Biltong is South African dried meat. The word comes from Dutch: bil means buttock and tong means strip. Much superior to beef jerky, biltong is a delicacy among South Africans. The recipe was developed by the South African trekboers as a way to keep meat from going bad on their long treks, and it is still used in this way today. Biltong is said to give you lots of energy (so watch out!). Biltong was a practical, nutritious and energizing food that I consumed during Formula One matches and I still enjoy biltong made from my grass-fed beef in the UK.
For 25 pounds grass-fed beef you will need:
4 pints warm water
1 1/4 pound sea salt, finely ground
1/2 cup rapadura sugar
1/2 cup roasted organic coriander,
1 tablespoon black pepper, ground
1 cup organic red wine vinegar.
If you are making a smaller amount, say 5-6 pounds, the ingredients would be:
1 pint (2 cups) warm water
1/3 cup sea salt, finely ground
1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) Rapadura sugar
1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) roasted organic
coriander, coarsely ground
1 teaspoon black pepper, ground
1/4 cup organic red wine vinegar
Biltong can be produced in various flavors by adding things like garlic or chili peppers to the recipe.
Cut the meat into strips of approximately 2 inches in diameter and any desired length, always cutting with the grain. Mix the salt, sugar, pepper and coriander together. Rub the seasoning mixture thoroughly into the strips of meat. Layer the meat, with the more bulky pieces at the bottom, in a glass or stainless steel container. Sprinkle a little vinegar over each layer as you add them.
Leave meat in a cool place for 24 hours, depending on how salty you want the meat to be. (Some experimentation may be required to ascertain the correct length of time to let the meat marinate, according to your taste.) Remove the meat from the marinade. Mix the water and vinegar and dip the meat into this mixture.
Drying the Meat
The traditional method is to pat the strips dry and then hang them up on S-shaped hooks, or use pieces of string, about 2 inches apart. Place mesh over the meat to prevent flies getting on it and hang the meat in a cool, dry place with an oscillating fan blowing on it. It is important that the air be dry. The biltong is ready when the outside is hard and the center part of the biltong strip is still a little moist.
The beauty of this method is that you can just keep the biltong strips hanging in the same cool dry place until you want to eat them. At that time, cut into 1/4-inch slices across the grain. Do not slice the biltong until you are ready to eat it–otherwise mold might set in.
The drawback of this method is that it requires a special drying room that most of us do not have. So a second method is to dry the biltong in a dehydrator. The question then becomes: How do I store the biltong? It needs to stay dry and cool. This is easy if you live in a dry climate but if you live in a moist climate like England or the eastern US, you have a challenge. You might try wrapping it in butcher paper and keeping it at room temperature or in the fridge. One website (markblumberg.com) suggests freezing it.
Once again, cut the biltong shortly before you eat it. It can be difficult to cut–an electric knife will make this easier.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2004.