How to make Biltong at home

Making Biltong at Home

Biltong is a cured meat made from red meat like beef and game. Traditional Biltong originated in South Africa, though the Dutch may have brought the idea of curing meat from Europe with them to South Africa. What I love about biltong is that it doesn’t require any cooking.

Biltong can be cured with no electricity or energy which makes it an ideal process in times where those luxuries are not present.

The best way to describe biltong is to compare it with its overly priced cousin jerky, although true biltong lovers would be disgusted with such a comparison. This is the first time we have ever made biltong so we used the most basic ingredients required with intentions of trying new twists once the basics are mastered.

What you need to make Biltong

Biltong is a multi-day, mulit-step process though each step is quick and easy. To begin gather your supplies:

  • Vinegar (preferably apple cider vinegar)
  • Course salt
  • Coriander
  • Black Pepper
  • Meat (Red meat, though some claim good results with fish and poultry)
  • Bowl/Tupperware/pan
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp Knife
  • Hooks
  • String/Rope, Dehydrator, or Biltong Box

Though there are many different ways to prepare your biltong these key ingredients are required for the meat to properly cure.

The cut of meat is not all that important. Use a large hunk when you find it on sale. We used a smaller piece that was on sale to start with. And of course always start with clean supplies.

How to make Biltong

Trim The Fat

Though it is not required most biltongers recommend that excessive fat be removed. We left on some fat to get an idea of the differences in taste. I cannot say for certain but in my experience fat does not do well for the shelf life of food so this may be a consideration.

Cut The Meat

As recommended we cut our biltong into 1×1 inch strips. Cut your meat along the grain. Our piece was kind of small so we didn’t really have much of an option though it still turned out well. One thing we learned was that it may work well to cut various sizes.

Starting with 1×1 inch pieces and gradually getting larger will allow you to start enjoying your biltong and then not be rushed to eat it all before it gets to dry. Larger pieces will take longer to cure.

Season The Meat

In your pan or bowl add a splash of vinegar. Enough to cover the bottom. Rub all the meat in the vinegar. There should be enough to cover and soak all surfaces of the meat. Pour off the excess vinegar. Now sprinkle the meat with the course salt and rub it in.

There is no exact measurement for this part. Don’t get overly concerned about it, just sprinkle and rub. Next sprinkle on the coriander and the black pepper evenly. Cover all sides.

Refrigerate the meat

Though not required we put our biltong in the refrigerator overnight. 12-24 hours. This worked well for us. I will eventually try it without the fridge and will post an update when I do.

The next day you will see the process already beginning. Pour off the excess juice from the pan.

Hook Your Meat

Now its time to hang! We made hooks from a coat hanger but you can also use paper clips. Hook the hook on one end of the meat.

Hang Your Meat

Hang the meat so that they are not touching each other. This should be done in a dry place with low humidity. Also use a place where you can deny access to dogs, children, or anyone who might be tempted to grab a little to early!

Lay a piece of newspaper underneath. There was some dripping the first day but that stopped quickly as the meat dehydrated. We used a box fan to keep the air in the room moving though it was not blowing directly on the meat. This worked well.

Biltong Day Four

After four days of drying you can see the difference in the meat. It is now looking more and more like biltong. Of course I couldn’t help myself I had to try one of the skinnier pieces. It was actually perfect but one end was thicker and had some red in it still. We left the rest on to finish.

Take Down Your Biltong

After seven days I tested our biltong to find that it was to a consistency of my liking. There is not exact time for biltong. A lot depends on how dry the environment is,the ingredients, and the temperature. Also some like there biltong more “wet” and some like it more “dry.”

You need to experiment to find what your taste really is. Biltong stores well in a paper bag. Some recommend to store it in the fridge though I have been keeping ours in the pantry without a problem. Biltong is meant to be a trail food so I don’t believe refrigeration is necessary though it will extend the life. Do not store biltong in a plastic bag.

The plastic will trap moisture possibly causing mold.When you are ready to eat, cut and serve!Whether you are preparing for the end of the world as we know it or just looking for a tasty treat biltong may just be your next favorite snack.