South Africa is renowned for interesting aspects of culture from dressing to music and food. Biltong is popular in the country and now across the world because of its unique preparation style and taste. Just like Sunny Skies and Boerewors, Biltong is a rich inheritance from parents.
While it may seem like a modern dish served in fancy restaurants and high-end events, the spiced strips of meat existed far beyond your imagination. In the early days, meat was the primary food for Africans. The only way to create variation was to prepare the meat differently; either smoking or boiling. However, as the years progress, more enhancements, and discoveries come up with respect to preparation of food.
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Biltong is a slice of beef spiced to individual preferences and moistened to certain degrees according to individual preferences. It is a delicacy in South Africa both in urban centers and in smaller towns. In fact, you are likely to enjoy the original taste with natural spices in the rural areas. Although it is common in 5-star hotels in big cities, Biltong is a traditional food in South Africa.
The basic preparation process involves heating the strip of beef and marinating the spices to give it a desired taste. Spices help in enhancing the conventional taste of beef, which can be boring. You have the freedom to include any spices that you like so long as you maintain the thickness and fatty element of the beef strips, because this is the original idea of Biltong. Enjoying the slices of beef is determined by how deep your teeth can sink in the flesh; it should be thick enough. Perfect biltong should be fatty; the taste and spices blend in well with high fat. Be sure to slice the beef from a healthy animal.
Traditionally, animals were preserved for this specific purpose. Fatty animals were identified and isolated for several weeks; they were then fed and given natural supplements that increase their fat. Biltong was not prepared on any day or abruptly; natives in the country value the dish and would begin preparations weeks before a special event where Biltong is a major dish. The way you choose to prepare biltong determines how it will it will be served.
If you like it moist then it is better served as an accompaniment; if you like it dry and crunchy, you can pick it up as an accompaniment or as main dish. Actually, you can prepare stew from smaller pieces of beef or use vegetables to accompany biltong. The best preparation style is subject to individual taste; however, there are only two options. Either you prepare it dry and lean or fatty and wet. The flexibility comes in on spices; there is no limitation to this. If you want it natural or with lots of coriander and pepper it is up to you; just be sure of what your guests prefer to avoid disappointments.
– 2 lbs good beef cut (or venison)
– White distilled vinegar
– Worcestershire Sauce (optional)
– 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt (more or less to personal taste)
– 2 tablespoon black pepper (more or less to personal taste)
– 4 tablespoons of ground coriander powder
– 1/4 cup of whole coriander seeds (these will be roasted in a pan then crushed and applied just before drying)
– 2 tablespoons of raw brown sugar (optional)
You can also use paprika, cayenne pepper, crushed dry garlic and any other spices you can think of. Apart from the above essentials, you have a wide field for ingredients with respect to spices.
How to make Biltong
It is easy!
Cut the beef into slices of at least 5 inches long and at least half inches wide. The thickness and length is dependent on individual preferences and the intended mode of preparation. If you want it dry, make the slices thin but if you like fatty and moist biltong, be generous with the slices.
Place the slices in vinegar for few hours to let it absorb the natural taste of beef. Vinegar also helps in toughening the meat; you don’t want a sticky and separating threads of meat when serving. If you are limited with size of containers to deep the slices, you can sprinkle vinegar on the slices. Be sure all the parts are well covered by vinegar.
As you wait for vinegar to infiltrate into the slices, prepare your slices. Combining all the slices and making a paste can be a good idea. It will be easier to apply the spices on the vinegar-wet slices of beef than in when slices are in particles.
Apply the spices generously around the slices according to your spice level preference. Wipe out any excess spices before drying. Add coriander seeds and chili bites.
Whether you are using a dehydrator, biltong machine, or oven; be sure the slices do not touch each other. Place them carefully to avoid losing the spices and coriander seeds sticking on the outside.
The time for drying depends on the heat level and how you like to serve the biltong. When the outside is dry and the sticks begin to bend then you know it is ready, don’t let the sticks break. If you want it dry, let it heat for longer.
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