Wednesday, August 20, 2014


At 8:15 this morning, I had already been awake for three hours (thanks a heap, Charlie) and was at that moment standing at the stove cooking A.'s scrambled eggs. I had already fried eggs for myself and the children. My own breakfast had been sitting on the counter for ten minutes while I made A.'s breakfast and also doctored Charlie after his toe had an unfortunate encounter with A.'s chair.

A. was sitting at the table drinking his coffee with the kids while they ate their breakfasts. Cubby piped up with, "Oh, poor Daddy doesn't have any breakfast."

"That's right," said A. "Do you feel sorry for Daddy?"

"Yes," said Cubby.

The MiL, from across the kitchen, chimed in with, "Do you feel sorry for Grandma?"

"Yes," said Cubby.

Then A. asked, "Do you feel sorry for Mommy?"

"No," said Cubby.

Ingrates, the lot of them.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jerky+Fat=A.'s Salvation

It may have come up a time or two around here that my husband is what you might call a serious carnivore. Very serious. He eats a lot of meat. And that meat is not lean, either. He actively seeks out the fat on the meat. He points out, with some justification, that if a person isn't eating sugars or carbohydrates, then the only high-calorie food left is fat. And he's a big, muscular dude who does frequent manual labor, so he needs the calories.

Hence, the fat.

For this reason, he's been interested in the making of pemmican for some time now. Pemmican is a traditional Native American food made for hunting trips and other long journeys during which a lot of calories in a portable form was paramount. The Native Americans made it traditionally from lean game meat, like buffalo, which they smoked over fires to make jerky. This was then ground up--presumably with something like a mortar and pestle--and mixed with an equal amount of melted animal fat.

That's it. Smoked lean meat and fat. No salt, no flavorings, no nothing. Except sometimes berries.

A. thought this sounded great. I thought it sounded revolting. That's why this particular experiment was all him.

We recently purchased half a cow for our freezer, so there was no shortage of raw ingredients to start with. A. started by rendering the suet (the fat as it comes off the cow) into tallow (the strained, purified fat). I helped with this, as I have some experience with it and I needed some more for my own use anyway.

Then A. cut up a five-pound bottom round roast into strips, laboriously threaded each strip onto a toothpick, and hung the meat up in his smoker/grill thing by placing the toothpicks horizontal to the rack. Then he smoked that for a few hours.

Although it would no doubt have been more traditional to grind up the resulting jerky with my molcajete, he instead took my suggestion that he use the food processor. No point in being masochistic about this.

When the jerky was reduced to tiny shreds, he also at my suggestion added some Craisins.

Berries were sometimes added traditionally, and cranberries are certainly a native plant, but Craisins are stretching it. Mostly this was an attempt to cater to A.'s more modern tastebuds. I figured a half cup of Craisins wouldn't compromise the integrity of the traditional preparation too much.

After the meat bits and Craisins were combined, A. weighed them to determine how much tallow to add. The five-pound roast made a pound of jerky, so he mixed in a pound of liquid tallow, spread the mixture out in a wax-paper-lined Pyrex pan, and put it in the refrigerator to harden. After it hardened, it kind of resembled an iced cake, with the white tallow on top and the brown meat on the bottom.

It did not taste like an iced cake, to no one's surprise.

A. tasted it first. He was surprised at how palatable it was, though he did remark it was far from a hamburger or something. He gave the children each a taste. They ate it and asked for more. I tasted it.

I did not ask for more.

It's not bad, exactly, it's just . . . smoked meat and fat. I mean, not exactly gourmet fare, you know? I didn't spit it out, but I didn't take another bite, either.

A., however, loves having his pemmican. A pound of pemmican equals 3,000 calories, so he only needs to eat a small square to satisfy his hunger, and it's always there and always ready to eat. The kids eat it, too. Not much of it, and not often, but they will occasionally request some. Cubby asked A. for a plate of pemmican just tonight, actually.

It's not going to replace cooked food or anything, but I suppose it's better than snack cakes, right?