Pemmican. An idea that has sustained people in North America for centuries. Its origin is with the native peoples that inhabited central regions of North America before it was North America (Canadian Prairies and American Midwest), before European settlement of any kind. It was a means of preserving meat and keeping it portable for a largely nomadic people. It involved thin strips of meat or fish, depending on the region, being dried in the sun and subsequently pounded into a meat powder. This powder could be held as it was or mixed with rendered fat and pressed in a bag made of hide and this could be chewed on like jerky.
The idea of adding fruit to pemmican came as European settlers began to traverse the harsh terrain of an unsettled plain. This region had long stretches of land with little to no animals or fish to hunt, so the nomadic native peoples showed European settlers how to make pemmican. Europeans found the particular blend a little harsh on their palates so they altered the meat to fat ratio and added berries. This lightweight ration helped European settlements grow and gain a foothold in a region that normally would be very difficult in which to survive.
My family is in that long line of European immigrants that populated this region of Canada. Many came for the large stretches of land to farm and that grew the Canadian grain industry: wheat, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, mustard, legumes, canola, flax. All made possible by the kindness and resourcefulness of the native peoples who lived before us.
As a way to honour that tradition, today’s salad uses pemmican (or a modern incarnation: beef jerky), fruit, grain and flax.
Buckwheat Pemmican Salad
1/4 cup toasted buckwheat groats (1/4 cup buckwheat groats, toasted in a dry pan over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes until deeply golden)
3/4 cup boiling water (I just use a kettle)
50g/2oz beef jerky, cut into thin strips, 1/2 cm (1/4″) thick
2 cups berries (I used raspberries, but Saskatoon berries were most traditional in the Canadian prairies throughout history)
1/2 tsp cold pressed flax oil
In a small bowl, add the toasted buckwheat groats and boiling water. Allow to sit and steep like tea for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid into a small pan, reserving the hydrated buckwheat groats. Bring the buckwheat-infused liquid to a simmer gently over medium heat. Pour the simmering liquid over the beef jerky strips and allow to soak for 30 minutes to soften the meat. Strain, reserving the hydrated meat and discard the liquid.
To serve, scatter the berries over two plates. Loosely arrange the hydrated meat over the berries. Sprinkle a few pinches of hydrated buckwheat groats over the top (any extra is a nice snack or over yogurt instead of granola) and finish with a light drizzle of flax oil. Serves 2.