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Does Biltong Taste Good?

by Nina Smith

There might be a bit of curiosity around why people find biltong so interesting to anyone who has never tried biltong. Biltong, after all, is raw meat, and the only thing that is said to make it suitable for consumption is that it is cured and packaged by professional companies. Biltong is a traditional delicacy, and if country origins are to go by, then their treats can’t always be that delicious, but the big question remains: How do you make Biltong?

There are so many so many recipes that can all lead to the same delicious taste. Thanks to modern technology, making Biltong has become easy to do at home. Cure boxes are readily available online and can easily be purchased along with your favorite meat from a butchery. Once you’ve decided on the spices you want to use and the type of biltong you’d like to make, you can start by working on how thick you want your pieces and how dry you’d like them to be. For tips on how to perfect this art, click here.

The history of biltong

Source: accidentalambrosia.com

To understand the interest in this snack, you need to understand its journey. Back in 1835, a large group of Afrikaner South Africans set out to escape the new transition the southern Cape was going through by journeying into the inner midlands of South Africa to find a new home for themselves. This journey, now historically known as The Great Trek, took roughly ten years to complete. If you think about not having any refrigeration to keep your food fresh, you can imagine how much thought had to go into finding a way for food to remain edible for such a long time.

There weren’t many choices, so the best they could develop was using salt, saltpetre, and vinegar to preserve their meat sources until they could eat it. Livestock takes a long time to procreate, and at an approximate four week wait for biltong to become edible, they had to make sure that it stayed as fresh as possible. Hence, the farmers used hessian bags and cheesecloth to wrap the meat until they could either cook it or enjoy it in its preserved state. 

Source: finedininglovers.com

Fish biltong is another Cape delicacy that the fishermen used to preserve their fish until they got home from the sea. In the 16-the 1800s, using salt to keep meat was the only way to make sure that it didn’t fall prey to rot and didn’t cause any illnesses. These days, many medical cleaners contain a large sodium volume to ensure that the product’s cleanliness is guaranteed, so it is safe to say that using salt was a good thing. Fish biltong, also known as “Bokkoms”, is still one of the Southern Capes most famous delicacies and can be found in fish shops or even sold at markets or on the street by fish vendors.

Chicken and pork have also found a place for themselves on the market, but just in case you were wondering if it is safe to eat, let’s look at how these meats are cured today. Unlike beef jerky, lights are used to cure biltong of any meat variety, killing the bacteria. Beef Jerky is dried in a dehydrator, and this is also why it loses its moisture and becomes dry and tough to chew. Biltong retains its moisture at all times, and this is ultimately why it is so delicious. 

Moist, chewy goodness

Source: southafricanshop.com

If you enjoy a perfect steak for dinner but hate that it shrinks when you cook it, you will enjoy biltong and the fact that it uses no cooking heat to prepare, so it doesn’t lose its weight. Another significant fact about biltong compared to an ordinary steak is that its flavour goes down to each piece’s centre. It remains mouth-watering and delicious for a long time because of its excellent shelf life. If you’re using it for cooking because you’re not brave enough to try it on its own or in its naturally preserved form, you can take some comfort in knowing that it doesn’t require a lot of flavouring to make it the perfect addition to any meal. 

Biltong is tender and easy to digest depending on the kind of biltong you are purchasing, and yes, there are a few different types.

  • Snapsticks are extra thin strips of biltong cured the same way traditional biltong is cured, but it is left in the cure box for a few additional days to dehydrate it and give it a more chewy texture. It is a lot like beef jerky, but because it is sauce free and not entirely dehydrated by heat, it still retains its moisture. It’s great for teething babies or served beside a bowl of nuts with alcoholic beverages. 
  • Sliced beef biltong is probably the most common biltong to find. It can be found in very tender, fatty or dry slices and is the average piece of biltong pre-packaged or hanging at a biltong shop.
  • Game biltong is made of Kudu, Springbok, Ostrich, Buffalo or Gemsbok. It is a much drier version of regular biltong, but it has a richer flavour. The meat is slightly more tough to chew through, but it also retains the spice and tastes a lot more intense than regular beef biltong. The most popular game biltong found in Southern Africa is Ostrich biltong. Large ostrich farms are located along the Southern Cape’s garden route, and they produce a lot of biltong that the rest of the world can now enjoy. 
  • Dried sausage or “Droe Wors” is precisely what it sounds like. It’s a sausage made up of the meat mentioned above and then completely dehydrated. It is really crunchy in text because it is so dry, but it is the biltong with the most flavour. There is a bit of a catch to this because it is so incredibly delicious, and it leaves you salivating from the first bite, but it has the driest texture even though it might look greasy from the outside. The dryness also depended on manufacturing instructions so that it could be a bit of both. 

So to answer the question, “Does Biltong taste good?” The answer is an absolute yes. It is worth giving a try with or without a special occasion and definitely worth the trip to your local supplier, so go on and give it a try.