Homemade do-it-yourself biltong recipe: part 1, preparation.
Biltong is an absolutely delicious dried beef snack, originating from South Africa. It is, however, very expensive to buy and I’ve been wanting to have a go at making it for a while.
Sainsbury’s helpfully put their Silverside roasting joints on offer at half price, which was too tempting to ignore.
Next problem was locating a suitable recipe – there are a great deal of vague and differing recipes out there. About the only thing that they can seem to agree on is to cut the beef into 1 inch, square cross section, strips along the line of the grain of the meat. Also that coriander, salt, pepper and vinegar are involved.
After distilling them down, here’s the recipe and process followed.
Preparation time: about an hour of work. Three hours of curing time. 2-5 days of drying time.
(doesn’t need to be exact quantities):
- 1.7 Kg Silverside Beef Roasting Joint
- The Marinade:
- 300 ml Cider Vinegar
- 300ml White Wine Vinegar (I decided to mix the two, to tone down the strong cider vinegar taste)
- The Cure:
- 500 g Course Sea Salt
- 200g Demorara Sugar
- 1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
- The Coating:
- 1 large handfull Black Peppercorns
- 1 large handfull Whole Coriander Seeds
Total cost of ingredients about £11.00, largely thanks to the half-price beef joint.
- Large, sharp knife.
- Large glass or plastic chopping board
- Grinder / blender / pestle and mortar
- Plastic containers to cure the meat in
- Paperclips (for hanging the strips)
- Kitchen towel.
- drying aparatus / very cool, ventilated oven. Approx 35° C
Blend the Salt, Sugar and Bicarbonate of Soda together.
Pre-grind / crush / mortar the peppercorns and coriander to a course consistency:
Cut the beef joint into 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick slices, along the length of the grain of the meat:
Then cut these slices, again along the lines of the grain of the meat, into approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubic cross-section ‘long chunks’. Trim off any obvious fat or sinew:
Place the strips of meat into a plastic container, and cover with the blended white-wine and cider vinegars leave for 30 minutes to steep. The vinegar helps to sterilise the meat, and tenderise it.
After soaking, take the strips of meat out of the vinegar keep the remaining vinegar back, as we’ll be using it again later.
Lightly roll in the peppercorn and coriander mixture. Shake off any excess, and keep the remaining spice mixture for use later too.
Spread a thin layer of the cure (salt/sugar/bicarb mixture) in the bottom of a plastic dish, then lay the strips of meat on top, forming a single layer.
Cover the layer of meat with more of the cure, ensuring it covers the ends and sides of the meat, then place alternating layers of meat and cure, with a final covering of cure.
Cover the contaner with clingfilm, place it in a shallow tray, to catch any overflowing juices, and place a board or lid on top, and apply some gentle weight — 4 tin cans should be enough.
Leave to cure for 3 hours (do not leave longer than this or the meat will be too salty).
After this time, remove the meat from the cure, and scrape off most of the salt and spices sticking to the meat. Rinse the meat with the retained vinegar mixture, to remove all of the salt.
Place the meat between pieces of kitchen towel, or a clean tea towel, and dry it thoroughly.
Roll each strip of meat in the remaining spice mixture, pressing it into all the surfaces of the meat.
Take some paper clips, and give them a single ‘unbend’ to a tight S shape, as shown. You could also use wire or string to suspend the meat by. I used plastic coated paper clips to prevent any metal touching the meat.
Hook the larger end of the S-shape through the meat, at the thinner end (carefully avoiding poking a paper clip through your fingers), about 1.5 to 2 cm down the strip, to ensure a good hold.
Hook all of the meat onto paper clips, then hang them carefully in your drying apparatus. My electric fan oven runs happily at about 35°C in ‘defrost mode’, indicated by a * symbol. I used an electric thermometer to test the temperature. Any hotter than 40°C and the meat will cook rather than dry. There are instructions, elsewhere on the internet, for various drying mechanisms, involving fans and electric light bulbs.
I added a tray of dishwasher (or water softener) salt, previously baked for 20 minutes at 200°C, and cooled. This is placed at the top of the over, to help absorb any moisture.
Place a tray under the strips to catch any drops, or bits of spice that fall off, and start the drying process. Leave the oven door about 1 inch/2cm ajar, to let out any evaporated moisture. I’m running the oven at 35°C all night, and in the evenings, leaving it turned off when I’m at work. It should take about 3-4 days. I’ll post back with progress. It’s done when ‘not squidgy’ to the touch, and feels completely dry and hard.
I started the meat in the oven at 16:00 yesterday, and stopped at 07:00 this morning. The meat felt very dry on the outside, but was quite yielding when pressed. Still needs a fair bit of drying.