Survival Skills: Learning Food Preparation on by the Old Frontier Perspective

by on July 24th, 2014
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I remember reading book after book when I was a child about the old days were life was basic and difficult. Living life back before electricity, working powered stoves and modern conveniences. Life today seems so different from those good old days of running to the outhouse in zero degree temperatures, reading by oil lamps, and food that you did not procure yourself came out of a barrel in the general store. But I realized pioneer life was a constant survival and what better way to learn food survival skills than from our past.

Food and water were singley most important to a frontiers man. Survival skills to acquire these basic essentials were not complicated. Most of them were either fur traders or settlers, so they could procure meat. Vegetables were another matter. They usually subsisted by digging up roots, or other edible greens and eating ripe berries along their way.

What I found surprising is there are accounts of mountain men eating 5 to 7 pounds of meat and this is actually a common event. Survival skills were used to obtain meat mostly through hunting and large game meant large quantities of meat. And believe it or not but boiled or roasted beaver tails were actually considered a delicacy.

Cooking Methods

Most meats were either roasted boiled or fried. Roasted Roasting survival skills were mostly easy, they skewered the meat on a green wood spit and suspended it over a fire. The fire had to be very low in intensity with lots of coals and slowly turned. You know, another roasting method consisted of just throwing the meat into hot coals and waiting until cooked through. Boiling Boiling was inside a metal pan or kettle. According to the Department of Conservation, Native Americans boiled meat by using rocks heated in a fire.

Frying Foods

A mountain man doesn’t usually fry things since he only carries around with him basic necessities. Plus meats from hunting are usually game meats which are stringy and lean and frying will make them tough as leather. Frying pans or skillets were mostly for baking breads like Johnnycakes. Drying Foods Meats dried in the sun on a drying rack after several days made jerky. Berries and roots were also dried in the sun. Mountain men liked to make a high calorie, high energy food called Pemmican. This was made by melting fat and stirring it into shredded jerky and dried berries like blue or raspberries. After the fat cooled, the pemmican was cut into bars making a convenient, easy to carry high energy food.

Smoking foods

Another survival skill a mountain man used was smoking foods. You don’t have to buy an expensive electric driven smoker to produce a good quality smoked meat. All you have to do is erect a small TP, and stoke up a small bed of coals from burning green wood like hickory or apple tree wood, and let it smolder. String lines of meat strips in the tent and let the moisture evaporate from the meat. You could also find a large hollowed out tree stump and smoke meats this way.

Today we tend to take things for granted, but it is nice to know there were other ways to feed ones self in the past – ways that people utilized for hundreds or thousands of years.


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