is South African dried meat. The word comes from Dutch with ‘BIL’
meaning buttock and ‘TONG’ meaning strip. Biltong has been around for
centuries; for instance, a more primitive form, the Dutch tassal, was also
prepared in certain areas of France during the late Middle Ages. Tassal
was also made in Batavia, and made its way to South Africa with the Dutch
settlers where it was adapted to the less pungent biltong.
Biltong has been a favorite with South African’s and Zimbabwean’s for close on 400 years now. This mildly spiced and salted, air dried meat, has sustained these people since the early days of the Voortrekkers and has, in more recent years, lent it's name to both the complexion and diet of one of South Africa's most famous sons - the single-handed round the world sailor "Biltong" Bertie Reed.
No Rugby, Cricket, Tennis, Boxing or other sporting occasion in South Africa - whether it be watched live or on television - is quite complete without a few beers and a good supply of Biltong. It also makes a great traveling companion as it can last for long periods of time with very little attention, always providing sustenance in the absence of other foods or delicacies.
In the home it can be used in a multitude of ways to compliment other dishes: thinly sliced as a filling for omelets, sliced or shredded as a filling for pancakes, crepes and quiches, salads, and spreads. Of course, the South African farmer's favorite: plenty of shredded Biltong on a slice of freshly baked bread with plenty of butter.
are typically two main types of biltong – Beef Biltong and Game Biltong. Both
some people prefer one above the other. Lamb, pork and poultry are not used for
biltong, although ostrich meat makes good biltong and is popular in South
Africa. Beef is probably the most popular and the easiest to obtain, from a
perspective of making your own biltong.
In the past farmers used a whole beef carcass for Biltong, but today the beef buttock - consisting of the silverside (from which 'ronde' or 'predikantsbiltong' and 'regte' biltong are made), topside and thick flank is normally used. The finest biltong is the 'garingbiltong' made from the eye muscles running down both sides of the backbone and which are cut whole from a side of beef. The most tender is the 'binnebiltong' or 'ouma se biltong' (grandmother's biltong) which is made from the fillet.
Epicurious Food Dictionary defines Biltong as:
Developed in South Africa and a staple in many African countries, biltong consists of strips of cured, air-dried beef or game. Though its keeping properties are the same, it is a finer form of jerked meat than American Jerky. The best biltong has been compared to the Prosciutto of Italy.
There are a multitude of recipes and methods used today to make biltong. Many of these are passed down from generation to generation. The good news is that it is really simple to make your own biltong, and the principles which you will use are basically the same regardless of which recipe or method you choose to adopt. One thing is sure, like many other recipes, the best biltong is made with the best ingredients.
mentioned above, In the past farmers
used a whole beef carcass for Biltong, but today the beef buttock - consisting
of the silverside, topside and thick flank is normally used. The finest biltong
is made from the eye muscles running down both sides of the backbone and which
are cut whole from a side of beef. The most tender (and most expensive) biltong
is made from the fillet.
If you live in America, the best cuts I have found to make biltong, include London Broil, Eye of Round and Top Round.
Bottom line: Use the best meat you can afford. The cheaper cuts of meat often contain an excess amount of sinew, collagen and binding tissue which will yield an often tough and ‘stringy’ produce.
meat must firstly be cut into strips. A few things should be noted at this
The strips of meat are then dipped into undiluted vinegar. Use red, white, or even apple cider vinegar. The vinegar ‘bath’ accomplishes a few things: It dissolves some of the sinew and binding tissue. It makes the meat a little more tender. It mellows the aroma and flavor of the meat, before and during the drying process. It causes the meat to have a dark and shiny appearance once it is dried. It opens up the pores of the raw meat, for the next step, which is to spice the meat. By doing so, the spices are able to penetrate deeper into the meat.
At this point you are ready to season your meat, and this is the step that typically distinguishes one type of biltong from another. Most people develop their own recipes for the seasoning they use on their biltong. These recipes are often passed down from generation to generation. As far as traditional biltong is concerned, you will typically see the following ingredients used in a seasoning: Salt, Pepper, Sugar, and Coarsely Ground Dry or Roasted Coriander
in my opinion is one of the seasoning which really identify with good biltong.
Roasted Coriander in particular lends a wonderful flavor to your final product.
In order to roast your coriander, place dried coriander seeds in a dry pan over
medium heat and stir the seeds around the pan. The seeds will give off a strong
aroma and will turn a golden brown color. At this point you should remove the
seeds and coarsely crush them.
