The heritage of biltong
The word biltong hails from the Dutch word ‘bil’ which means ‘rump’ and ‘tong’, which means ‘strip’ or ‘tongue’.
Choosing your meat
The most popular type of biltong is normal beef biltong, but you can choose almost any meat to cure.
- Blue wildebeest
Choosing your marinade
Many an aspirant chef has added novel spices and sauces to biltong to create unique flavours. However, the most common ingredients in biltong spices and marinades are:
- Black pepper
- Coriander (dried, toasted and cracked)
- Brown sugar
- balsamic vinegar
- malt vinegar
- dried, ground chili peppers
- bicarbonate of soda
- Worcestershire sauce
- onion powder
Ways of drying biltong
To ensure a properly dried biltong, it’s important that your drying area is:
- Dry: this goes without saying, as moisture can lead to the meat rotting or growing mould.
- Sterile: you don’t want flies or any other foreign objects getting to your meat.
- Cool: if your meat gets too warm it may spoil or grow unhealthy bacteria, in areas that are too cold though, it may struggle to dry properly.
Making your biltong
Now that you’ve decided on your cut, marinade and drying method, it’s time to begin.
- Sterilise your knives and surfaces by washing it with hot water and soap. Slice your biltong in suitable strips of about 1cm – 2cm by 5cm -15cm thick, depending on how dry you want it – make sure to cut it with the grain.
- Sprinkle your strips of meat with coarse rock salt (don’t use normal salt) and spices and leave it in your fridge for about an hour. The longer you leave it, the saltier it will be – some people prefer skipping this step altogether.
- Take out your strips and scrape the salt off.
- Leave your strips to marinade in your chosen concoction for up to twelve hours. Some people prefer simply brushing it with the marinade. It really depends on the taste you want.
- Once it’s marinated, dry the meat properly with a kitchen towel. It’s crucial that the meat not be dripping wet when you hang it.
- Sprinkle the meat with more spices.
- Sterilise your hooks by washing it with hot water and soap. Metal objects can also be boiled for a few minutes.
- Hook your biltong onto the hooks and hang them in your dryer.
- Wait for about 3 – 4 days depending on the thickness of your meat.
- Enjoy your biltong