Preserving meat by drying is a well known technique for preservation. I have a few friends from South Africa, and they all love to chew on biltong. The dried meat delicacy is quite expensive to buy in the UK because it is regarded as a specialist product, and requires special equipment to prepare in our cooler, more humid climate. I took care of the special equipment problem with a simple water bottle biltong maker, and that just leaves the problem of a good biltong spice recipe. This basic spice mix should be sufficient to coat about a kilo of meat.
- 3½ tbsp of salt
- 2½ tsp of brown sugar
- ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp of black pepper
- 2½ tsp of corriander seeds
- ¼ tsp of saltpeter
- Trim the fat from your meat. I tend to use a thick slice of hip bone steak, since the native beasts of South Africa do not flourish in my climate.
- Tenderise the meat by soaking it in vinegar for a couple of hours. Some recipes prescribe a light vinegar, such cider or wine vinegar. I find that balsamic vinegar tastes better.
- Toast the corriander and the black pepper in a dry pan until it takes on a light brown colour, then transfer into a pestle and mortar.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the mortar, and grind them into a powder.
- Remove the meat from the vinegar, and coat the meat thoroughly in the mixed spices.
- Leave the meat in the refrigerator to absorb the spice mixture for approximately 24 hours. This time can be varied depending on taste.
- Rinse the meat with a 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water. This prevents the meat from becoming over-seasoned.
- Hang the meat in a drier, and leave it to dry in a warm, dry place for approximately four days. Drying time will vary depending on the temperature, size of meat, and the relative humidity. The finished biltong will be about 50% of it’s original size when it is ready.
This is the sort of recipe that you can vary almost infinitely. I like to add a few chilli seeds to pep up the heat, but the choice is ultimately yours to make. Experiment as much as you need to get the flavour you want.