Other than a good braai, there are few things that unite South Africans quite as much their love of biltong!
Synonymous with sports, game-hunting, two-toned khaki shirts, the Voortrekkers and all things manly, biltong is arguably South Africa’s most cherished snack. Whether it be wet or dry, pimped with peri-peri or traditionally flavoured, biltong has been adapted to appeal to virtually all tastes…provided they’re of a purely carnivorous nature, of course!
And whilst biltong shops are virtually omnipresent throughout the country, there is nothing more satisfying than making your own! To many a South African man, the ability to make your own biltong and brew your own beer is, perhaps, the very definition of self-sufficiency. I must confess that I’d never really considered making my own until I sampled a family friend’s homemade biltong. And while his biltong was incredibly delicious, for me the real appeal lay in the scarcity of the basic ingredients needed for curing. Like so many things these days, even the most simple food comes with a terrifingly epic list of preservatives and chemicals and sadly biltong is no different. At its heart, biltong is the very definition of basic food preservation and its ingredients should be a reflection of this. To my mind, homemade ultimately to speak to the true spirit of biltong and once you’ve tasted the difference, there is no turning back.
After some badgering for Gav’s amazing recipe and a flurry of online shopping for a biltong maker, I suddenly found myself meandering along the path of South African self-sufficiency…I just need to establish the microbrewery in the laundry and I’ll be set for life!
Gav’s Glorious Biltong: Makes 5 strips
- 2 to 2.5kg beef topside
- 1/4 cup whole coriander seeds
- 1/4 cup coarse salt
- 3 tbsp. dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cloves
- 2 tsp. black peppercorns
- White wine vinegar
- Cut the meat into strips, approximately 2 to 3cm thick and about 25 to 30cm long. If you like “fatty” biltong, make sure there is a layer of fat on each strip, if not simply remove any fat before cutting your strips
- Lightly toast the coriander seeds in a dry pan
- Grind the coriander seeds, peppercorns and salt together in either a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder
- Add the ground cloves and sugar, grind to combine or pass entire mixture through the spice grinder again
- In a large glass dish, add a layer of the spice mixture. Roll a couple of the meat strips in the spices
- Lightly sprinkle the meat with some of the vinegar
- Add some more of the spice mixture and gently massage the meat
- Continue this process until you have used up all the meat and spice mixture
- At this stage, add any additional flavourings you might fancy (i.e. chilli flakes, peri-peri powder etc)
- Cover the dish in cling film and refrigerate overnight, turning the meat occasionally
- If you have a biltong maker, hang the meat and dry for between 4 and 5 days (depending on the thickness of the strips, 4 days will give you “wet” biltong and 5 days should result in “dry”)
- If you don’t have a biltong maker, hang the strips in a dry place (on the garage rafters or behind the fridge are good places). Dry for at least 5 days, depending on the weather