Biltong is the South African version of what Americans call jerky: Excepting biltong is savory, not sweet, and it’s much thicker — often moist under a spicy crust, sometimes with a thin rind of fat. The predominant flavours being salt, vinegar and coriander. Here’s how to make your own biltong wherever you are, especially if you’re a needy ex-pat unwilling to smuggle it in …
- Round roast* (about 4lb or 2Kg)
- Condiments listed below, medium ground, in a coffee grinder …
1/2 cup whole coriander seeds** 2 tablespoons rock salt (or less if table salt) 1 teaspoon black peppercorns*
*Fresh meat, never frozen. **Don’t use stale spices, get a really fresh supply. You want the strong smell of volatile oils when the seeds are crushed. You can gently toast the seeds in a pan over medium heat to bring out more aroma. You can also add a whole bunch of other spices, but why? Add them to the next batch if you don’t like the egte, basic biltong. Equipment …
- Paper towels
- Cutting board and a sharp knife
- Vacuum seal, plastic zip lock bags
- Paper clips for meat hooks
- Spray bottle (for vinegar)
- Drying cabinet (well ventilated box with fan and incandescent light)
- A robust appetite for biltong!
- Pat the meat dry with paper towels (after washing it, if you prefer).
- Cut into thick slices with the grain — opposite to how you’d normally cut a roast into steaks.
- The thicker the slice the longer it will take to dry and the softer the inside will be — the way I like it, with a dry spicy crust and moist centre.
- Drench spray each slice in vingar and pat dry again.
- Divide up the ground spices and rub equal quantities into each streak.
- Gently spray with vinegar and bag individual slices. Vacuum seal* (the aim is to keep the spice hard up against the meat, while curing, and not wash it all off in a bath of marinade).
- Leave to marinade for 24 hours in the fridge.
*Vacuum sealing in individual bags is optional. You can also put all the slices into a single large bag and add more vinegar — turning the bag over every couple of hours during the curing process.
- Day One: Unbag, hook up, hang in the drier, no steaks touching each other or the drier.
- Days Two & Three: Drench spray each steak with vinegar (check for even drying, ensure that no mold* is growing).
- Days Four & Five: Check for even drying, squeeze the centre of each slice to estimate when they’re ready to take down. Different thicknesses will require more or less time in the drier. It’s a matter of preference after the third day.
- When done, remove from the drier, unhook, wrap in paper and store in the fridge for another 24 hours to cool and for the distribution of moisture to even out.
- Do not store in plastic — unless you vacuum seal and freeze it. Biltong must breathe!
- Cut across the grain into smaller slices, thick or thin (cold or at room temperature).
- Eat. Enjoy!
- Compliments to biltong: Port, cheese, fresh slices of apple and grapes or nuts and dried fruit, apricots and figs especially.
- Rinse your equipment off and repeat.