My husband is from South Africa where they have a type of beef jerky called Biltong.  He has been making it here in the states for many many years and it’s definitely a favorite in our household, especially with our children.  I’ve been asking him for some time now to do a guest posts and share this awesome recipe with our readers and he’s finally agreed!  Enjoy!

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My wife convinced me to do a guest post and at first I was hesitant to share as we South Africans take our biltong very seriously.  But in the end I decided that it is just too good to keep to myself. So what is biltong you may ask? Well it’s definitely NOT your average jerky. Beef jerky is processed and machine-dried while biltong is made from a better grade of meat, its sliced thicker and is dried naturally in the open air. So stop chewing on that piece of plastic you call jerky and try this delicious South African delicacy!

Ingredients:

  1. organic grass fed top sirloin or london broil
  2. course sea salt (Fleur de Sel sea salt is by far the best type to use and is not chemically treated)
  3. apple cider vinegar
  4. corriander (whole seed, not ground) *see notes
  5. freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

  1. Start by preparing your meat by cutting it into strips.  You want to make sure that you cut WITH the grain.  Your strips should be about 6 inches long.  The thickness will depend on climate.  In cool, dry climates, your initial strips of meat can be cut fairly thick. In warm, moist climates, your initial strips of meat should be cut thinner. This is because the thicker the strip of meat, the longer it will take to dry out, and the more likely the meat is to spoil during the drying process.  The average strip is usually around 1 inch in thickness.  Also remove any excess fat from the meat.

    Finished strips with fat removed and 6 inches by 1 inch thick

  2. Once you have all your strips cut you’ll need to salt your meat.  This step is easiest if you use a large glass baking dish.  Pour some salt off to the side and press each side of the meat into the salt to evenly coat the meat.  Repeat with each slice of meat.

    Place each piece of meat in the salt and press down to make it stick - repeat on each side

  3. After your baking dish is filled with the salted meat, place in the fridge, uncovered.  Let the meat rest for at least 1 hour.  If you like your jerky salty then let it sit for 1 hour 30 minutes.
  4. Once the salted meat is done resting it’s time to ‘rinse’ it in a vinegar bath.  You can use any type of vinegar (red, white, apple cider) but I find that apple cider vinegar gives the meat the best flavor.  Pour some vinegar into a large bowl (you need enough vinegar to completely cover the meat) and dip each piece of meat into the vinegar.  Set each piece of ‘rinsed’ meat on a plate off to the side.  (The vinegar bath is a very important step.  Not only does it wash away the salt but it helps make the meat more tender, mellows the aroma and flavor of the meat and helps to open the pores of the meat which allows for a deeper penetration of the spices in the meat.  It also is what gives jerky the dark shiny appearance that you see in store bought brands.)

    Dip each piece of meat into a vinegar bath

  5. Now that your meat has been ‘rinsed’ it’s time to give it some flavor.  (Traditional Biltong is seasoned with coriander and black pepper.  You can customize your flavor of jerky to your specific tastes.  See notes for some popular spice combinations.)  Sprinkle liberally with black pepper and coriander on all sides of the meat.  Some of the spice will fall off - that’s ok.  If nothing is sticking at all then re-rinse the meat in the vinegar bath and reapply the spices.

    Sprinkle the meat with spices on all sides

  6. After spicing the meat you have a variety of options for drying:
    • For the hardcore jerky addict you’re likely to have a special “drying box” to hang your meat.  You can easily make a box by buying an unfinished 1 or 2-door base cabinet and drill air holes on the top (cover the holes with a mesh screen to prevent insects from entering) and drill holes on the side of the cabinet to thread wooden dowels through.  (see picture below for visual)  Place a small lamp base (without cover) with a 60 watt lightbulb in the cabinet to decrease drying time.  (I thread the meat on wooden bamboo skewers and lay them across the wooden dowels in our ‘drying box’.)

      Our 'drying box' with air holes on top covered with mesh screen and wooden dowels threaded through the box for the meat to hang on

    • The ideal conditions for drying your biltong are in a breezy place, away from direct sunlight, but well-lighted, in order to prevent mildew. Make sure that you keep it away from ants, rats, insects and pets.  Any place inside your home that meets these conditions will work.  You can thread string though your meat, use paperclips to make an ‘S’ hook to hang the meat or buy traditional butcher ‘S’ hooks online.  Regardless of where you decide to dry your meat make sure that the pieces are not touching and receive enough air and light to dry within a few days.
    • Depending on how well you like your jerky done and the drying conditions themselves, it usually takes about 3 days of drying for ‘medium’, 4 days for ‘medium well’ and 5 days for ‘well done’.
  7. Once your jerky has reached your desired ‘doneness’ simply remove the jerky from the hooks, brush off the coriander and black pepper and store in a plastic bag or sealed container at room temperature for up to a week.  Any remaining jerky can be stored in the fridge in a plastic bag or sealed container for up to a month.  You can also freeze your jerky for up to a year.  I tend to make large batches of jerky all at one time and store what we can eat within a week in the fridge and freeze the rest.  Once you thaw your jerky it will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Nutritional Info:

Nutritional info will vary depending on size and thickness of the meat that was used.

Notes:

The flavor of coriander is best when it’s just released by the seed.  This is why buying coriander in the whole seed is best for flavoring your jerky.  All you need to do is place a handful of seeds into a sealed plastic bag and then lightly crush them with a meat tenderizer or even a hammer.  All you want to do is crack the seeds open - you’re not looking to make them into a fine ground.

The reason I didn’t use exact measurements in this post is because with homemade jerky you never use the same amounts twice.  The amount of salt, vinegar and spices will all depend on the amount of meat you use and the sizes of the strips that you cut it into.  Rest assured you won’t screw it up.  If I can make jerky anyone can make jerky!

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