Friday, November 23, 2007

Pemmican: The Original Fast Food of the First Americans, Traditional and Fat Free Recipes

Pemmican is a tasty high-protein treat that's perfect for snacking, traveling, hiking, camping, and for disasters or other crisis events, where cooking meals may be difficult. As a bonus, this lightweight nutrient-packed food needs no refrigeration.

Traditional recipes for Indian pemmican usually calls for a mixture of shredded jerky, dried berries and nuts, along with a bit of melted fat to hold it all together. In the old days, it was considered essential for sustaining warriors and hunters on the trail. Pemmican can be eaten out of hand, or added to soups, stews, or anything in need of an extra nutritional boost.

The fast-food idea caught on with the Hudson's Bay Company and became a standard feature in the North American fur trade industry. The highest prices were paid for Native American-made pemmican that was stored in buffalo skin bags, called parfleches. The filled bags were sealed with melted fat. The parfleches shrank as they dried, creating a kind of vacuum seal that helped to preserve the contents for years. Traditionally, this kind of pemmican was made with equal parts dried meat and melted fat. Animal fat taken from around the kidneys and loins were considered choice. If taken from beef, this kind of fat is called suet. For those who prefer a fat-free pemmican, a recipe is included here.

To eat pemmican Native American style, pop a little bit into your mouth and chew it just about forever, sort of like chewing gum. That way you entertain your mouth and extract every bit of goodness from the dehydrated meat, berries and nuts. It is surprisingly filling when eaten this way. Even though the food is low-volume, it it packs power because it is highly concentrated and loaded with protein.

There are different schools of thought regarding the shelf life of pemmican. Some say it will last for only a month or two; others say it will last for years. It depends upon the temperature and humidity of the environment, the quality of ingredients, and how it is stored. At any rate, the fat content will also determine shelf life. After the fat goes rancid from age, it will taste bad, and should be thrown out. The cooler the storage temperatures are, the longer the fat will stay fresh.

To help extend shelf life, I like to store pemmican in the freezer. If the electricity should ever go out long enough to affect the contents of the freezer, I will take the pemmican out of the freezer, and after making sure that it is perfectly dry, store it in a glass jar or plastic bag in a dark cool place.

For even longer term storage, I sometimes use raisins in place of fat in the traditional recipe.

PureCajunSunshine's Fat-Free Pemmican

In a blender, whizz together equal parts of pulverized-to-a-powder jerky, ground dried berries, and chopped nuts of your choice. Add enough raisins so that the smashed up raisins hold everything together nicely. Then you can form marble-sized balls or whatever. No blender handy? Chop with a knife, then pound the foodstuff to a pulp with a rock.

This stores a lot longer than the traditional version with fat. But then, during really high caloric demanding situations such as hiking, working, or coping with a disaster, you'd be wishing for that little extra fat, because it supplies a majority of the calories in pemmican.

Another delicious alternative to animal fat is peanut butter, which provides more sustenance than the fat-free version.

Pemmican with Honey and Peanut Butter

Some people prefer peanut butter to fat; some like a blend of honey and peanut butter. Here is a recipe that helps provide calories without fat:

1/2 pound of jerky, pulverized to a powder, or nearly to a powder
1/2 pound of raisins
1/2 pound of nuts (peanuts, pecans. etc)
2 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons peanut butter

Warm the honey and mix with the peanut butter together until well blended.
Add all ingredients together. Store in a plastic bag in a cool, dry place.

Native American Pemmican - Traditional Style

Cook chunks of fat over low heat until all moisture is removed and oil is rendered. Strain well, allow to cool until hardened. Reheat and strain again, to make the fat firmer, and to improve its keeping qualities.

Pulverize dried meat (jerky) to a powder. Add equal parts of ground dried berries and chopped nuts. Add just enough hot melted fat into the mixture to lightly coat all the ingredients. Immediately stir the mixture, working quickly to allow the melted fat to soak into the powdered ingredients before cooling. If it cools too quickly, gently warm the mixture in the microwave or over a low flame. While still warm, shape the pemmican into balls, bars or small patties.

Lacking traditional containers such as animal intestines or skin parfleche bags to store them in, wrap the pemmican pieces in wax paper. Store in glass jars or plastic bags.

This may be reprinted by you for noncommercial use, if the following credit is given:

This article is an excerpt from Mrs. Tightwad's Handbook #1: HOW TO SURVIVE DISASTERS AND OTHER HARD TIMES. For more information, see the left sidebar on this site:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Foods That Are Perfect for Camping, Traveling, Disasters or Crisis Events

Save time and money when traveling, by bringing your own brand of fast foods to eat. Light and nutritious foods helps to beat road fatigue better than heavy, fat-laden McAnything!

