Home Made Biltong in the USA

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I’ve been making Biltong for my family, in the USA, since we moved here in 1998 from South Africa. If you are South African, then you know how important having this cured beef snack around, is to us. Especially when watching Rugby on Saturdays! How dare one do that without Biltong and an ice cold beer?

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There’s nothing better than enjoying fresh Biltong, Rugby and an Ice Cold Beer on a Saturday afternoon! En dán gaan ons braai…

All the pictures on my web site are of Biltong I have personally made over the years, right here in my home, in NJ. My goal is to supply anyone who wants to put their hand to making their own Biltong, with a special blend of Biltong Spices. This recipe that I use to blend my spices with has been tried and tested over the years and found to be the best, this side of the pond!

Alleys Off Of Spring Street 035 We like to make sandwiches, amongst plenty of other things, using beef Biltong, whenever a fresh batch comes out of the dry box. If you like it wet (rare) like my wife Amanda does, that means slicing it after just 3 days of drying. That’s it!

A Superb Blend of Chili Biltong Spice

Bennie's Chili Biltong Spices
Are you in the mood for a chili flavored beef snack? Do you occasionally crave Chili bites or better yet, Chili Biltong? Well, you have come to the right place.

After numerous requests, we felt that the time was right to introduce our Chili Biltong Spices.

Introducing our newest spice blend – Bennie’s Chili Biltong Spices.

We spent several weeks perfecting this blend and we are really excited about the result. This is the opportunity you have been waiting for to experiment a little with different flavors and spices. Your taste buds will thank you!

Our goal with this blend was to develop a chili spice blend with BIG flavor, over a blend that just has heat. Let’s face it, anyone can spice their beef with just chili powder to make it hot, but it would have no flavor, which will only leave you reaching for water or something to sooth your taste buds.

Don’t get me wrong, this spice blend packs a punch, especially the longer you leave it  to cure in the spice blend before rinsing it off. If you prefer the BIG flavor I mentioned earlier with moderate heat, then follow my three-hour curing rule. (See my blog post “How to make Biltong“)

What spices are in this blend? Bennie’s Chili Biltong Spices contains the typical Biltong spices salt and coriander. To give it that kick that you like, we added chili powder and cayenne pepper, but for that bold flavor we added paprika and cumin. Again, it is all about the right ratios. The combination of these spices at the right ratios resulted in a very satisfying spice blend that we are excited about and one that you will come back for again and again.

Biltong Spice Recipes

Biltong Spice recipes are as old and varied as the mountains. Family secrets under lock and key, in some cases, but not always a secret. You can find recipes online and here we will share a few of our favorites. Please check back soon as we populate our new web site…………

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How to Slice Biltong

To slice Biltong properly, is a special art…lol. Just kidding, but it does help is you have the right tools to do it with. A very handy, and popular device, is this hand-made guillotine type slicer that are available in South Africa and now here in USA at specialty Biltong stores like braaitime.com

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Droëwors or Cured Beef Sausage is another South African favorite meat snack

By now you must realize that South Africans are quite the carnivores. We are a meat-eating nation and although we do like vegetables and all kinds of side dishes, meat is the main ingredient in most of our meals.

Droëwors, is an Afrikaans word for dried (cured) sausage and has a very similar history to Biltong. To read more about the origin of these cured meat snacks, click here.

We often make batches of this delicacy here at our home in New Jersey. It was essential for us to develop our cured meat making skills because living without these traditional South African snacks, was not an option. For making Droëwors, we us a thinner sausage casing than what we would use when making Boerewors. We find it here in the USA at specialty food stores. If you don’t see it in the meat department, ask the butcher on duty to get it for you.

In the photo below I am making droëwors, again using my own blend of spices with “thin” natural casing, mentioned above. Following basically the same procedure as for making boerewors, except no pork or pork fat is used at all and the beef of my choice is bottom round.

011 I let it hang in a cool dry place with a fan to circulate the air and in about 3 – 5 days it is ready to enjoy.

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How to dry or cure Beef Biltong at home

To make and dry Biltong at home, you will need a large enough, well ventilated box, to hold your batches of Biltong. You can hang the Biltong in any cool, dry place, but to protect the meat from insects and dust particles, it is wise to use a container. There are many different commercial ones you can buy. If you are looking for a ready made Biltong Drying Box, you can purchase one online here

We use one that was home made with dowels and covered with screen door material. On the inside is a dowel bar that we simply hang the Biltong up on large bended paper clips.

