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Edible: Handmade Pemmican Packs Energetic Punch

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Bison jerky, dried fruits and nuts are being blended together this Thanksgiving by a Midtown chef. Rachel Wharton of Edible Manhattan magazine filed the following report.

A Thanksgiving tradition that's thousands of years old lives on at Inside Park in Midtown.

In this month's Edible Manhattan chef Matt Weingarten makes the Native American snack called pemmican, which is something like a cross between a granola bar and beef jerky. Weingarten starts with thin strips of buffalo meat that's marinated, smoked and totally dried. That's ground with nuts, seeds and dried fruits, mixed with a little buffalo fat and then formed into delicious bars that pack enough calories to run a marathon. That's because not only was pemmican a way to preserve meat, says Weingarten, it was one of the only things to eat during winter on the Great Plains.

"Everyone could take a little bit of and put it into their satchel and go on their way to the next landscape. It was the original portable Powerbar," says Weingarten.

These days pemmican takes minutes in the meat grinder, but it took trial and error, starting with a food processor.

"I broke the blades. I tried a blender and it overheated. I tried a knife, we couldn't even get it chopped up, it was so tough and fibrous and dense and desiccated," recalls Weingarten. "We ended up putting it in a mortar and pestle and just grinding away. It really makes you sort of respect native foodstuff and traditional foodways."

But it's not just Weingarten's longstanding love of American traditions behind this Thanksgiving side, which will also be part of Inside Park's Native American foods platter for the next few weeks.

"And I love beef jerky. I'm a beef jerky eater. If I'm driving and I get to an old gas station and they have still-jarred beef jerky I'm definately gonna buy it," says Weingarten.

Published every other month, Edible Manhattan magazine is dedicated to covering Gotham's food culture season by season. To learn more, go to ediblemanhattan.com.

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