This section is from the book "Camping And Woodcraft", by Horace Kephart. Also available from Amazon: Camping and Woodcraft.
In some parts of the South and West the pulverized parched corn is called "coal flour." The Indians of Louisiana gave it the name of gofio. In Mexico it is known as pinole. (Spanish pronunciation, pee-no-lay; English, pic-no-lee).
Some years ago Mr. T. S. Van Dyke, author cf( The Still Hunter and other excellent works on field sports, published a very practical article on emergency rations in a weekly paper, from which, as it is now buried where few can consult it, I take the liberty of making the following quotation:
"La comida del desierto, the food of the desert, or pinole, as it is generally called, knocks the hind sights off all American condensed foods. It is the only form in which you can carry an equal weight and bulk of nutriment on which alone one can, if neces-i sary, live continuously for weeks, and even months, without any disorder of stomach or bowels. . . . The principle of pinole is very simple. If you should eat a breakfast of corn-meal mush alone, and start out for*a hard tramp, you will feel hungry in an hour or two, though at the table the dewrinkling of your abdomen may have reached the hurting point. But ' if, instead of distending the meal so much with water and heat, you had simply mixed it in cold water and drunk it, you could have taken down three times the quantity in one-tenth of the time. You would not feel the difference at your waistband, but you would feel it mightily in your legs, especially if you have a heavy rifle on your back. It works a little on the principle of dried apples, though it is quite an improvement. There is no danger of explosion.; it swells to suit the demand, and not too suddenly.
Suppose, now, instead of raw corn-meal, we make it not only drinkable but positively good. This is easily done by parching to a very light brown before grinding, and grinding just fine enough to mix so as to be drinkable, but not pasty, as flour would be. Good wheat is as good as corn, and perhaps better, while the mixture is very good. Common rolled oats browned in a pan in the oven and run through a spice mill is as good and easy to make it out of as anything. A coffee mill may do if it will set fine enough. Ten per cent, of popped corn ground in with it will improve the flavor so much that your children will get away with it all if you don't hide it. Wheat and corn are hard to grind, but the small Enterprise spice mill will do it- You may also mix some ground chocolate with it for flavor, which, with popped corn, makes it very fine . . . Indigestible? Your granny's nightcap! . . You must remember that it is "werry fillin' for the price," and go slow with it until you have found your coefficient. . . .
Now for the application. The Mexican rover of the desert will tie a small sack of pinole "behind his saddle and start for a trip of several days. It is the lightest of food, and in the most portable shape, sandproof, bug and fly proof, and everything. Wherever he finds water he stirs a few ounces in a cup (I never weighed it, but four seem about enough at a time for an ordinary man), drinks it in five seconds, and is fed for five or six hours. If he has jerky, he chews that as he jogs along, but if he has not he will go through the longest trip and come out strong and well on pinole alone."—Shooting and Fishing, Vol. xx, p. 248.
When preparing pinole for mountaineering trips, I used to pulverize the parched corn in a hominy mortar, which is nothing but a three-foot cut off of ,a two-foot log, with a cavity chiseled out in the top, and a wooden pestle shod with iron. The hole is of smaller diameter at the bottom than at the top, so that each blow of the pestle throwrs most of the corn upward, and thus it is evenly powdered. Two heaping tablespoonfuls was the usual "sup," and, if I had nothing else, I took it frequently during the day. With a handful of raisins, or a chunk of sweet chocolate or maple sugar, it made a square meal.
But what is the actual food value of this Indian invention ? I take the following figures from a bul* letin of the Department of Agriculture on Food Value of Corn and Corn Products, by Dr. Charles D. Woods (Washington, 1907) :
Kind of material Protein
Hulled corn .......2.3
(corn mush) ____5.5
Hoecake .......... 4.0
Boston brown bread 6.3
Johnnycake ....... 7.8
Granulated cornmeal 9.2
Corn br'kfast foods,
flaked (part cook'd
at factory) .....9.6
Corn br'kfast foods,
flaked and parched
(ready to eat) ..10.1
Popped corn ......10.7
Parched corn .....11.5
Wheat .bread (for
comparison) ..... 9.2
The remaining percentages are water.
Pulverized parched corn owes its "carrying power" not only to its relatively high nutritive value, as shown in this table, but largely to the fact that, when drunk with water instead of cooked, it swells in the stomach and gives it a comfortable feeling of fullness. That this is not an imaginary gain will be shown later in this chapter.
The "jerky" referred to by Mr. Van Dyke is jerked meat, usually venison: that is to say, lean meat cut in strips and dried over a slow fire or in the sun. It is very different from our commercial dried beef, less salty, more nourishing and appetizing, and one can subsist comfortably on it for some time with no other foodstuff at all. The process of jerking venison is described in VoL I (pp. 277-280).
The staple commissary supply of arctic travelers, and of hunters and traders in the far Northwest, is pemmican. This is not so palatable as jerky, at least when carelessly prepared; but it contains more nutriment, in a given bulk, and is better suited for cold climates, on account of the fat mixed with it.
The old-time Hudson Bay pemmican was made from buffalo meat, in the following manner: first a sufficient number of bags, about 2x1 1/2 feet, were made from the hides of old bulls that were unfit for robes. The lean meat was then cut into thin strips, as for jerky, and dried in the sun for two or three days, or over a fire, until it was hard and brittle. It was then pounded to a powder between two stones, or by a flail, on a sort of hide threshing-floor with the edges pegged up. The fat and marrow were then melted and mixed with the powdered lean meat to a paste; or, the bags were filled with the lean and then the fat was run in on top. After this the mass was well rammed down, and the bags were sewed up tight. No salt was used; but the pemmican thus prepared would keep sweet for years in the cool climate of the North. A piece as large as one's fist, when soaked and cooked, would make a meal for two men. When there was flour in the outfit, the usual allowance of pemmican was 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds a day per man, with one pound of flour added. This was for men performing the hardest labor, and whose appetites were enormous. Service berries were sometimes added. "Officers' pemmican" was made from buffalo humps and marrow.