been picky in those days ... just needed to survive ...

@ Emily - it does seem rather a lot doesn't it - but if it sustained many for a fairly long time - then well worth it. I was interested to read a bit more about it ... and Peter Pond was an interesting character to come across ...

@ Jacqui - I'm not sure I understand the science either ... but it's thoroughly dried ...and if there's no moisture then perhaps that's what keeps it 'fresh' ...

Cheers everyone - so glad Pemmican has bemused you all! Thanks for commenting - Hilary

Deborah Weber said...

Today I am exceedingly grateful not to be living in a time when Pemmican-enhanced survival was part of the agenda. And I can promise Keith I won't be visiting for dinner any time soon. :-) But it really is amazing how adaptive and innovative humans can be.

diedre Knight said...

Hi Hilary!

I love bits of history like this! Before your visit to Canada is over, you will be a bonafide expert! Thanks for sharing your wondrous journey ;-)

Susan Scott said...

Pemmican .. lovely sounding word! A useful food stuff to have ... not unlike biltong though we would NEVER add cranberries and other fruity things! Salt fat and beef, or ostrich, or venison makes a delicious snack! Thanks Hilary, very interesting!

Sherry Ellis said...

Manufactured grease sounds very unappetizing, indeed! I suppose if you're hungry...

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Sounds like it would keep people nourished in the icy winters. A little gross, though, for this vegetarian ;-)

Ronel visiting from the A-Z Challenge. Latest post at Ronel the Mythmaker

Andrea Ostapovitch said...

How interesting. I think I would have enjoyed this early form of charcuterie with the berries the most.

Enjoy the rest of your week,
Andrea

Out on the prairie said...

A power food indeed, the amounts of meat people ate during this time was amazing

Pat Hatt said...

Blah, think I'll skip on that. But yeah, back then sure couldn't be picky. Had to take and make what one could.

Jz said...

Now you've got me intrigued as to the texture... I may have to try some.
You know, next time I come across any... O.O

Jean Davis said...

I like that there's a special occasion version of this oh so tasty sounding staple food.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

Doesn't appeal to me at all but I am sure some will like it

Inger said...

Never heard of this, but so interesting.

Silvia Villalobos said...

I can imagine how important the food item was for survival back in those days. Survival was everything. Interesting history, and am learning new words, new foods.

Nas said...

It was probably essential for survival but I won't want it :)

Jo said...

I too am glad I didn't have to sample it let alone subsist on it. I have never know what Pemmican was. Now I wish I didn't.

Just shows you, I thought the McKenzie name was from the Prime Minister. I guess he came a lot later.

Kim Blades said...

Hi Hilary. Another intersting piece of Canadian history. I would imagine the grease that they consumed was to help keep them warm. Another reason why I wouldn't like to live in a cold country for very long. I wonder what the bison population of Canada is like now, much reduced I would imagine. Cheers, Kim

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Deborah - oh I am too - sounds way too much meat and fat - but I expect I'd live! I'm not surprised you'll miss Keith's dinner! Isn't it interesting how foods have adapted as our needs have changed ...

@ Diedre - I doubt the expert part ... but I bet I'll know some interesting snippets on Canadian life! Glad you're enjoying these ...

@ Susan - a very useful food to be able to make; similar to biltong ... but this I think is 'minced' rather than dried meat as such - personally I don't like biltong ... but many do - I know!

@ Sherry - couldn't resist putting the phrase in 'manufactured grease' sounds awful doesn't it! But if I was out in those frozen wilds, I'm sure I'd be eating it .... I want to live!!

@ Ronel - exactly ... kept people alive ... can understand your revulsion though, especially if you're a vegetarian ...

@ Andrea - it certainly could be tasty couldn't it ... particularly the celebratory variety ...

@ Keith - I know ... I can't eat that much meat today ... I'm always off to the fish or the vegetarian side of eating ...

@ Pat - great to see you ... and no, one couldn't be picky and I'd eat it to survive ...

@ Jz - I wonder what it tastes like ... but too much meat for me ... when you've found some and tried it - let us know, please!!

@ Jean - obviously they needed to liven it up occasionally ... it's still used for treks ...

@ Jo-Anne - I quite understand ...

@ Inger - so good to see you ... and am glad you find it interesting ...

@ Silvia - that's true ... a necessary food that will last for many months ... and help them survive; good to know you're learning some snippets of a different world ...

@ Nas - I suspect many of us feel the same way ...

@ Jo - I didn't know what Pemmican was ... but now I definitely do, wouldn't mind trying it - but it wouldn't appear on my dining list.

There are various MacKenzie names in government ... and I expect many others of repute in Canada for this very Scottish name ...

@ Kim - only a snippet - but I'm glad I've included it ... and I'm sure survival from the protein and the fat were both essentials to their lives.

You ask about bison - it seems there's about 350,000 to 400,000 in North America - they don't visit the border officials!! But I'll probably add a note in about them later on ...

Thanks for visiting everyone - cheers Hilary

Rhodesia said...

I think I must call you 'Educating Hilary'. I have heard the word somewhere in the distant past but I had no idea what it was. Thanks for another interesting post. Diane

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Diane - I enjoy teaching myself at the same time ... so this is a compliment from you - cheers Hilary

Lynn said...

I have to say - Pemmican doesn't appeal to me, but I like knowing its origins! I used to watch old cowboy movies with my dad and they used to talk about eating Pemmican, while on the trail I always wondered what it was.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lynn - no it doesn't appeal to me ... too dense; how interesting that your father talked to you about Pemmican while watching cowboy tv/ movies ... well, all those years later I've enlightened you.
Thanks for the comment - cheers Hilary