These days, we’re so reliant on refrigeration it’s hard to imagine where we’d be without it. But not so very long ago chilling and freezing weren’t options, meaning our ancestors had to be more inventive when it came to preserving their food.
In the hot climate of South Africa, fresh meat spoils very quickly, so indigenous people and European settlers had to come up with a way of stopping its decay. Rearing vast herds of animals was all very well, but without a reliable preservation technique, it was impossible to make the most of every carcass. As it turned out, the solution was a surprisingly simple one. A salt cure halted the bacterial action that caused meat to rot; slicing it thinly and air-drying it in the arid African breeze resulted in a product that could be easily stored. Dutch colonists brought their own touch to biltong, adding exotic spices such as black pepper and coriander seed to enhance the flavour.
Traditionally, meats of all types were turned into biltong but today it’s mainly made from beef. A similar process is used to make jerky (a common snack in the Americas and Australia), though jerky is normally smoked as part of the dehydration process.
Great as a tasty snack and made using natural ingredients, the process of making biltong has the happy side effect of preserving the nutritious benefits of the meat. It’s the ultimate on-the-go snack to be eaten anywhere and at any time the munchies strike.
We’re real meat enthusiasts here at Coombe Farm Organic so we’re always looking for new ways to make the most of the beautiful cuts that come out of our butchery. Although the majority of our meat is stored in (very modern) freezer units, we like the idea of taking advantage of traditional preservation methods too.
Because biltong needs to be cut very thinly and is best made from a lean muscle, we chose to use our beef silverside. All of our livestock are grown slowly, to let Mother Nature bring them to natural maturity, and we also apply this slow-and-steady approach to making biltong. The silverside joints take their time curing in a brine of sea salt and vinegar to draw out moisture and intensify flavour. They’re then meticulously sliced and dehydrated in a moisture- and temperature-controlled drying room.
The result? Well, we recommend you try it for yourself to appreciate biltong’s intensely meaty flavour and satisfying chewiness. Our original biltong is made with the traditional flavours of black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, coriander and chilli. And we’ve twisted things up by adding extra spices to make our BBQ and teriyaki flavours. All you need to do is work out which is your favourite.