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My character kills a goat in the mountains and eats some of it for dinner. What kind of plant or mineral could he use to preserve the meat to carry with him so that it stays fresh and doesn't become contaminated? What kind of process would he use?

He can only use things that could grow in rocky mountainous areas or something that he brought with him for that purpose. His only other "tools" are a knife and fire.

Is there any basis to believe that preserving meat in this circumstance is even possible?

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6 Answers 6

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The most obvious solution is salting or brining the meat. This requires your adverturer haul salt around, which is a rock, so it's a bit heavy — depending on how long he needs to do this. A pound of salt will cure at least 48 pounds of meat.

However, this site reports that the following herbs and berries can be used to cure meat: aronia (chokeberry), horseradish, ramson, red currant, savoury, sage, sloe and cranberry. This is actually a really cool idea for your story as few people would know this could be done.

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  • $\begingroup$ How quickly could the meat be cured using an herb? Ideally, he would be able to eat it the next day--would slathering it in cranberry-equivalent have a short-term effect as well? $\endgroup$
    – Boop
    Aug 7, 2017 at 0:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Boop - if he just cooked it yesterday, refrigeration is probably unnecessary without curing if he wants leftovers. So leave aside some yummy roast goat for tomorrow's trail food, and dress the rest. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Aug 7, 2017 at 0:59
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    $\begingroup$ In fact, now that I think about it, drying meat is as good as curing it. You could do that with thin strips in little time. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 7, 2017 at 2:01
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    $\begingroup$ This is basically what people did all the time in the days before refrigeration. Dried, spiced meat (i.e. jerky) was created because it can last a long time. $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2017 at 7:38
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    $\begingroup$ Smoking meat is also an option. Check out this forum for some neat pictures. $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2017 at 20:00
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Your character could smoke the meat and/or dry the meat.

From Wikipedia:

Smoked meat is a method of preparing red meat (and fish) which originates in prehistory. Its purpose is to preserve these protein-rich foods, which would otherwise spoil quickly, for long periods. There are two mechanisms for this preservation: dehydration and the antibacterial properties of phenols and other chemicals in the absorbed smoke. In modern days, the enhanced flavor of smoked foods makes them a delicacy in many cultures.

The only "plant" needed here would be wood as fuel for the fire.

Given that the tops of mountains are 1) windy and 2) cold, they are good places to dry meat. I remember from an episode of Good Eats by Alton Brown that the Andes did a good job of dehydrating meat.


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  • $\begingroup$ Smoked meat was my first thought too. It may need a "smoke house", but that could be improvised. Plus one. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Aug 7, 2017 at 2:24
  • $\begingroup$ How long would this process take? $\endgroup$
    – Boop
    Aug 7, 2017 at 3:04
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    $\begingroup$ you can smoke meat over an open fire, it is just not as good as using a smoke house, you won't get weeks of preservation this way nut you can days with no problem. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 7, 2017 at 3:43
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I lived off-grid for around 15 yrs in a 4 season province. I shot deer, killed my pigs & chickens, rabbits & game birds which I snared. For the deer, it was stored in large buckets with salt peter added to the water. (military used to put it into food to keep men from fornicating with each other) You soon get sick of the flavour, but soaking the meat in lots of garlic & wine will remove a lot of it before you BarBQ it.

One of the types of bacon we used to make in Hungary is cured in salt, lots of cloves or garlic & ground sweet paprika rubbed ontop. This is bacon that has no streaks of lean meat in it. Look in old cookbooks. It is one of the 3 types of amazing bacon we make. Ground meat with very specific amounts of salt, paprika, & a few other spices make La'ngold Kolba'sz & you hang it over broom handles in a root cellar temp space & slowly all the fat drips out & the sausage shrinks, dries & becomes similar to peperoni but WAY better. Better than jerky but same idea...slow drying at constant temps.

