Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Preserving Meat:

Frederick Wislizenus describes preservation of meat in 1839 in his book, Journey to the Rocky Mountains.

"Only so much [meat] is shot daily as will last for a few days. But if the journey goes through a region where neither buffalo nor other game is to be found, the buffalo meat is dried as follows: The meat is cut in strips as thin as possible, and hung upon poles or scaffolds, and there allowed to dry in the sun.  If time is limited, a little fire is at first maintained under it; but it tastes better without the fire.  When it is dried, it is beaten with a stone or hammer to make it more tender.  It is then eatable, either dry or cooked, and can be kept for years, if protected against moisture and insects. The so-called toro is still more suitable for preservation.  For its preparation this dried meat is beaten with a stone into a coarse grained powder, and mixed with as much melted buffalo fat and tallow as it will hold.  The paste thus formed is pressed as compactly as possible into a bag of buffalo skin, which is then firmly sewed up."

The latter description of powdered, dried, meat mixed with melted fat or tallow is very similar to pemmican.   

Robert Kennicott as referenced in Nute describes pemmican thusly:  “Pemmican is supposed by the benighted world outside to consist only of pounded meat and grease; an egregious error; for, from experience on the subject, I am authorized to state that hair, sticks, bark, spruce leaves, stones, sand, etc., enter into ins composition, often quite largely.”

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