Abenaki Pemmican

There are many methods that First Nation peoples used for making pemmican. The following is one description of how my Abenaki great grandmother, Celanire Vachon, would have made it in the late 1800s while living near the border of Maine in the Beauce Valley of Quebec.

• Start with a beef shoulder, about 1.5 pounds and roast all night long in a constant, very low oven.
• In a flat pan, spread out your fruit, cranberries, blueberries or whatever berries you have. Mix with a little honey. Roast on a very low temperature for an hour to completely dry. Here you are trying to remove all moisture which would encourage mold and bacteria growth.
• Remove the roasted shoulder which should be golden and very crispy by now. By hand or knife, shred the shoulder meat until small pieces.
• With mortar and pestle, crush the meat until flour-like.
• Again with mortar and pestle, crush the fruit until fine bits.
• Pan fry half a pound of diced fat (this does not have to be beef fat) until no longer bubbling. Remove and strain over a clean cloth to separate the clear liquid fat. Discard the unclear fat.
• Mix the meat and fruit together, adding just enough clear, liquid fat to saturate the mixture. DO NOT OVER-SATURATE WITH FAT.
• Allow mixture to air dry for a few hours. You want the mixture to re-solidify.
• Your mixture is now pemmican. Measure out one teaspoon of pemmican and roll into a ball.
• Repeat for the remainder of your pemmican.
• Store the rolled pemmican in waxed butcher wrap in a cool, dry place.

As the fur trade grew and the Hudson Bay Colony flourished, opening up one trading post after another in the great Canadian wilderness, many would have perished if not for pemmican. This staple with its brother, bannock, has sustained many a stranded traveler. There are a surprising number of ways for making pemmican among First Nation peoples. Each band clings stubbornly to their own way, which attests to the rich diversity found in native aboriginal cultures. More on bannock in a future post.


Blood Sausage

Known as boudin noir among French Canadians, blood sausage is a wonderful source of protein.

The following is one method for making blood sausage. There are many different recipes and methods. As each family evolves their own way of making it, a strong, individual pride emerges. This is a slice of what it is to be a Quebecois.

  • Find a good-sized, healthy pig and near an appropriate tree, shot it. You can coax her to the spot with bread soaked in maple syrup or molasses.
  • Tie a strong rope to each of her back legs and suspend in air against a strong tree. Secure the free ends onto high branches.
  • Set a tub or large container under the pig’s head.
  • Slit the throat and expect the blood to splatter. Eliminate rocking of the carcass to catch all the blood.
  • Assign someone to slowly stir the blood for the next half hour or so. They cannot stop the stirring or clots will form.
  • Assign another person to hold a fine sieve in mid-air between the blood stream and the tub to remove lumps and discourage the blood from clotting.
  • When stirred for a good 30 minutes, bring the tub of blood to your stove top.
  • On a low burner, add milk as you continue to stir the blood. Add salt, pepper, finely chopped pig fat, onion, black pepper, allspice and maple syrup.
  • Prepare your casings by spreading them out on a table. If using the actual intestines from your gutted pig, then gut the intestines, pull the intestines inside out, scrap the inner lining free of all tissue, soak the intestines in clear water, then pull the intestines back outside in.
  • In another pan on the stove, cook oatmeal by slowly adding a bit of water until firm. Do not allow to burn. Add this mixture to the blood while still stirring.
  • After twenty minutes, pour the thickened blood mixture slowly into the cleaned intestine casings. As each casing is filled, tie off where desired. Do not pack real tight, allow some slack in the casings as the casings tend to burst during handling.
  • Carefully place filled casings in a pan of part water and part milk, simmering slowly for fifteen minutes.
  • Remove the casings from the pot and allow to cool as they air dry for an hour, assisting the blood to further set.
  • Once cooled, refrigerate to continue setting the sausages.

Now comes the fun part.  Everyone eats their boudin noir differently. Some people slice the sausage thin and fry in a skittle with a little butter. Others slit the sausages lengthwise and grill, slathering with their special topping.  It’s a very personal choice at this point. Whichever way you eat it, you are no more, no less French Canadian.

Bon appetit.




The heartwarming smell of skillet bannock on a cold morning.

  1. Measure flour, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir to mix. …
  2. Turn dough on a floured board, and knead for about 10 times. Flatten into a circle that will fit your skillet.
  3. Brush with soft butter and sprinkle with caraway seeds, sesame seeds of what you desire.
  4. Fry in a greased frying pan at medium heat for 12-15 minutes on each side. Check for burning.

Photo Credit Pixabay CCO 1.0