Origins of Biltong
Before I show you how to make Biltong, let me first give you a bit of an introduction of what exactly it is. Below find a brief introduction and description of Biltong.
Biltong is a kind of cured meat that originated in South Africa. Many different types of meat are used to produce it, ranging from beef through game meats to fillets of ostrich from commercial farms. It is typically made from raw fillets of meat cut into strips following the grain of the muscle, or flat pieces sliced across the grain. It is similar to beef jerky in that they are both spiced, dried meats, but differ in their typical ingredients, taste and production processes; in particular the main difference from jerky is that biltong is usually thicker (from cuts up to 1″ (25 mm) thick), while jerky is rarely more than 1/8″ (3 mm) thick and biltong does not have a sweet taste.
The word biltong is from the Dutch bil (“rump”) and tong (“strip” or “tongue”).
The Dutch settlers who arrived in southern Africa in the 17th century brought recipes for dried meat from Europe. Preparation involved applying vinegar, then rubbing the strips of meat with a mix of herbs, salts and spices. The need for preservation in the new colony was pressing. Building up herds of livestock took a long time. There was native game about but it could take hunters days to track and kill a large animal such as an eland and they were then faced with the problem of preserving a large mass of meat in a short time in a hot climate during a period of history before iceboxes had been invented. Desiccation solved the problem. Biltong as it is today evolved from the dried meat carried by the wagon-travelling Voortrekkers, who needed stocks of durable food as they migrated from the Cape Colony north-eastward (away from British rule) into the interior of Southern Africa during the Great Trek. The raw meat was preserved from decay and insects within a day or two and within a fortnight would be black and rock-hard, having been fully cured.”
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