If you boil meat that is mostly bony, like pork hocks etc, then place the hand sized pcs into bowls, then pour that water over the meat, put in a cool place, the broth will become hard aspic which will keep the meat a bit longer than otherwise...again bit of salt, garlic & paprika cooked into the water is the flavouring. Then removed. Both spices small in size but big in flavour!!!

If you want to keep fish, you must keep a clean cloth ontop of the bucket of water that they are submerged into & each day remove the fat that comes out of the fish & wash out that cloth or it will go rancid. Or salt & dry like people in NL & Labrador did. You have probably seen small wide mouthed bottles of fish in the supermarket not far from Saur Kraut.

If you 'can' meat or low acid veg. in mason jars you have to do them in a pressure canner not just a regular canner because those DO NOT get hot enough completely thru to the very center of the food itself. Remember that food born poisons are invisible, unlike a bit of mold on jam or a glass of chillie that explodes. Read Keeping The Harvest, once sold thru Harrowsmith. Storing vegetables in sand, or wrapped in paper or wood chips still works. I still live without a fridge cus I prefer to buy real estate than make companies wealthy. I store food in large containers with egg cartons etc below & above stuff which is out of plastic, wrapped in T-towels or papers. All veg & fruit need to gas-off their moisture but not completely. Deep holes are nice and cool. Way up high in evergreen trees also...and protect food from rodents except maybe squirls.

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Simplest: Air-dry the meat. Just cut it very into thin strips (if you need to move the next day) or better into tongue-sized fillets, if you can sit there for 4 days.

Speed it up using smoke from your fire.

Keep bugs off the meat and prevent spoilage by lightly coating it in wood ashes before hanging to dry. Also improves the taste, if you use the right wood for your ash.

If the goat was smallish, and there is only one or two meals left: Just butcher the goat and stuff the meat into its own stomach. Easy to carry, and keeps the meat cool and sanitary for about 2 days, tops. meat does not spoil so very quickly. Blood does.

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Freezing

The mineral is water, or rather snow. Your adventurer is in the mountains. He can preserve his meat by climbing into the colder regions and burying it in snow. He could build up a considerable cache in this way.

People who have died climbing Everest are still to be seen, their bodies perfectly preserved in snow and ice. Also of course there have been finds of much older bodies being preserved in the snow.


THE MUMMY OF an ancient Inca girl sits literally frozen in sleep at a museum in Argentina.

The mummy, called La Doncella or The Maiden, is that of a teenage girl who died more than 500 years ago in a ritual sacrifice in the Andes Mountains.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good answer. Water ice technically is a mineral. +1 $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2022 at 13:20
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Tuna cans are cooked after being sealed, so no bacteria gets to the inside after cooking is done. The meat will last for years, but still not forever. Our character may use a re-usable metallic jar with a screw-on cap to seal food and cook it while jar is sealed.

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  • $\begingroup$ The question states "What kind of plant or mineral could he use to preserve the meat to carry with him so that it stays fresh and doesn't become contaminated? What kind of process would he use?" This seems to answer the part about the process, though "sealed" is not very specific. Others mentioned processes and the needed resources, too. So I think if you expand this a bit and show how the person in the described situation could seal the meat this would be a good answer. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Aug 8, 2017 at 11:04
  • $\begingroup$ From Wikipedia: "Curing is any of various food preservation and flavoring processes of foods such as meat, fish and vegetables, by the addition of combinations of salt, nitrates, nitrites,[1] or sugar, with the aim of drawing moisture out of the food by the process of osmosis"; Though not perfect can help desiccating food for prolonged storage. On the other hand, the person may also employ a heavy-duty metal jar with a screw-on cap to seal the can and cook it while closed and then let it closed until he/she opens it. It makes-up for the lack of preservative materials. $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2017 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ Please edit your answer to incorporate that additional information. Comments may be deleted at any time for any reason and answers should not be evaluated based upon what is written in the comments. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Aug 8, 2017 at 12:40

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