DIY Jerky (Biltong)
The Captain recently brought home some delicious beef jerky called Biltong; which is South African-style jerky. The spices used are different from American jerky, and the cut of meat is thicker.
It’s really good.
The interesting thing is that it was made quite simply and ingeniously over a five-day period by our friend Fanta who works with my husband. Fanta has been making Biltong his whole life – he grew up on a farm in South Africa.
I asked Fanta how he makes his Biltong while here in The States; and took a few pictures of his portable set-up in case you’d like to try making South African-style Biltong yourself.
Quick History: Biltong originated from the Dutch farmers who settled in South Africa. Drying meat back then was necessary for those homesteaders, and remains a convenient & portable source of protein. I’m sure Fanta’s drying technique is quite different here living and working in boating than how he would traditionally make his Biltong back home. But, no matter how you do it, the important thing is the drying and seasoning of the meat.
- Cut The Meat: Fanta recommends a top or bottom round of beef. Remove the fat; and cut the meat into 1/2″ – 1″ strips following the grain of the muscle, or you can use flat pieces sliced across the grain.
- Spice the meat: Give the meat a vinegar bath; then roll it in a your curing spices. Fanta used a ready-made spice mix from South Africa called Safari Biltong.It’s hard to find here in the U.S. – plus it’s got MSG in it; so you might want to make your own. The basic spice mix for Biltong is a blend of vinegar, salt, sugar, and coriander. I found a good 13 minute tutorial on YouTube that shows exactly how to cut your beef and then spice it yourself:
- Hanging The Meat: Cut stainless baling wire (or you can use seizing wire,) into a wave shape then hang a slice of beef off either side. If your Tupperware container is tall enough you can hang another slice off the bottom like this:
- Drying / Curing: Fanta used a large Tupperware container with a lid for a dehydrator. He drilled holes down the length of the bin and strung wooden dowels across. The bottom is lined with foil. Hang the meat on the dowels.Fanta screw-mounted a pancake fan that he got from Radio Shack onto the side of the tub, and secured it with aluminum tape. With the tub covered, run the fan for about 5 days, or until the meat is stiff and darkened. Heat-drying the meat is not necessary, it’s the air drying that is key.The meat shown in these pictures is about 4 days cured and needs a day or so longer. For a medium cure rate, the meat will look just barely pink in the middle. Leave some space between the strips so the air can get through.
- Try Chili Bites: Smaller cuts of meat, spiced with a traditional mix of Biltong seasoning and the addition of brown sugar, Worcestershire, and chili seasonings are a delicious variation and hugely popular in South Africa. There is a DIY recipe from biltongmakers.com HERE if you want to try it.
Thank-you, Fanta for sharing your Biltong technique with Big Girl Life.
I love people who are passionate about their traditions and food. Do you have a food tradition that you make an effort to share with others? I’d love to hear what they are. Share in the comments.