Definitions

Beat MeatMeat that has been sufficiently dried to allow it to be pounded into chunks and strips often loaded in a coarse state into bags for trade.

 

BladderThis was the bladder of the bison. It often carried water, but, in trade, bone grease, hence, the Metis termed them vessies de graisse de moëlle. Before being filled, the bladder was inflated to artificially distend its capacity, usually to hold about 5 to 6 lbs. of marrow fat.

 

Hunters were sure to save bison bladders after kill “They then washed them well, blew them up like a balloon and dried them. Later the grease was poured in through a birch bark funnel and then the mouth of the bladder was tied to seal it.”

 

Boiled MeatA common means of preparing bison meat, in soups or, given its lean character, to soften it.

 

Common Property Food – A Métis expression, “Minis-a-wak,” coming into use at the end of the bison era when food was scarce and hunts formed to kill animals to be shared equally within the entire camp.

DépouilleThe two strips of fat found on either side of the bison’s or moose’s backbone. This could be roasted lightly, or dipped in grease and smoked slightly for taste and long term preservation.

In Métis pemmican making, this luxury fat, for convenience sake, was used as a fat alternative to marrow, and stored in bladders.

Dépouilles could also be derived from other animals: notably the very sweet back fat from bears in the autumn, and even raccoons.

 

Dried MeatMeat dried in the sun, sometimes with the aid of smoke or the heat of a fire. The preferred technique was to use the sun over longer periods of time in order to achieve pleasing tastes.

When meat was being dried for commercial purposes, women often lit fires underneath it on stages in order to accelerate the drying process. Fur traders sometimes used the expression “under bare poles” to designate the end of meat drying process.

The benefit of meat drying was not only to preserve it longer, but to reduce its bulk. Six pounds of fresh meat could usually be dried to one, allowing for easier transport.

The Métis were said to go to camps to dry meat and these camps were referred to by them as “nick-ah-wah.”

En ĖchafaudTo put fresh meat on stage during the winter, safely out of the reach of scavengers and dogs.

 

ĖparerTranslated by fur trades as “ Turning Out,” was the slicing of meat in thin pieces to dry in the sun. 

 

Fat Bags -  Usually calf skins  doubled over, sewn together, and sealed with tallow; they carried hard fats, rendered tallow, or unrendered back fats and interior hard fats. The Métis called them baskoyas. The Cree, if they did not use bladders, would  drip bone greases into bags called oskanpimi; the shoulder and rump fats were poured into bags called sasipmanpimi (used as fried grease).

 

Grease Fat derived from the most axial areas of the animals body. These fats had the highest proportions of unsaturated fatty acid chains and the lowest melting points. Grease as a fur trade term denoted both marrow fats, interior bone grease and boiled grease from crushed bones.

Grease was considered the most delectable fat. “ It is the nicest grease I have ever tasted … when needed it was poured out of the bladder onto a piece of pemmican or into a dish into which we could “dunk” our bannock.”

Pelu Bison robe. The word originated in the Latin Pilus or hair, and became current in the era of robe hunting.

 

 

PemmicanA loaf or cake composed of dried, pounded meat  and hardened fat. There were many variants: 

 

Traditional, or “fine,” “Sweet” – Heavier in soft fats. The root words of pemmican is “grease”: in Cree, pemitigan (he makes grease); in Ojibwa Pemetai, Blackfoot, Poomis.

 

“The choicest cuts of meat are selected and cut into flakes and dried. Then all the marrow is collected and the best of the tallow, which are dissolved together over a slow fire to prevent burning. Many groups use berries in their pemmican. The meat is now pulverized to the consistency of mince meat; the women generally doing this on a flat rock, using a pestle .... A layer of meat is spread out about two inches think, the women using a wooden dipper , a buffalo horn, or a claw for this work. On this meat is spread a certain amount of ingredients made from marrow and tallow, the proportion depending on the taste.

Some sweet pemmican was mixed with berries and was considered a delicacy fit for gift-giving and diplomacy.The berry of choice was the service or June berry [Saskatoon berries].

Trade or Voyageur Pemmican - Heavier in hard fats drawn from the back fat of the buffalo or its core body fats. in the early periods of the fur trade, trade pemmican could be made of 1/5 marrow; 4/5 hard fats. 

With time, companies often switched simply to tallow for trade pemmican. This likely coincided with the heavier hunt of summer weight bulls, which were rich in tallow. 

The use of harder fats for trade pemmican increased its storage life and using dépouilles made pemmican tastier.

Seed or "loaf" Pemmican - Was made with berries or other additives. In the later pioneer period, Loaf pemmican was favored by new settlers who sometimes used berries, flour, salt and even sugar as a means of making it more palatable.

Pioneer alterations including "curried pemmican," "roushou pemmican stewed in onion,' and pemmican shredded "very fine, mixed with flour, baking powder, pepper and salt and then making bannocks of it. These could always be warmed up by placing them in front of the fire when you arrived in camp."

 

Pioneer loaf pemmican was usually made in ten to twenty pound sacks for easier use. 

Winter Pemmican - Made of bags of half-dried meat often with fat only coarsely mixed within it or not included at all. Given the difficulty of fully drying meat in some winter conditions, grease was carried separately and added later. When it was mixed with fat, winter pemmican, by necessity, had a very short storage life.

Rubaboo - Usually denoted pemmican fried with flour.

Ruchagan - Pemmican cut into chunks and added to grease to increase its palatability and, likely, its total caloric energy value.

In the fur trade era, pemmican was often fried in grease, considered a delectable alternative than eating it hard. In the pioneer period, ruchagan could constitute a heavy soup in which pemmican was boiled with potatoes and onions. 

Sinew - The thread like tendon usually taken from each side of the back of the animal from the shoulder to the thigh, dried with all the meat removed.

Tallow - Any of the fats derived from the axial portions of the animal, including the organ (sometimes referred to as "kidney") fat, 

Tallow, more carefully rendered and barreled became a part of the summer hunt, with exports to the London market as part of the Hudson Bay Companies annual returns. Bison tallow made for excellent candles. 

 - All information on this page was gathered from George Colpitts book Pemmican Empire. -