Camp or trail food needs to be fast and easy, so that you can get back to having more fun doing other things besides fooling around with a bunch of pots and pans without a sink to wash them in!

Homemade fast foods can also come in handy even when you are not having a good time.

During and after a prolonged and severe crisis, the ways and means to prepare meals may become a serious challenge. Fuel may be scarce, or you may be an evacuee, or you may be too sick or injured to prepare a conventional meal.

Good buzzwords: Trail Food...Instant Meals...Quick Cooking...No Cook...Low Profile...

Low profile? Yes, as in a "don't attract unwanted attention" kind of way.

Imagine the effects of the smell of delicious meat roasting over an open fire or even of beans cooking during a very severe crisis, after most of the unprepared masses have gone long past "just a missed lunch"...

That picturesque odor trail you see in newspaper comics and TV cartoons is for real. You would be surprised at how far odor molecules float in the wind to keenly hungry people! Unless you are in a position to assist everyone, go low profile!

Sometimes the business of keeping well fed can be a challenge in a crisis situation, or even while camping or traveling. That is why I will soon devote a separate category just for this, in my blog and handbook.

This may be reprinted by you for noncommercial use, if the following credit is given:

This article is an excerpt from Mrs. Tightwad's Handbook #1: HOW TO SURVIVE DISASTERS AND OTHER HARD TIMES. For more information, see the left sidebar on this site:

Monday, November 12, 2007

Urban Survival During a Severe Crisis

Natural or manmade disasters can befall any community. That can be bad enough, but in the inner cities especially, things can get real ugly in a hurry. There, extreme duress can bring out the very darkest side of humanity. It is the kind of stuff that used to shock the world: widespread rioting, looting, and general mayhem triggered by things such as electricity outages, court decisions, or even just general fed-upness of the people...such as what happened in France not that long ago. Then there's Katrina...where even rural and small town communities were raped and plundered by out of town gangs, and even by their own neighbors.

If you ever find yourself in a severe crisis situation that turns your world upside down, and your fellow man turn into predators, here are a few lessons borrowed from Katrina Hell that might help you survive:

1. Water is top priority! Lots of pure drinking water, and the ways and means of purifying the worst possible polluted water. Think viruses (pandemics), radiation, sewage, industrial accidents and other toxic scenarios. Do NOT even count on rain. After Katrina, it did not rain for weeks. Droughts happen.

Prep action: Scout out all possible sources of water now. A Google-search using the keywords "hydrology" and "hydrology maps" and your location could be rich with little known sources of water. A good hydrology map will reveal abandoned wells, natural springs, streams and other sources of water in your area.

2. Prep for various ways and means for purifying water and cooking meals. My portable "mess kit" has saved me much grief over the years. I keep one at home and another in my vehicle. It is a sturdy school-style backpack that contains a few propane bottles, a single burner rig that screws onto the propane bottles, plus other ways and means of "making heat", boiling water and cooking foods: pots, utensils, homemade "hobo stoves" (more on that in a future article), alcohol, candles, Sterno fuel, a flint & steel kit, Bic lighters, matches, and a few pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil to serve as wind foils and as a pot "lid".

3. Prep heavily on instant meals, MREs, dehydrated stuff, and canned goods for low profile heat-and-eats that also conserves fuel, which will likely be limited.

Concentrate on low, low profile meals, as in NO COOKING ODORS. You would be amazed at how far the odor trail goes...and the trouble it can bring back to you.

4. Secret temporary retreats (important IF you are few in number, or could possibly be overrun). This can be inside fake walls, fake closet backs, etc. Use your imagination and plan ahead of time. Preparing for this possibility now may be your saving grace later.

5. Low tech barrier "alarms" might buy time for you to prepare for fight or flight. Almost a hundred years ago, some French Quarter residents would place large broken pieces of slate on the ground beneath the windows, so that the crunching sound of the intruder's footfalls could alert the householders. Some still do. Use your imagination with whatever materials are handy...

During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I strung clean empty tin cans (with a small hole punched near the open top for passing a string through) and beer cans onto fishing string. Then strings of cans were tied to gether in such a way that it made a hellacious racket at the slightest movement. I pinned bunches of them onto curtains, and also used them in other rigged up contraptions that made lot of noise if triggered...

6. If your home/apartment already looks looted, AND uninviting in an unappealing kind of way...gangs, and other Bad Guys will move on quickly.

