Here’s how you can smoke and preserve meat just like the early Americans did on the frontier.
Dried buffalo meat was a staple food item for the early American frontiersman. It kept well and could be eaten on the trail or used in any number of dishes that involved meat.
Drying it by smoking was a fairly simple matter, with the only real drawback being the time it took to preserve the meat thoroughly.
Jon Townsend and Dan Wowak discuss the journal of Nicholas Cresswell and, in particular, Cresswell’s notes on preserving meat on the American frontier in the 1770s. Here’s the technique they reproduced from Cresswell’s journal.
Once Townsend and Wowak dry the buffalo meat, it’s basically ready to eat. Townsend does indicate that the dried meat could be reconstituted by adding it to stews, which would soften it up somewhat.
More likely, frontiersmen would have simply eaten the meat in its dried state while on the trail, or finely chopped it up and mixed it with fat and berries to make pemmican. Pemmican was a standard trail food in those times. Here is the link to Townsend’s video on how to make it yourself.
Townsend does say that the actual drying of the meat over an open fire took quite a long time. In fact, it was left to smoke overnight. That seems considerably longer than it would take using modern commercial smokers or food dehydrators.
Obviously, if you were to reproduce this primitive method you would likely smoke much more meat at one time, for the sake of expediency.
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