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Line the inside bottom of the Biltong box with paper towel to absorb the moisture dripping from the meat during the first hours of hanging the freshly made Biltong. It will start drying out very quickly after that and no further drips will occur.

Use an electric fan on low speed, near the meat to help the cool, dry air circulate around the meat. It is very important to keep the air flowing around the meat at all times. Moisture and humidity in the air will spoil the meat in no time. In fact, we like to make Biltong in the cooler months, but using an air conditioner and fan in the summer months means a steady supply of great Biltong all year round!.

How to make Biltong

En nou gaan ons dit stap vir stap verduidelik…

We’ll guide you through the steps of how to make your own home-made Biltong.

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First, you will need Bennie’s Classic Biltong Spices 🙂

Before you plan to make your Biltong, make sure you have all the crucial ingredients on hand. First and foremost, you will need the right blend of fresh, Biltong Spices

Here is a checklist of items you will need to make this a success.

  1. Bennie’s Classic Biltong Spices
  2. A sharp knife and cutting board.
  3. Glass or ceramic container x 2.
  4. White vinegar.
  5. Paper towel.
  6. Hooks. (I just use large paper clips that I unfold and bend in the shape that I need).
  7. Pair of tongs.
  8. A rather large bowl. (Optional)
  9. A cool ventilated place to hang your meat. A fan if needed.

Now, the meat……. you will need a couple of beef bottom round roasts. Ask the butcher at your local supermarket if you’re not sure what to buy. Cut the beef into about half inch thick strips. Depending on the size of the roast, each slice should be about 6″ – 10″ long by 2″ – 3″ wide. If it is too wide, cut each piece long ways in half or it will not fit in your Biltong slicer/cutter.

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bottom-round-biltong-hOnce you have all the pieces cut, sprinkle some spices in the bottom of your glass or ceramic container. Start placing the sliced pieces on top of the spices in your container. Now sprinkle some more spices on top of the first layer of meat. Place another layer of the sliced beef on top of the layer. You may want to sprinkle some spices on the part that is going to be face-down. Sprinkle some spices on the second layer.

You don’t want to “overdo” it with the spices – make sure you cover each piece pretty well. Look at my photos, it will give you an idea what I am talking about. Once all the pieces have been placed on top of each other, sprinkle about a quarter cup white vinegar over it. The vinegar will work its way down over and in between all the slices. Cover the meat with some cling wrap or anything that will keep unwanted creatures out.

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You want to leave it like this covered in spices for about three hours, turning it over every half hour or so. Just use a pair of tongs and flip the pieces around and also move the bottom pieces to the top. This ensures that all the pieces are nicely covered and that the vinegar “gets in” everywhere. Some people will tell you to leave it overnight. You can leave it that long, but I have found that it is not necessary. Three to four hours in with spices is more than enough.

bottom-round-biltong-tWhile you wait for the three hours to pass, crack open a beer and bring the large paper clips closer. Count out the number of paper clips that you will need and start to unfold each one. Now bend two hooks in it; a top hook to hang it on something and a slightly bigger hook in the bottom part where you will hook it through the meat. The hooks should be 90 degrees from each other if you are going to hang it on a bar. Once you start hanging the pieces you will see why.

paper-clip-biltong-hooks-c After about three hours, the Biltong is ready to be hung.

Please note:
This following step is totally optional depending on how strong taste of the spices you want and also the level of saltiness. I have done it both ways many times and each time I enjoyed it. If you absolutely want less saltiness, you want to do this step, if not, go to the next paragraph. Prepare two parts lukewarm water plus one part white vinegar in a rather large bowl. (About 2 gallons). Using a pair of tongs, gently drag each piece twice through the water/vinegar mixture. Take note, twice only, and just a gentle drag… do not scrub it, do not rub it! Once you have dragged each piece twice through the water/vinegar, place all the pieces on some paper towel allowing the excess moisture to run off. By now you deserve another “break” while you let it sit on the paper towel for five minutes or so, go ahead and crack open another beer of your choice.

