How to Make Biltong (South African Beef Jerky)

Written by henry francis
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How to Make Biltong (South African Beef Jerky)
An oscillating fan is a useful piece of equipment when making biltong. ( Images)

The word biltong is taken from South Africa's Dutch heritage. While "bil" means buttock, "tong" means strip, and biltong is so called because the end result are strips of dried meat, which are commonly made from cuts of beef taken from the buttock and rump areas. Preparing biltong, which is basically a South African spin on beef jerky, requires approximately 12 hours of marinating and four hours blowing meat with an oscillating fan to dry it out.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 1.81 to 2.27kg. beef (topside, silverside, eye of round cuts)
  • Chopping board
  • Sharp knife
  • Salt
  • Brown sugar
  • Tbsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup coarse-ground coriander
  • 2 tsp saltpetre
  • Casserole dish
  • Vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 litre warm tap water
  • Metal spoon
  • Paper towels
  • Meat hooks or string
  • Oscillating electric fan

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  1. 1

    Slice your cuts of beef into approximately 2-inch-wide strips using the chopping board and a knife. Cut strips thinner for diners who may prefer their biltong harder, as these will dry out faster and so become harder. Leave room on the chopping board where you can prepare your biltong spices.

  2. 2

    Amass the salt and brown sugar (both to taste) with a tbsp bicarbonate of soda, tbsp black pepper, 1/2 cup coarse-ground coriander and 2 tsp saltpetre. Mix the substances together well before spreading it over your beef's surface. Ensure you get an even covering of all of the ingredients on all of your beef before layering the strips of beef in your casserole dish.

  3. 3

    Sprinkle vinegar or red wine vinegar (to taste) over each strip of beef as you lay it in the casserole dish. Lay sheets of beef atop one another if there is not enough room in your dish to accommodate all of the beef in one layer.

  4. 4

    Leave the beef to marinade in a refrigerator for approximately 12 hours, although you will learn to vary this as you become more experienced at making biltong, marinating it to your own palate.

  5. 5

    Three-quarters fill a regular glass with tap water, and fill the remainder of the glass with vinegar or red wine vinegar. Stir the two together with a metal spoon before submerging each strip of beef in the vinegar and water one at a time --- this adds a sheen to your biltong, making it look dark and tasty.

  6. 6

    Lay the beef strips back flat on a chopping board and dab away excess moisture with paper towels. Hang your strips on meat hooks ("S" hooks) or tie pieces of string around them and hang them from a beam. Make sure you hang them in a cool, dry environment, as too much air moisture can spoil your biltong. Train an oscillating fan to point towards the beef keeping it supplied with cool air movement. Dry your meat for approximately four hours --- your biltong is ready when it is hard and tough on the outside but still slightly soft in the centre.

Tips and warnings

  • Cut with the grain of the beef when preparing your biltong, as you will find it makes the process much quicker and easier.
  • As with any meat there are risk of eating raw uncooked meats. Biltong is salt cured meat, I would not suggest eating the meat raw.
  • Although I have not encountered any problems in the past with bugs around the meat during the drying process. Place a window screen over the top of the box if you live in a very buggy place.

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