Edited to add: This advice may be useful
only in certain situations (such as mentioned in #4, "IF you are few in number, or could possibly be overrun", and if you decide to hide or leave the area...). Every situation is different. More on this in a future article.

This bit of advice may not always
prevent theft, but it might discourage looters and other two legged critters from hanging around too long, or camping out at your place.

Prep item (don't laugh): Large jars of superstinky homemade catfish bait with screw lid caps. These can be opened and hidden near likely points of entry, and in the kitchen area, etc.

Heh. Now the Bad Guys think the place has already been picked over AND there's a lot of dead and rotten things in there...phew! They might be more inclined to set up camp down the road in better quarters.

PureCajunSunshine's Looter Repellant...duh huh...this plan just might work almost too (gag) good.

This may be reprinted by you for noncommercial use, if the following credit is given:

This article is an excerpt from Mrs. Tightwad's Handbook #1: HOW TO SURVIVE DISASTERS AND OTHER HARD TIMES. For more information, see the left sidebar on this site:

Monday, November 5, 2007

Herbs and Things for Copperhead Snakebites and Brown Recluse Spiderbites

In an austere, where-there-is no-doctor situation caused by natural or manmade disasters, we may have no choice but to rely 100% on our own resources. In that case, this information may come in handy. If competent medical care is available, I strongly advise that snakebitten or spiderbitten persons take advantage of it.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or dysfunction. If you have a physical concern, it is recommended that you seek the advice of a competent health care professional.

Last week a young copperhead snake bit me on my finger. Fortunately the angle of the bite was in my favor. One of the fangs hit my knuckle bone and did not penetrate deeply; the other fang kind of rolled off and left a deep scratch. I think that because the snake struck me on the knuckle bone it did not turn loose with nearly as much venom as it would have if it had sunk its fangs into sure 'nuff in muscles or tissues. The pain and swelling was intense enough to make me wonder if somehow the fang had reached inside the joint. Yeow!

I opted for self-treatment because I live in a wilderness area where medical care truly is a dismal option. I would not trust the nearest local professionals on anything more than a bee sting.

If the bite had been on my face, neck or closer to my heart, or obviously hit an artery, or if I had been bitten by the deadlier diamondback rattlesnake or coral snake, I would have opted for the nearest competent hospital. Heh. That would be quite a long ride.

Death from copperhead snake bites are very rare (I believe the average is only about one per year in the USA), which is a good thing because statistics show that they account for most of the reported snakebites in America.

However, because serious complications are also frequently reported with copperhead snakebites, diligence and good medical care will greatly influence the outcome.

I have several traditional Native American snakebite remedies in my herbal arsenal. For my copperhead snake encounter last week, I relied on these herbs internally and made lots of poultices. More on poultices later.

Now the bruising and swelling has gone down and everything is looking and feeling MUCH better. I noticed that whenever I'd slack off on the echinacea regimen, the swelling and pain reminded me that it was time to take more of something!

Here's what I use for snakebites (and brown recluse bites, too...see below: "About Brown Recluse Bites").

Echinacea root (Echinacea angustifolia or E. purpurea or E. pallida), (4 - 6 capsules, internally every two to three hours) and poulticed

Goldenseal root (Hydrastis canadensis), (2 capsules, internally every two to three hours in between Echinacea doses) and poulticed

Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) root, poulticed

Slippery Elm bark (Ulmus fulva), (capsules internally, as needed for nausea and stomach pains) and poulticed

Plantain leaves (Plantago major), crushed and poulticed (this is a whiteman herb adapted to redman uses) Take one tablespoon crushed leaf juice every hour, at the same time applying the bruised leaves to the wound. The dried leaves can also be used when soaked in water or herbal tea. Plantain tea can be used as a wash to bathe the area often.

Garlic internally and poulticed

Salt water soaks

Honey, poulticed

Charcoal, poulticed

For pain relief: Calcium gluconate 500 mgs. every 4 - 6 hours in addition to your favorite pain relief measures. NO ALCOHOL, under any circumstances.

Vitamin C capsules 1,000 - 5,000 mgs several times a day, as much as can be comfortably tolerated (take with Slippery Elm powdered bark). I use Ester-C.

I used a combinatin of herbal teas and decoctions to moisten a single or combination of herbs being used in the poultice, depending upon the immediate crisis or need at hand (drawing/extracting, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, or anti-whatever else is needed at the time).


