During the period of the fur trade, a principal Métis food source was the buffalo, around whom much of the traditional Métis lifestyle revolved. The consumption of buffalo was supplemented by other wild game and plants. Commonly consumed game included moose, elk, deer, rabbits, upland game, ducks, and geese. Where available, fish were common in the diet. Wild berries and other plants were also enjoyed.

A central Métis food product was pemmican. Pemmican was the product of a preparation of buffalo meat. To produce pemmican, buffalo meat was cut into long strips and dried. The drying process occurred over an open fire, with the meat on racks, or through a sun-drying process during which the meat was hung on willow racks. When dried, the buffalo meat was pounded into granular form and placed into bags made of hide. Hot buffalo fat was then poured into the bags and mixed with the meat granuals. To add flavour to this mixture, wild berries were often added. The product in the bags was then sealed in the bags by sewing them shut. When cooled, the result was pemmican. Pemmican was an extremely nutritious, filling food that was easily transported on the trail, which took years to spoil.

Pemmican Recipe

2 lbs. of lean buffalo or beef

1/4 cup dried berries (blueberries or saskatoons)

5 tablespoons of animal fat

Cut the meat into long strips and hang in the sun to dry for several days. When completely dry, pound each strip until broken into flakes then mix together the flakes and dried berries. The meat, berries and melted fat can be mixed into a bowl. When the fat has cooled the ingredients can be rolled into large balls and stored in plastic bags. Pemmican can be eaten as is, cooked like hamburger, or boiled with flour and water to make soup.

The Métis were the people that bridged and merged Indian and European cultures in the West. Such fusion occurred at the level of food, in the form of bannock. Bannock, also known as “campfire bread”, was an integration of traditional Scottish bread and Indian fry bread. Bannock was a “quick bread” that was cooked in a skillet over an open fire. It became a food staple in the West because of its ease of preparation, transportability, ability to last a long time without spoiling, and effect of filling the stomach to satisfaction.

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