Last weekend, myself and my OH decided to dust off the biltong maker and have a go at producing South Africa’s national, and much beloved, snack. For anyone who is not familiar with biltong, it is a cured, dried meat typically made from beef or game. I have seen all sorts of biltong for sale here including wildebeest, warthog and even elephant which I can’t imagine tastes too great. Us Brits tend to be a bit sniffy about biltong but, elephant aside, the good South African stuff is amazingly tasty and bears little or no resemblance to those little plastic packets of leathery biltong that you occasionally find in the UK.
I don’t know why my biltong maker had been consigned to the garage for so long as biltong is surprisingly easy and satisfying to make. A proper biltong box with a built in fan for drying the meat does make the process easier but you really don’t need any specialist equipment. You can hang the meat in any warm, dry place – I have even read of people making it in their airing cupboard! If you are interested in trying it out, Hugh F-W has some useful tips on making biltong at home on his River Cottage website. You do need a good quality piece of meat and beef silverside is the typical cut of choice. Into this, you rub a cure of salt, sugar and spices. For the biltong pictured here, I used the following cure recipe given to me by my local butcher:
¼ cup (about 4 tbsp) of salt
- 2 tsp of brown sugar
- 6 tsp of coriander seeds, roasted and lightly crushed
- 1 tsp pepper
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp ground cloves
Once cured, the meat is hung for between 2 and 5 days depending on the texture and degree of curing required. I only hung my biltong for 2 days as I prefer my biltong “wet” (still pink on the inside and quite tender). Hanging for longer intensifies the flavour, but the result will be more chewy. Once dried, slice thinly and eat alongside a cold bottle of South African beer. Any leftover biltong can be wrapped in waxed paper and stored at room temperature for between 1 and 3 weeks depending on the degree of cure.