A poultice is a pulverized or powdered mass of herbs moistened with water, herbal teas, tinctures, infusions, oils, decoctions. It is applied wet to the problem area. If fresh herb is used, it is pulverized until juicy, then applied directly to the skin without moistening. A cloth can be wrapped around the poultice to hold it in place when there will be movement such as walking, etc.


By the way, the regimen outlined here is pretty much how I treated my brown recluse bites (3 bites, the first time two years ago, and another one a couple of months ago). Instead of the poultices, I poured a high quality tea tree oil directly into the "hole" that the bite caused. All four bites healed amazingly well, and tissue necrosis was kept down to the size of a dime, or less. I also took frequent large doses of echinacea as outlined in the other post.

Note: It is quite possible that I may be one of those tough old birds who is "immune" to Brown Recluse spider bites. I don't know if this is the case, or if my homemade treatment should take the credit for my success. If you have access to professional medical care, I urge to you seek it promptly if you think you have been bitten by a Brown Recluse spider. More often than not, the damage from Brown Recluse is very profound, as in severe tissue damage leading to loss of limbs... They are nastybad spiders.


I do not have an "extractor" of any kind in my arsenal. It is my understanding that they are no longer recommended first aid treatments. Not even the Sawyer Extractor (which involves no cutting or lancing).

Here are three (of many!) well-versed comments made about extractors:

Note - The Sawyer Extractor kit, is no longer viewed by experts (such as Dr. Sean Bush, the nation's leading expert on snakebite) as a useful therapy for snakebite treatment, and may cause more harm than good.

Proper protocol is to immobilize the bite, keep it at roughly the same level as the heart, and to transport to the hospital without delay. In the words of Dr. Bush - "Time is Tissue. The longer it takes to get proper medical treatment, the more tissue is damaged and destroyed."


Matt_H on 2005-02-26
I have to agree with Doctor Bush on this one. I've read several reports on the study of this device and have come to the conclusion that it is not a good idea for hemotoxic envenomations. From a medical point of view, consider this. When you are bitten the first thing to consider is whether the fang penetrated a vein or just tissue. the fang penetrates a vein it is immediately traveling through your bloodstream and envenomation effects will be rapid. If it has not penetrated a vein, then it will sitll enter your bloodstream (though a little slower) by absorbtion through the capillaries. Once venom enters your bloodstream it is at the mercy of your circulatory system which is continually flowing as long as your heart is pumping. A simple negative pressure at the bite site is not going to slow down your blood circulation enough to stop the travel of venom. At best, it can retain a small portion of the venom at the bite site. If you are bitten by a pit viper, or any other snake whose venom is hemotoxic, this will definately exaggerate the localized necrosis.

The main idea here is to try to slow the movement of venom until medical attention can be acquired. In order to slow down the movement of venom you have to reduce the circulation in the affected area. This is still best achieved by a pressure bandage, (NOT a tournequet). A pressure bandage will constrict the veins and arteries in the limb enough to slow the movement of blood through the limb and thus slow the movement of venom. The bandage should be tight enough to compress the limb but loose enough to slide two fingers under the bandage. In additon the limb should be immobilized. This combination should buy you plenty of time to seek emergency medical treatment.


By Tod Schimelpfenig
Curriculum Director – WMI of National Outdoor Leadership School, 2007
NOLS, 284 Lincoln Street, Lander, WY 82520-2848, USA

We've taught that if promptly applied the Sawyer Extractor may be helpful for pit viper bites, albeit with caveats that there is limited evidence it helps, and some evidence that concentrating venom locally may be harmful.

We've changed our curriculum on the Extractor, based on the opinions of experts and research that indicates the Extractor has not lived up to it's original promise. A study published in the February 2004 Annals of Emergency Medicine created a human model for "mock venom" extraction and found little to no venom (2% actually) was extracted by the extractor. A second commentary article reviewed past studies of the extractor and weighed pros/cons. The authors overall recommendation was "This study should change our practice. We should stop recommending Extractors for pit viper bites, and the manufacturer should certainly stop advertising that they are recommended medically as the only acceptable first aid device for snakebites."

The fundamentals of rattlesnake treatment remain scene safety; remaining calm (both you and the patient); removing constricting clothing and jewelry; keeping the patient resting with the bite site immobilized and at approximately the same level as the heart; monitoring swelling and evacuating the patient by carrying, walking only if it's necessary.

This may be reprinted by you for noncommercial use, if the following credit is given:

This article is an excerpt from Mrs. Tightwad's Handbook #1: HOW TO SURVIVE DISASTERS AND OTHER HARD TIMES. For more information, see the left sidebar on this site: