How to make your own biltong
Here is a quick and easy recipe to make your own biltong. For those who know about it, those who don’t and for anyone just curious what it is.
Biltong goes well with beers around the fire, a daytime snack when you’re peckish, or enjoyed on top of crackers and cream cheese (one of my favourites).
There are three rules for making biltong:
Rule 1: Keep things simple.
Rule 2: Make it your own.
Rule 3: Enjoy!
Throughout its history biltong was hanged from trees, then in our home garages with a blowing fan and today, we have biltong boxes or otherwise known as dehydration boxes.
Keeping this in mind, you shouldn’t overcomplicate the ingredients nor the process. Below are my five (5) ingredients with steps to follow, however this should be adjusted to your taste and preferences and if so desired you can spice things up and make what is often referred to as chilli bites.
• Black Peppercorns
• Coriander seeds
• Coarse Salt
• Malt vinegar (also known as brown vinegar)
• Brown Sugar
Quantities may vary based on the size of the meat, but a good rule of thumb is to spice the meat slightly more salty than a steak you would braai or bbq on the fire.
The cut of meat that biltong is traditionally made from is called silverside. In other parts of the world such as Canada it’s called bottom round, but feel free to experiment with other beef sections as there are successful reports from numerous other beef cuts. A good alternative that has been recommended to the Howzit team is eye of round.
No need for the most expensive cut. The cut used by Vic was flank steak. This was surprisingly successful and is more commonly found at our local grocery store.
Thank you to Vic Bezuidenhout from Base Compact for sharing his recipe with us!
Use a large enough dish that you are able to lay flat your chosen meat section on the base. You don’t want the meat to curl up on the sides as the meat needs to soak in the ingredients as much as possible.
Dry roast a small portion of coriander seeds for 10-15 minutes or until the seeds have changed to a darker brown. Black means you’ve burnt it. Don’t burn it.
Cut your meat into fairly large sections and don’t be shy to cut up to 1” (25mm) thick. Again, my preference, but start with 3/4” (19mm) first if this is your first time making biltong.
Pour a small amount of malt vinegar in the base of the dish. You only want about one to two millimetres (+-1/16”) of meat to be marinated when laid flat.
Scatter the dry ingredients on the base. Some coarse salt (like you are making a slightly more salty steak), crushed up coriander seeds from your mortar and pestle (don’t make this into a powder), ground pepper and a pinch of brown sugar.
Once you have placed all the ingredients in the dish, gently place down your meat in the dish.
Once you’ve placed your first layer of meat on the base, drizzle a small amount of malt vinegar over the top of your meat. Scatter all your dry ingredients over the top i.e. black pepper, a pinch of brown sugar and some coarse salt.
I tend to rotate the meat several times in the dish to make sure the meat is properly covered. Is this the correct method? Possibly not, but I like to do it this way myself.
Place the dish inside the fridge for 24 hours ensuring that all the ingredients has properly soaked into the meat.
Hang your biltong in your biltong/dehydration box. Remember to place a drip tray like foil or a pan on the bottom of your biltong box as there will be some dripping that happens.
The meat will change colour as it dries. It takes a few days to dry (dependent on the drying method used as well as your preference of how you prefer your biltong).
My preference is still a bit raw as you can see from the photos but you may need to let it dry out more if this is going to be your first time eating biltong.
A few more tips from Vic!
- This can be made without sugar.
- Don’t use too much malt vinegar, a spray bottle works great and ensures that you cover all surfaces evenly.
- Place roasted coriander seeds in a grinder (an empty pepper grinder or such will work perfect), which works just as well and is often more convenient and you can store it for later use.
- You can lose up to 50% of weight during the curing process.
- Many cuts of meat can be used and you don’t need to use overly expensive wagyu cuts as an example. However, feel free to experiment and don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
- When buying your own portion of meat from your local butcher, cut along the grain. When the meat is finally cured, you will cut across the grain. This means that the small pieces you eat are more melt in your mouth and not too tough to chew.
- Not all fats are bad and a small amount of fat is essential for a healthy blanched diet. Consider this when you are sectioning the meat before curing.
- Placing biltong in a paper bag will continue to dry out your biltong, but placing it in a non-breathing plastic bag will make it sweat and potentially grow mould over time. Rather make more often than too much or, just eat faster and consider sharing with friends.
Buy your own biltong box from Base Compact!
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