In honor of my fellow SWP author Dawn Blume Hawkes who’s signing her upcoming cookbook, Away From the Kitchen, and giving a demonstration in Costa Mesa tomorrow, I’m re-posting my recipe for biltong, the South African version of jerky.
This is actually a good time to make biltong, cooler weather and all. This way the beef won’t get funky in the heat and kill me. Of course it might still, because as Wikipedia notes, biltong is a kind of cured meat from South Africa: the “curing” being salt and a brushing of cider vinegar. The word biltong comes from the Dutch words “bil” (rump) and “tong” (strip or tongue) from the days of yore when pioneering South Africans sun-dried their meat during The Great Trek of the 1830s, eastward and north-eastward away from British control in the Cape Colony. I wish I knew for sure, but I do believe my German grandfather and French grandmother were on that trip.
I dry my “rumpstrip” in a wooden box with a 60-watt bulb in the bottom my ex built for me. I hang the beef for about three days using eight-inch cable ties. The hooks I used to employ rusted out, this is better. I like my biltong “wet,” that is to say, on the raw side, more taste, if you know what I mean. Of course, you’re probably making a face, unless you’re South African and then you’ll understand. The biltong back there is much tastier, not sure why—the beef isn’t as hormoned-out?—and the strips are much bigger than my dinky little Supermarket specials. The Americans who’ve tried my biltong love it. Of course, I have them sign a waiver—just kidding, but I probably should.
- Beef (Preferably Round steak)—1-2-inches thick
- Rock Salt
- Coarse Ground Black Pepper
- Coarse Ground Coriander
- Vinegar (preferably Apple Cider vinegar)
Sterilize all your hooks, knives, and working surfaces by washing well in hot water and soap.
Cover both sides of the meat with rock salt and let stand for an hour. The longer you let it stand the saltier it will become. Scrape off all the excess salt with a knife (don’t soak in water!). Cut into two-inch strips, or wider, then brush (do not dip) with vinegar, just so the meat is covered. Let the excess vinegar drip off then sprinkle with pepper and coriander and hang.
Bon Appetit! No wait, I need to express that in Afrikaans: Lekker eet!