Right, now back to your soon-to-be Biltong. It is time to hang the meat. If you have a movable box like I have, bring it closer. If not, bring the meat to wherever you’re going to hang it. Hook one of your hooks through the top part of each piece and hang it up leaving about a half inch gap between each piece. After all the pieces have been hung, make sure it is properly covered. I have a simple Biltong box that has screen fabric on all four sides that allows for good ventilation and keeping the meat from unwanted creatures. I position a fan on the low setting to move the cool dry air over the meat.

Congratulations, you did it! Soon you will have your own delicious home-made Biltong. Time for another beer and a high five!

If you are not ready to make your own Biltong, but you can’t stand living without it for one more minute, you can order ready-made, fresh Biltong right here in the USA on a web site called Braaitime  We have to warn you though that nothing beats a fresh batch of homemade Biltong!

It is all about the Biltong Spices

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Do you see the spice bag I’m holding here? Some South Africans will recognize it. We have switched from using these kinds of brands, to making our own, fresh spice blend, right here in America. Firstly it has been hard to come by all the way from South Africa. Always having to think about how and where I will get spices from, I’ve decided a few years ago, to mix our own.

Secondly the issue of MSG; most South African spices are riddled with this stuff. Hopefully we don’t have to elaborate about the harmful effects on the human body when it comes to mono-sodium glutamate. You can merely do a search online to find out what that is all about.

 

There are numerous different Biltong Spice blends out there and some are as simple as merely salt and pepper. It is all about personal preference.

My spice blend is simple and as I’ve said before, the secret is in the ratio of spices used. What makes my spices stand out is that they are conveniently premixed in just the right amounts for you to make a quick batch of Biltong at home.

 

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What is Biltong

Let me give you some background and history about your favorite new snack.  It is pronounced /ˈbɪlˌtɒŋ/

The most important thing to know about Biltong is that it is South Africa’s favorite cured meat snack. A snack that they love and are passionate about. One that they can almost not live without. One that you will grow to love given half the chance.

Biltong is a variety of cured meat that originated in South Africa. Various types of meats are used to make it, but the most popular is beef. It is typically made from raw fillets of meat cut into strips following the grain of the muscle.

Indigenous South African people such as the Khoikhoi developed a preparation method to preserve meat without refrigeration. After European settlers (Dutch, German, French) arrived in South Africa in the early 17th century, they learned how to cure and dry meat from the indigenous South Africans. Preparation involved applying vinegar and rubbing the strips of meat with a mixture of salt and spices including, pepper, coriander and cloves. The need for preservation in the new colony was pressing. Building up herds of livestock took a long time but with indigenous game in abundance, traditional methods were available to preserve large masses of meat. Remember that iceboxes and fridges had not been invented yet.

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 and north-eastward (away from British rule) into the interior of Southern Africa during the Great Trek. The meat was preserved and hung to be dried for a week after which it would be ready for packing in cloth bags and enjoyed later.

The tradition of making Biltong continued through the centuries and spice recipes were passed on through generations. In some cases they are top family secrets, not to be shared.

Biltong and Droëwors (cured sausage) is readily available in butcher stores and super markets throughout South Africa. Very few families make it at home anymore. They just buy it from their nearest supplier.

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Droeëwors (Cured Beef Sausage)

Droëwors (Cured Beef Sausage)

 

Traditional South African Boerewors

Boerewors is a traditional South African sausage made of beef chuck and pork shoulder. It is spiced with a special blend of Boerewors Spices and then ground together in a meat grinder. A thicker sausage casing is used when making Boerewors to ensure that the sausage stays juicy during the cooking process. It can be cooked on a stove top or baked in an oven, but the number one way we like to cook it, is at a traditional South African braai (BBQ).

Using my own blend of spices, with 2/3 beef chuck and 1/3 pork shoulder, guarantees delicious, juicy Boerewors, that will make you come back for more. I have never used pre-ground beef. When choosing my meats, I always go for the roasts, which I personally cut into cubes small enough to go into my meat grinder/sausage stuffer. It works every time. Hog natural casings works the best for Boerewors, which is freely available these days at just about any grocery store.

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Boerewors rolls are very popular in South Africa. A slice of bread works just as well when you don’t have bread rolls on hand!

 

 

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