Biltong: South African Beef Jerky

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The next time you go down to the shop why not pick yourself up a half a kilo of meat and make some biltong out of it. A daunting idea you may think, but not so fast ranger. Every expat South African has at least once in their life tried to make biltong and surely if they can do it so can you. To understand biltong you may want to understand where the word comes from. In the middle Dutch version of the Afrikaans language, bil means buttock or hindquarter and tong means tongue. In the 1600s farmers in South Africa used to make biltong out of their meat to preserve it and make it last longer. Now we make it because it tastes so good.

Biltong can be made of a variety of meats. The most popular types are ostrich and cow. Personally, I am not a big fan of birds smaller or larger than a chicken but of course, we should never exclude ostrich as an option.  In the interest of simplicity I will however use only beef as an example.

So you have your half a kilo of cow, the next step is to cut it into long steaks 2-3 cm thick. Try to cut along the grain and get rid of any fat that may be hanging around. In a bowl, mix two table spoons of salt and sugar. Following that, add a tablespoon of finely chopped garlic, coriander, pepper, turmeric and chili. This mixture is what makes Biltong what it is. You should try to make sure there is enough concoction to cover the meet in.

In a separate bowl sprinkle some of the magic stuff, add the meat then rub the meat in the powder. Cover it and refrigerate it for six hours making sure to turn the meat and rub it repetitively throughout the day. So there, the first step of making Biltong is done.

The second step is much easier but it takes time. The more time the better.

Take the meat out of the fridge and hang it up on some hooks in a warm place and let dry. Do this for at least four days. Then, after the wait, wrap the meat in some waxed paper and keep drying it. It takes up to two years to become fully dried but you can start eating whenever you like.



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