Some recipes call for ‘salpetre’. This is a chemical similar to sodium nitrate or potassium nitrate and is used to cure the meat and help prevent mildew from occurring during the drying process in moist conditions. The ‘salpetre’ also gives the meat a nice rosy color once it has dried. Please note that health experts are now warning that such nitrates may significantly increase the risk of cancer in humans. So you might want to take this into consideration before using nitrates.
Of course you can be as creative as you like at this point and as an example, use seasonings such as dried chilies, granulated garlic and Worcestershire sauce.
Once you have seasoned your meat, we recommend placing it into a large ice chest overnight, and allowing it to absorb the flavors of the vinegar and seasoning, before you hang it up to dry.
The following is a seasoning recipe, which we use, and is good for seasoning about 12 ½ kilograms of meat strips:
are many different ways of drying your biltong. In the old days, the South
African farmers made little
s-shaped hooks out of steel wire. These would be run through one end of the meat
strips, and hooked around wires stretched along the beams of a house, or even
the branches of a tree.
the little s-shaped hooks are commercially available (if you live in South
Africa), but most people use ordinary metal paperclips which can be bent back to
resemble s-shaped hooks. Paperclips are also cheap and plentiful and can be
thrown away when your meat is dried. Some people also loop a piece of string
through one end of the meat, which is used to hang the biltong to some kind of
ideal conditions for drying your biltong are in a breezy place, away from direct
sunlight, but well-lighted, in order to prevent mildew. Make sure that you keep
it away from ants, rats, insects, pets and greedy humans, who insist on
‘sampling’ the biltong before it’s time ! Honest, good upstanding citizens
have been known to decimate a supply of drying biltong.
time it takes to dry biltong varies depending on how thick your meat slices are,
what type of conditions you have in the place you are drying your biltong, and
the method you chose to dry your biltong. With practice, you will get to know
when your biltong is dried to your taste. It is a matter of personal preference,
how ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ you like your biltong. Typically it should be hard on
the outside, but a little moist and red on the inside. With time, you will learn
to squeeze the biltong between your fingers, and use the sponginess of the
biltong as your guide. Alternatively you can hack into it with a knife to see
exactly how moist it is !
are again many different methods people use to dry biltong. We will address
three of these methods specifically.
Storage Of Your Biltong
are only a few reasons why you would have left-over biltong that needs to be
If you do need to store you biltong you can do so using the following guidelines:
at room temperature in a cool, dry area in a sealed plastic container or
Ziploc bag. You can also use a paper bag but this will cause the jerky to
dry out more.
in a sealed plastic container or Ziploc bag, and refrigerate 32 -38
in a sealed plastic container or Ziploc bag, and preferably vacuum seal,
To Do with Biltong
is often carved into thin slices, and sometimes served whole in the form of
sticks. Sometimes biltong is left until utterly dry, when it can be grated into
are a few recipes which will get you started with some ideas on what to do with
· 125 g smooth cream cheese with chives
· 30 ml mayonnaise
· 30 ml lemon juice
· 60 g grated biltong (125 ml)
· Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
all the ingredients and serve sandwiched between slices of bread and toasted in
an electric sandwich maker.
Spread on slices of whole-wheat bread and garnished with thin slices of lemon or cucumber.
Spread on bread canapés - cut slices of bread into rounds or fingers, fry in cooking oil until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack then spread with biltong mixture and garnish with sliced olives or gherkins.
Combine all the ingredients and mix lightly. Spoon into greased muffin pans and bake at 220° C for 11 minutes. Leave to cool slightly before removing and serving with butter.
120 g Ground Biltong (250 ml)
make the dough sift together the dry ingredients. Cut butter into the flour with
a knife and then rub it in with your fingers until the mixture resembles dried
Beat the milk and egg together. Make a well in the flour mixture and add the liquid gradually. Mix quickly to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead lightly until smooth. Roll out into a square approximately 10mm thick.
To make the filling mix all ingredients together and spread over the dough keeping 25mm clear along the edges. Roll up dough like a Swiss roll and seal the edges with beaten egg and water. Wrap lightly in greaseproof paper and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Carefully cut the dough into 25mm slices and arrange them - cut side down - on the bottom of a greased No.3 cast iron pot. Begin in the center and arrange the remaining slices in a circle. Leave the sides of the pot clear to allow the dough to rise. Grease the inside of the lid with cooking oil or butter and cover the pot. Put the pot over a small fire - put a few small hot coals on the lid and bake for 20 - 30 minutes until the bread is golden brown and cooked. Turn out - cool slightly - and then serve with crisp vegetable sticks and lettuce leaves.