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Biltong

Biltong

Description:

Biltong (pronounced: /bə:ltɔŋ/ ) is cured strips of salted meat. Biltong is not the same thing as North-American beef jerky. Jerky is a diabolical concoction of offal and MSG. We are not talking about this here.

If you want to make some good biltong, get the best cut of beef or venison that you can afford – a silverside cut is ideal.

Ingredients description

Salting Mixture

  • 500g salt

  • 50g sugar

  • 10g saltpeter

Drying Mixture

  • Vinegar (apple-cider vinegar if possible)

  • Ground pepper

  • Roasted, ground coriander seeds

  • Optional spices to taste (garlic powder, ground chili)

Preparation

Preparing to dry the meat

For the home-producer, biltong is normally cured in a garage or a shed. Make biltong in cool weather when there are fewer flies and there is a cool, drying wind. Most coastal areas in South Africa and places like the UK are too humid to cure the meat naturally, so you may need to invest in a drying cupboard. You can make such a drying cupboard from a large corrugated cardboard box with some holes cut in the sides at the bottom and the top with 60W light bulb inside it. A mechanic's lamp or a small table lamp that you are not too sentimental about should do the trick. Insert some bars near the top to hang you meat on. Construct your drying cupboard so that air circulates over the meat. Because the air is warm, it will not matter if the air is a little humid. Here are some pictures of how one man built his: http://www.biltongbox.com/biltong/.

In countries where laundry "airing cupboards" are part of the house, some folks have reported success using these. There is a possible downside to this though: your laundry could smell like biltong or worse: your precious biltong could smell like fabric softener.

Cutting the meat

Follow the muscles of the beast when cutting the strips of meat. Do not cut across the grain in other words. The strips should be about 5cm (2 inches) wide and 2.5cm (1 inch) thick and for a typical piece of silverside, 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inches) long.

Salting

Salt the meat by rubbing the salting mixture well into the meat and leave in a basin overnight.
Scrape the salt off and wipe the meat with a cloth wrung out in vinegar. Now that the meat is slightly moist, sprinkle the drying mixture made from the dry ingredients over the meat. Here is the point where you can experiment by adding some additional spices such as dried chilies or garlic powder to the mixture. You can also paint the meat using a basting brush with some chili or teriyaki sauce before sprinkling it with spices.

Drying

Hang the meat on wire hooks in your chosen drying place until well dried. Drying can take between 1 and 3 weeks. The meat is ready when it is dark-brown to black on the outside and the extremities of a piece of meat are slightly brittle. A slice of biltong should reveal a dark-red to dark-brown inside and should not be too chewy. If you have mould growing on the meat, then the air was too humid and you might need to consider abandoning your efforts, although just a little mould is OK and adds some flavour.

Consumption

Slice into to 2mm-thick slices. Eat.