View all activities

Make your own polar food

Activity Pemmican Recipe Hero

Pemmican is a food stuff that has been used on polar expeditions for hundreds of years. The name ‘pemmican’ originally comes from a Cree (a Native American people) word for rendered fat. The aim of this activity is to understand that Arctic explorers’ food stuffs need to be light and full of energy.

Ages 7+

(adult supervision)

30 minutes

Pemmican is a high-energy, highly nutritious food, and also very easy to carry. It has been the ideal food for Native American scouts, 18th Century fur traders and polar explorers.

Traditionally, pemmican is a combination of dried meat, dried fruit and fat (typically from a cow or bison). In recent years, vegetarian and non-fat based variations have been developed.

The amounts have been listed in proportions, so you can make the amount you need, depending on whether you are heading out into the wild or just want to have a small taste.

Activity steps

  1. Put the jerky in a blender until it is a coarse powder. You could also use a mortar and pestle. If the jerky is not dry enough, place it in an oven at 80°C / 180°F for an hour or more to dry it out further.
  2. Render the fat by melting it in a pan over a very low heat. When the fat stops bubbling, it is ready.
  3. Strain the rendered fat into an oven dish and add the powdered jerky and chopped or powdered berries. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly.
  4. Leave the mixture to firm up, and then cut into bars or roll into small balls.
  5. Wrap in grease proof paper and keep dry. Nibble at will for an energy boost.
  • Thinking about what you know about different food types and their uses, why do you think pemmican uses the types of ingredients listed above?
  • Why might pemmican have become less popular over the years?
  • Would you use pemmican on a polar expedition or would you change it for something else?
  • What replacement might you use?
Further Ideas

If you would like to try an alternative Arctic meal, or you are having trouble sourcing some of the ingredients for pemmican, you can try a polar sandwich. Simply take two hard biscuits, between which spread a 2cm thick layer of peanut butter and a 1cm thick layer of butter or similar spread. This will provide plenty of energy for your expeditions.

To learn more about food on polar expeditions, try the full lesson for ages 7-11, How do you eat like an Arctic Explorer?

Safety guidance
  • Check for any medical issues.
  • Check with parents of other children before performing this activity.
  • Young people with noted allergies should not consume the pemmican and may need to handle it with polythene gloves.
  • Prepare the pemmican in a sterile environment.
  • Children should wash their hands before handling their piece of pemmican.

Cultural awareness

  • Be aware of dietary practices particularly surrounding meat and meat products for religious or cultural reasons, and use suggested alternatives.

Brought to you by

Frozen Oceans 7 11 Thumb

Cross-curricular | Ages 7-11

Frozen Oceans

Based on journeys undertaken by real explorers and scientists, the Frozen Oceans (Primary) education programme is designed to introduce students to what life is like in the High Arctic.