Bowen loves biltong. Thankfully Bowen is not a vegan or vegetarian. Man, that would suck! For the non-educated folk, biltong is dried meat cured with a mix of spices, salt, pepper and vinegar. This delicious dried meat is best eaten with a beer, but frankly can be eaten anytime, anywhere.
Why make biltong? Well, here in the UK, it is very expensive, and the stuff one buys in tiny packets at the local shop is not the real deal. Thus we decided to make our own. Of course, every biltong maker needs a setup, and ours is basic for what it is.
All we have is a perspex box that is about 60 cm tall. A small computer fan and a tiny candlelight bulb are on the top. At the bottom at the back are some holes for ventilation. Inside are three metal racks for hanging the meat. We have some paper towels at the bottom to catch the excess meat juice. The box is located in our loft because it is out of the way and is a well-ventilated space in its own right.
What is the best meat to make biltong?
We have been using 2KG of Silverside (procured from the hind quarter of a cow. It is a boneless cut of meat that features only a slither of marbled fat and a wide-grained texture. It’s quite similar to the topside, but as it’s a little tougher, it does require longer cooking to achieve tenderness) or Topside cut. Frankly, whatever we can get our hands on at the time is what we use.
Where to buy the meat?
Any butcher will do, but I have favoured Morrisons (+- £20) or Sainsbury meat counter (£18 to £25). On the odd lack of biltong desperation days, we’ve bought from the local farm shops in Surrey, but don’t do this as the price can be double. This entirely depends on your desperation levels.
The not so “secret” biltong recipe.
We searched the Internet high and low… haha! jokes, we didn’t! Mike stumbled upon a recipe on the Greedy Ferret, which oddly enough only had one recipe. Our kind of website, so we gave it a try and struck gold because it turned out to be incredible. You can go and read all the mumbo jumbo on their website about what biltong is and why they choose their ingredients bla bla bla, but here are the basic ingredients we use:
- Silverside or Topside meat
- Vinegar – we use South African Safari Brown Spirit Vinegar. It has such a great taste.
- Salt – Baleine coarse sea salt from the Mediterranean.
- Course Black Pepper
- Corriander seed – slightly roasted
- Brown Sugar
Bicarbonate of Soda– We didn’t use this stuff after reading the following line on the Greedy Ferret website.
“Bicarb has a pretty unpleasant taste, so it’s important to keep the quantity low.“
Most of the above ingredients can be picked up at any grocery store, although we bought everything on Amazon.co.uk.
Why do we like the Greedy Ferret perfect biltong recipe?
If you take the time to go and visit their website and look at their perfect biltong recipe near the bottom of the page, you’ll see the question, “How much does your meat weigh (grams)? and next to the question, a slider. This is super useful because one will not always get 2 KG of meat. Sometimes you’ll get 1.5 KG; thus, the ingredient amounts will change and that matters a great deal. The slider thing adjusts the ingredients accordingly. It is a lifesaver!
Instructions to make biltong.
Again, we don’t follow Greedy Ferret’s instructions exactly. Instead, we do the following:
- Place the Coriander seed into a brown paper bag and, using a rolling pin, crush to mostly powder. Pour the bag contents into a cup.
- Add all the other ingredients into the cup and stir, then pour into a container (something large enough to handle all the meat and ideally with a secure lid).
- Follow the meat’s grain using a sharp knife and cut it into 1-inch (2.5cm) thick lengths.
- Drop the meat into the container turning the meat with your hands. Afterwards, place the container in the fridge for 24 hours. Turn the container every couple of hours so that the meat soaks.
- Remove the meat from the container and dry off the excess juices, leaving most of the spices on the meat.
- Add a hook (metal is best, plastic is cheap) to the thickest end of each length.
- Hang the slices in your biltong box, leaving enough gap between each piece of biltong. They must not touch each other.
- We seal the biltong box with painter’s tape to ensure no bugs or ladybirds (yes, they have somehow gotten in).
- Drying time will vary, but we have found the meat to be ready roughly after 4 days for the 1-inch meat cuts.
- Once ready, cut into thin slices and eat or store in containers. Biltong should last a week or two in any other household, just not ours. 🙂