Posts Tagged ‘South African history’
My husband makes our own Biltong right here at home in the USA. It is the favorite cured meat snack of almost all South Africans and we cannot live without it!
It is really quick and easy to make with fresh beef that we find at Shoprite or Sam’s Club. Since he makes it in small batches, the quality is really exceptional and it is ready to be eaten (the way l like it – fairly rare) within a couple of days after he has hanged it to cure.
The perfect high protein snack! Here is a bit of history about it and the method for making it
Biltong is a kind of cured meat that originated in South Africa. Many different types of meat are used to produce it, ranging from beef through game meats to fillets of ostrich from commercial farms. It is typically made from raw fillets of meat cut into strips following the grain of the muscle, or flat pieces sliced across the grain. It is similar to beef jerky in that they are both spiced, dried meats, but differ in their typical ingredients, taste and production process. The word biltong is from the Dutch bil (“rump”) and tong (“strip” or “tongue”).
The Dutch settlers who arrived in South Africa in the 16th century brought recipes for dried meat from Europe. Preparation involved applying vinegar, then rubbing the strips of meat with a mix of herbs, salts and spices. The need for preservation in the new colony was pressing. Building up herds of livestock took a long time. There was native game about but it could take hunters days to track and kill a large animal such as an eland and they were then faced with the problem of preserving a large mass of meat in a short time in a hot climate during a period of history before iceboxes had been invented. Desiccation solved the problem.
Biltong as we understand it today evolved from the dried meat carried by the wagon-travelling Voortrekkers, who needed stocks of durable food as they migrated from the Cape Colony (Cape Town) north-eastward (away from British rule) into the interior of Southern Africa during the Great Trek. The raw meat was preserved from decay and insects within a day or two, and within a fortnight, would be black and rock-hard after it had fully cured.
The most common ingredients of Biltong are:
- Black pepper
- Sugar or Brown sugar
Other ingredients often added include: balsamic vinegar or malt vinegar, dry ground chili peppers, garlic, bicarbonate of soda, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, and saltpetre (saltpeter).
Prior to the introduction of refrigeration, the curing process was used by pioneers to preserve all kinds of meat in South Africa. However today biltong is most commonly made from beef, primarily due to its widespread availability and lower cost relative to game. For finest cuts, sirloin is used or steaks cut from the hip such as topside (top round) or silverside (bottom round). Other cuts can be used, but are not as high in quality.
Biltong can also be made from:
Game such as Kudu and Springbok
Ostrich meat (bright red, often resembling game)
Chicken, simply referred to as ‘chicken biltong’
Fish in this case, known as bokkoms (shark biltong can also be found in South Africa).
Bokkoms should not be confused with other cured fish such as dried angelfish and dried snoek (snook).
Ideally the meat is marinated in a vinegar solution (cider vinegar is traditional but balsamic also works very well) for a few hours, and finally poured off before the meat is flavored.
The spice mix traditionally consists equal amounts of: rock salt, whole coriander, black pepper and brown sugar. This mix is then ground roughly together, sprinkled liberally over the meat and rubbed in. Saltpetre is optional and can be added as an extra preservative (necessary only for wet biltong that is not going to be frozen).
The meat should then be left for a further few hours (or refrigerated overnight) and any excess liquid poured off before the meat is hung in the dryer.
It is typically dried out in the cold air (rural settings), cardboard or wooden boxes (urban) or climate-controlled dry rooms (commercial). Depending on the spices used, a variety of flavors may be produced. Biltong can also be made in colder climates by using an electric lamp to dry the meat, but care must be taken to ventilate, as mold can begin to form on the meat.
A traditional slow dry will deliver a medium cure in about 4 days.
An electric fan-assisted oven set to 40-70 °C (100-160 °F), with the door open a fraction to let out moist air, can dry the meat in approximately 4 hours. Although slow dried meat is considered by some to taste better, oven dried is ready to eat a day or two after preparation.
Comparison to Jerky
Biltong differs from jerky in two distinct ways:
* The meat used in biltong can be much thicker; typically biltong meat is cut in strips approx 1 inch wide – but can be thicker. Jerky is normally very thinly sliced meat.
* The vinegar and salt in biltong, together with the drying process, cures the meat as well as adding texture and flavor. Jerky is traditionally dried without vinegar.
Biltong is a common product in Southern African butcheries and grocery stores, and can be bought in the form of wide strips (known as stukke, meaning “pieces”). It is also sold in plastic bags, sometimes shrink-wrapped, and may be either finely shredded or sliced as biltong chips.
There are also specialized retailers that sell biltong. These shops may sell biltong as “wet” (moist), “medium” or “dry”. Additionally, some customers prefer it with a lot of fat within the muscle fibers, while others prefer it as lean as possible.
While biltong is renowned for being chewed as a snack, it can also be used in all kinds of recipes such as stews, or add in the fine form to muffins and pot bread. Biltong-flavored potato chips have also been produced.
Biltong’s popularity has spread to many other countries, notably the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand which have large South African populations, and also to the United States. Biltong is also produced within South African expatriate communities across the globe, for example in Germany and even South Korea.
Here is one of our favorite ways to eat it, on whole grain bread, butter and cheese…yummy!