What is Biltong?
South Africans love their Biltong! That includes me, a born and bred South African girl. I grew up with it and so did my ancestors. In fact Biltong originated more than 400 years ago in South Africa from our Dutch ancestors. The word “Biltong” comes from the Dutch word – ‘BIL’ meaning buttock and ‘TONG’ meaning to strip.
If you are a South African Ex-Pat, I am sure one of the things you will miss quickly is biltong. In fact, you might come very close to withdrawal symptoms if you are not careful. My fellow Ex-Pats in London and Australia do not have this problem because shops do stock it. The unfortunate ones like me, have to rely on friends and family to bring us some when visiting. Please be careful bringing in meat from another country unless it is vacuum packed. You do run the risk of it being confiscated.
I have been raving about it and you have seen the photo but what is it exactly?
Biltong is pieces of cured and air-dried beef or game. Both are good but I prefer the beef. My dad kindly showed me how to make biltong when he visited in 2010. We have tried it and it worked.
There are many recipes and methods how to make this delicacy. Each biltong maker believes he’s got the perfect recipe! Most recipes have been passed down from generation to generation. It is very easy and simple to make your own biltong and you can n add spices according to your own taste. In Argentina it is difficult to find the correct spices but you can still make it.
The most important thing about Biltong is the meat. You need a good piece of meat. Luckily in Argentina we have excellent meat. Please keep in mind that the meat will shrink when drying it because it is losing it’s moisture. So make sure you use a nice big piece of meat!
How to make you own Biltong?
Cut the meat into big strips and remove excess fat if you want. I always leave a piece of fat on the meat.
Dip the strips of meat into undiluted vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. You can use any type of vinegar – red, apple or white.The vinegar has a specific purpose. It helps to tenderise the meat and adds as a binding ingredient for the spices.
Now it is time to add the spices. This part is really interesting and people have very specific opinions regarding the type of spices to use. If you start making your own biltong then I am sure you will develop your own unique recipe. But the traditional ingredients are Salt, Pepper, Sugar, and Coarsely Ground Dry or Roasted Coriander. You cannot make the biltong without Coriander!
You need to soak the meat in a large container overnight and in the morning you can hang it up to dry.
It needs to be dried in a breezy place away from the sun! The meat needs a lot of air to dry out completely. In the olden days people used to make special “S”-shaped steel hooks, which they were pushing through the meat. These hooks would then be hanged up in branches of a tree or beams of a house.
I also suggest you hang the biltong away from people (who likes to sample it!!!),rats, ants and bugs.
Why are South Africans crazy about Biltong?
You cannot attend a rugby match (at home or away from home) without Biltong! Biltong are freely available at all butcheries. If they don’t stock biltong, they need to be closed down! When you go camping a nice piece of biltong around the camp fire is great. I am not going to give you 100 reasons why Biltong is the best and loved amongst South Africans. When you are visiting South Africa please feel free to try it. I am sure you will get hooked, just like my Russian hubby!