Biltong: South Africa’s favourite munchy

When one thinks of South Africa, thoughts of Nelson Mandela, rugby, music and Kruger National Park are often conjured up. Now, if you’re a food connoisseur or a self-professed ‘foodie,’ perhaps thoughts of South Africa’s famous version of beef jerky, Biltong, may come to mind instead.

With a long standing tradition that stems from early 17th century Dutch settlers in South Africa, Biltong is a type of cured meat that was first prepared for preservation’s sake. From its humble beginnings out of necessity, Biltong has now evolved into a celebrated delicacy of South Africa produced from a diverse range of meats.

Biltong is produced from beef and game meats such as ostrich. Preparation includes spices and herbs, primarily coriander and black pepper, and balsamic vinegar.

Capital Lifestyle visited one of South Africa’s most famous butcheries, The Butcher Shop & Grill, to find out what is the secret to good Biltong.

The Butcher Shop & Grill

A veteran at The Butcher Shop & Grill, who wished to be unnamed, told Capital Lifestyle that there really wasn’t much of a secret behind their famous Biltong.

The entire Biltong-making process spans over approximately three days. After rubbing the premium cuts of meat in a traditional spice mix, the strips are then soaked in balsamic vinegar, and then finally hung to dry in a temperature controlled room.

Sounds easy enough? Not really.

The climate of the drying room has to be precisely the right temperature in order to avoid mould to form. Moreover, the first step to making good Biltong, meat selection, is the backbone to producing Biltong with the best texture.

Wet, soft, medium or dry?

Customer: “Half a kilo of Biltong please..”
Butcher: “This one?”
Customer: “No, that one is too soft..”

Depending on your personal tastes and how you plan to eat the Biltong, one may prefer “wet” Biltong, which basically means “moist” and the meat hasn’t been air-dried completely. Some customers usually prefer “medium” or “dry” Biltong as a snack that’s chewed on.

Biltong can also be diced up into stews, bread and even on top of salads. Let your creativity run wild!

If you have a Biltong recipe, please share it below with the Capital Lifestyle team!

Photo Credits: Susan Wong © All rights reserved.

SUSAN WONG :Susan Wong is the Editor of Capital Lifestyle, a resident photographer, an award-winning journalist, radio presenter, full-time adventurer, long-time admirer of anything edible, and a spicy food athlete at Capital FM.