THE MYSTIC ART OF BILTONG MAKING
So what the hell is this "biltong"shit anyway?
Biltong is a cured and dried meat that originated centuries ago in South Africa. Unlike "Jerky" biltong is not smoked and is prepared in a totally different manner. It is usually available in both beef and game meat, most people preferring one or the other.
Biltong is such a revered delicacy in South Africa, rumor has it that if word gets out you have some in Australia you'll never have to pay for beer again! ... haha..
Here's how to make your own:
The Biltong Secret Spice Mix.
It's not the Top Secret, I'd have to kill you if I told you one, but it IS a good starting point.
Spice mix as follows (I try to make large batches as it takes a while anyway)
300g coarse ground dry roasted coriander seed
90g smoky paprika
30g Cayenne pepper
1 Tbl spoon Bi-carb soda (really helps keep the mold at bay)
The cuts most sites recommend are London Broil (think of the cut from which New York steaks are sliced) and whole rump (both of which are bloody expensive). Personally I buy whole Topside, it's about 2/3rds the cost and you get a reasonable amount of dried product.
The meat I am using here is whole topside that I buy cryovac'd so I can age it in the fridge for 2-3 weeks before starting production. Expect to pay between $50 and $70 au for a whole one. If you're paying more you should find a different butcher.
The way the meat is cut and the quality of the meat are the two biggest influences in the production of something than some become addicted to or some dried shit you wouldn't feed to the enemy!
The first thing you'll need to do is make sure your knives are DAMN SHARP! (If they don't slip through tomatoes effortlessly then they're blunt!) Start by separating the various muscle groups, there should be 3 main groups. A large flap of muscle across the top, a large long mass tapering to a point and a smaller mass attached to the side. Take your time and be careful. (don't toss the off cuts away you can use them in a stew etc)
Once you have the muscle groups separated you will need to slice them up. They should be as close to the same thickness as you can get them as this will make the curing and drying easier to judge. I try to get mine all to be about 3/4 of an inch thick and as long as possible.
YOU MUST CUT WITH THE GRAIN!
I cannot stress that enough! You want to end up with crap steaks go across the grain, but you'll end up with fucked biltong if you do!
You should end up with something that looks like this
Once you have all your meat sliced up and ready to go it's time to wash the meat and add the curing mix.
The meat should be washed in straight vinegar and the excess squeezed off before you pack the strips in to a container with the curing mix. About 1 desert spoon per side works well for me and allow about 1 1/2 between two slices.
Word of caution here, DO NOT use metal containers, use plastic or ceramic ones. Metal will taint the meat as the curing mix will contain both salt and vinegar.
Once the meat is generously covered in the curing mix will need to cure for up to 6 hours depending on the amount of salt in the curing mix. Check it every now and then and drain off any liquid that collects in the container.
Once the meat has been on the cure for sufficient time it needs to be washed again in a solution of 1/3rd vinegar and 2/3rds hot water (make the solution as hot as you can stand) rub away the spent curing mix, pat dry and put aside while you finish washing the batch. The meat will probably feel a bit stiff and look like the picture below once it has been washed and dried.
Before the wash
After the wash
Once you have all the meat washed and patted dry it's time to apply the spice mix and hang it to dry.
I have found that an oven tray works well when applying the spice mix to the strips. You need to get a nice even coating but not a crust, make sure all parts are covered as this will discourage both mould and pests (two legged pests require 2x4 to discourage them though).
Spice mix on oven tray
To hang the strips I use large paper clips and a collapsible clothes rack draped in fly screen.
Clothing rack ready to receive next batch
Freshly hung batch
The morning after, you can already see the change in colour.
Drying Conditions: The best conditions are cool and dry with constant air flow. The slower the drying process the more flavorful the end product! I also try to avoid drying indoors in the first few days as the smell can be overpowering.
The curing mix is simply that spice mix with 2 more teaspoons of bi-carb mixed 50/50 with rock salt.
Remember, that is not the be all and end all of spice mixes.
Good luck and don't be disheartened if your first batch is a bit dodgy. Eat a bit of it, pay attention to what you don't like and correct it in the next batch! Most important of all, let me know how you go and don't be afraid to bug me with questions if you're unsure!