Biltong

Biltong is like beef jerky only you buy it with Krugerrands and it tastes better. Ask my fried Dori (not Nemo’s friend, that’s Dory).

It’s a South African dried meat. It’s much softer (if done right) than beef jerky and more of a pure meat flavor. I sometimes use it as bacon, though it is not smoked (I guess you can make smoked Biltong too, if you use cold smoking). It is a way to preserve meat, and though I keep it refrigerated when done, it can be kept uncut at room temperature cold dry conditions as well, and will stay good for a while.

Since Thompson Gazelle and Gnu meat is usually not on sale in my local Stop & Shop, I get big chunks of the cheapest meat on sale, and it comes out pretty amazing. I also don’t mind some fat on the cut (not too much).

It’s really simple to make. I modified it a bit to my taste, and I’m sure there are a million variations anyways, but I kept the basic flavors.

Quantities are for 2lb meat. Multiply accordingly. I find the type of meat is not that important once you use the baking soda – if you get a real good tender piece of meat. Traditionally it is made with a top rump cut (called silverside in SA). You can use the same recipe or variations of it for pretty much anything (chicken, any other meat, even fish). I would include the baking soda only when using tougher cuts of beef, and skip it when using anything else.

The cuts I use are about 1.5″-2″ (4cm-5cm) thick. I wouldn’t use anything thicker than that. Thinner will dry faster and more uniform, which you might like better or not, it’s a personal preference. I leave the cuts whole, so the cuts are about 9″x6″x2″, but anything goes.

You will need to either use a dehydrator or a fan to move air around it. It does not need heat to dry, just airflow (minimal heat is fine, with a dehydrator you turn the thermostat to the point the fan just starts turning, so the lowest temperature possible).

Ingredients

  • 2lb meat 2″ thick (or less)
  • 1.5 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbls sugar (brown or white)
  • 1.5 tbsp coriander seed powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Pinch of red hot pepper, adjust quantity to taste (optional)
  • 1 tsp beet powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking soda (only for tougher beef cuts)
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Mix in a ziploc bag all the dry ingredients and mix well.

Place the meat in the bag, close it and shake well/work it so the meat is covered with the spice mix.

Add the apple cider vinegar to the bag, mix well. It will bubble and “inflate” the bag a bit because of the baking soda if used, give it a minute and it will stop. Remove as much air as possible from the bag, seal it and place in the fridge overnight (a couple of days is fine too, don’t feel pressure, but five it at least one day).

After curing is done, take meat out of the bag and place on a plate or tray, and discard the bag with whatever is in it. Let the meat drip liquids out on the plate but do not pat dry it, you want the spices to stay on it. Discard any liquids from plate, flip the meat over and let it stand for a minute and discard any additional liquids.

Now for the drying – if using a dehydrator, place meat as high as possible (least are flow) and turn the dehydrator on the lowest temperature possible (you don’t need any heat at all) buy turning it to the point the fan just starts turning.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can hang the meat anywhere with a tray underneath, and have a fan 5-6 feet away on low, or closer but pointed a bit to the side of the meat, you want airflow but not too much.

I dry it in the dehydrator for 3 days for 2″ thick large cuts. Time depends on temperature, humidity, airflow and the thickness of the meat.

Checking for readiness is by pushing on the center of the meat, it needs to start feeling firm. This is also a personal preference, some like dryer biltong, some like it softer. Personally I like it soft in the middle, it gives it a nice contract between the tough outside and the soft inside. Practice makes perfect. Give it at least a couple of days of drying, but it can be anywhere from two to even seven days.

When you decided you can’t wait anymore and it’s ready, enjoy, I keep it in the fridge in a ziploc so it can stay for longer and doesn’t dry out anymore. It doesn’t stay there for too long though…. I cut it real thin and eat it as is, use it for cooking, fry it with eggs like a better leaner bacon…

  • Using whole coriander seeds, roasting them, and them grinding yourself with whole black pepper corn will enhance the flavors.

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