You may or may not have seen my previous posts which have been written to mark Great British Beef Week.
It started on Monday and every day I’ve been cooking a different dish with our own beef.
Today I thought I’d write about how we make our own biltong.
This cured and dried beef is a firm favourite in our house and with family and friends too. These days it’s quite widely available but, for what you get, I think it tends to be a bit pricey.
Biltong is a very important part of South African culture and is believed to have originated in ancient times when indigenous people sliced, cured and hung their meat up to dry – as a form of preservation. When the Dutch arrived they started to apply the curing techniques to larger animals such as eland, kudu and wildebeest. They also introduced new spices such as cloves, coriander, and pepper, and the dried meat started to look more like how we know biltong today.
A few years ago we went to South Africa and biltong is everywhere and much more tasty than some of the vac-packed biltong I’ve tried here. In South Africa you can get hold of wet biltong much more easily – this is biltong that has been dried for less time so the middle is still red.
At home, with the help of a dehydrator (a ‘Biltong King’) we make batches on a regular basis which means we can dry it out to our own taste.
Our cattle are grass-fed and you really can taste that in the meat.
On Monday we began the biltong process, it’s pretty easy – here’s what we used and how we made it:
- The ingredients you need to make biltong are; meat, black pepper, coriander, salt and vinegar. You can then add other flavours too such as chilli, cloves or additional black pepper
- We always use cuts of beef taken from the hip such as topside or silverside and cut it into fairly thick slices. We tend to remove much of the fat to make it as lean as possible (the dogs then get a treat too!)
The silverside is just above the leg. It is called this because of the thin, silvery tissue that covers one side of the joint. It is often roasted as a whole joint in the oven, used to make corned beef or thinly sliced as minute steaks. It has very little marbling and overall is quite a lean cut.
Topside is quite similar to silverside and comes from the inner thigh. It is sold as a roasting joint and almost always has a layer of fat secured to it which will baste the meat while cooking. Because of the low fat content in the meat itself, topside can be roasted and served rare to maintain tenderness.
- After marinating the beef in vinegar the meat is then covered in the spice mix. We used to make our own but now tend to use a Freddy Hirsch blend which is spot on
- The meat is then left for a while to allow any excess liquid to drain off and is then hung in the dehydrator – we have one which was bought from South Africa decades ago
- The meat is then left in the dehydrator for about three or four days depending on how wet or dry we want the finished biltong to be
- We tend to make a bit of both, the wet biltong will still be red in the middle while the dry version is dried throughout and a bit tougher
This time we made a coriander-based version and a chilli-based one which really does blow your socks off – in a good way!