As I mentioned in my last post, I’m single this Valentine’s Day. I do, however, have a new relationship. With meat, and the curing thereof. Right now, I’m have serious and committed ties (for a week at least) to several pounds of beef rapidly on their way to becoming biltong – a kind of South African beef jerky.
You can see from my blog recipe index that my natural inclination is to bake more than to cook: I just don’t have the feeling for doneness in a pan-seared steak that I do for cakes, or for seasoning. When I came across Charcutepalooza, the meat curing challenge started by Mrs. Wheelbarrow and the Yummy Mummy, I decided to take it as an opportunity to get to know meat better. I have now successfully made bacon (full post coming tomorrow), and unsuccessfully attempted duck breast prosciutto. The duck breast went awry at some weird temperature fluctuations in my house, so I started looking around for a small wine fridge for climate control – and found one on eBay for $15! Amazing! My fridge and I are now on a curing binge. The first non-Charcutepalooza cure: South African biltong.
Biltong is not imported to the U.S., so if you want it here you have to cure it yourself. My stepmom is South African, and I’d heard for several years from my stepsisters about the amazingness of biltong. It’s just beef jerky, I thought to myself. Then I went to South Africa this summer with my family and discovered there’s nothing “just” about this jerky – it’s more tender, spicier, and more complex than American jerky. Unlike American jerky, which is made from very thin strips of meat, biltong is cured in thicker pieces; it also uses a vinegar-salt cure.
I started my biltong project here by cross-referencing the beef jerky instructions in Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie with a couple of internet explanations of the process (here and here). One can apparently use any number of cuts for biltong. I’m curing 3 lbs. of top round (London broil): here it is, cut into strips about 3/4″ by 1 1/2.” The meat should be cut with the grain; I’ll probably use flank steak in the future, as it has a more uniform grain than top round.
I toasted 1/2 c. whole coriander in a nonstick skillet, then put it in a Ziploc bag and crushed it with a rolling pin. In wide shallow bowl, I mixed the coriander with 1 1/2 tbsp. salt, 1/4 c. brown sugar, and some ground pepper. I dipped the pieces of meat lightly in a bowl of cider vinegar:
Then coated each piece with the spice mix:
And placed all the pieces in a Corningware; it’s important to use a non-reactive bowl for a salt cure. I let the meat sit for 12 hours, then poured off some of the blood and turned it over, and let it sit overnight for another 12 hours.
This morning I rinsed the cure off the meat, took a bunch of paper clips, threaded them through the thinnest end of my beef strips, and hung it all up in my wine fridge. Check back in a week or so to see how it turns out! In the meantime, to set the South African scene, here’s an amazing picture my dad took of rhinos fighting:
Hopefully that’s what people will be doing over this biltong…
Hooray for using food as your Valentine, that is my plan as well! haha I am going to South Africa this April, so I was intrigued by this post. Does curing require any special equipment or can I do this in my own kitchen?! Thanks for sharing!
Wonderful post! My eldest brother lives in Gabarone, in Botswana, and he’s been encouraging me to make this. Thanks for the guidance 🙂
I need to join this Charcutepalooza club… we cure meat on a regular basis. I’m drooling over that rub that you’ve used – that sounds amazing.
@Jenny @ Savour the Senses – I’m so jealous! South Africa was amaaazing and I totally wish I’d spent more time there. The main thing about curing: you need the right climate. Biltong needs a dry place which will stay at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit – or a really hot, dry place. Some people on the internet seem to do it in their garage; I’m in Manhattan, so I use my little wine fridge…
I seem to recall my dad making biltong in the 40C heat of a Kalahari summer. It came out good and we’re still all alive. It was hung in the shade if the verandah (patio) in a breezy spot.
I agree – there is nothing “just” about biltong. YUM!
Love the fact that you are using a little wine fridge for this!! My Dad lives in Cape Town and loves his billtong. I can’t wait to go back for a visit. The food, restaurants and wine there are unbeatable. I end up eating out in a different restaurant for lunch & dinner every day but still don’t get to all the places on my list! I’m imagining that fridge full of South African wine “sigh”.
Must say, I’m loving all the biltong stories! Keep ’em coming!
Sounds great, can’t wait to see how it turns out!
Thanks for sharing!
I live in South Africa, and I completely agree about there being nothing “just” about biltong. It’s my absolute favourite. My dad makes it in a biltong maker: a plastic container with the biltong hanging from the top, a lightbulb on the one side and a fan on the other, to speed up the drying process.
Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Congrats on your top 9!
Congratulations on the Top 9. Great post.
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Congratulations on being #1. It looks awesome. I love the winefridge idea! There’s nothing like South African biltong which can get even more exotic when made with ostrich or kudu. Perhaps next time – if you find ever find kudu at Wholefoods!
I too love the wine fridge idea and what an awesome way to spend Valentine’s!! Congratulations :0)
I am South African and we all love our biltong. Our daughter, born in UK is hooked on droewors. Nags to live in SA so she can eat lots of biltong in the sun!!
If you are in the UK and have a great longing for South African beef, Ostrich, Kudu or Springbok biltong visit Cruga. Yummy!!
I can not wait to see how that jerky turns out. It sounds fantastic!
That photo is amazing. I can’t imagine being close enough to get a picture like that. The most I get to see is a couple of squirrels arguing in the branches of an oak. 🙂
I hope the photo was taken with a serious zoom or that your Dad was in a fast vehicle! I hope you have your own fridge by this point….. Impressive experimentation here.
Will this be on your Oscar’s menu?
Maybe next year I will get onto the guest list……………….
Yum! Biltong is seriously tasty – I like the idea of making my own, so thanks for the how to 🙂
So how did the biltong turn out? I can’t seem to find Biltong Part II…