Beef jerky dates back to ancient Egypt, when a way to preserve leftover meat was needed. By drying out the meat and adding some spices, leftover meat would no longer need refrigeration and would last longer. The same concept was used in the creation of beef biltong in South Africa.
What is beef biltong?
Like jerky, biltong was created to help preserve meat that was left uneaten. The process made it possible to preserve leftover meat so it could be eaten at a later date. This reduced the amount of meat that would go to waste from not being eaten in a timely manner.
Biltong, commonly used in South Africa, is a form of dried, cured meat. This snack is similar to beef jerky, as it offers a variety of nutrients without the need for long-term refrigeration. Similar to jerky, biltong can be made from a variety of meats, including beef, game meats and filets of ostrich.
This traditional South African snack is a 400-year old tradition. Though it is similar to jerky, it is not the same thing. Biltong snacks differ from jerky in taste, nutritional facts and preparation methods. This African jerky contains no artificial colorings, preservatives, flavorings, nitrates or MSG. Many beef biltong recipes are gluten free too.
Uses for biltong
Biltong is a high protein food and is commonly used for a snack. It is also used as a food source for those who are going to be away from refrigeration for extended periods of time. Biltong can be eaten by itself or placed between slices of bread and turned into a sandwich. Some mothers use biltong as a teething aid for their babies.
There are many different ways you can spice up beef biltong. The basic spicing ingredients include a blend of vinegar, sale, coriander and sugar. These ingredients combined with a few other spices is what helps make this snack tasty and popular. Different spices can be used to help change the flavor of biltong, offering a variety of different options for taste.
What does biltong mean?
The word biltong is formed by two Dutch words. BIL meaning hind quarter or meat buttock and TONG meaning strip. These meat strips have been used by ancient seafarers who packed meat into large wooden barrels in preparation of long journeys. Since biltong does not need refrigeration, it is also popular among those who like to camp, hike or go on safari in South Africa.
Tastes and preferences
Throughout generations, the way biltong is made has changed. A variety of different marinades have been used to help speed up the process and to add unique flavoring to the strips of meat. How one makes their own biltong beef jerky is dependent upon their own personal tastes.
Where to purchase biltong
Biltong is a common product found throughout most of South Africa. You can purchase this snack product from local butcheries and grocery stores. You may also find some variations of the biltong in these stores too, including shredded biltong chips, stokkies (little sticks) and it can be purchased either “wet,” “medium” or “dry.”
With more and more South Africans working and living overseas, they are starting to make their own biltong at home. That is mostly because it can be very expensive to ship biltong overseas. This makes it possible for them to still enjoy their favorite snack from back home.
Making biltong jerky
Homemade biltong has become increasingly popular. This method of creating dried out beef snacks has spread and is no longer just a popular snack in South Africa. Making your own biltong can not only save you money, but allows you to make it to your personal taste preferences.
Biltong Makers shows that this jerky-style of a meat can be made in a few simple steps. Those steps include:
- Slice the meat into decent size strips
- Sprinkle it with a spice or marinade it in brine
- Pat to dry thoroughly with a paper towel
- Hang strips over a Biltong Maker
- Cover with the lid
- Turn maker on and wait three to four days
How long you leave biltong in the maker will depend upon how thick the meat strips are. It will also depend upon how wet or dry you like your biltong.
According to Biltong Makers, everyone’s tastes and biltong preferences vary. Some like their biltong wet and fatty while others like it lean and dry. There are also those who prefer their biltong to be spicy and peppered with lots of coriander and/or other spices. To determine your favorite flavor, play around with different spices and recipes to see which ones you like the best.
Biltong can be made from a variety of different meats. Some popular meats those in South Africa use to make biltong include venison, ostrich and any lean red meat. It can also be made from chicken, wildebeest, kudu, springbok and fish/shark (also known as bokkoms). The type of meat used in making this snack will depend upon the maker’s personal preference and what meats are available at the time.
Biltong vs beef jerky
There are a variety of differences between biltong and beef jerky. Though they are similar, those who truly enjoy biltong will definitely notice a difference when they try beef jerky. Similarities include the fact that they are both made out of meat, they are both salty and chewy.
The biggest difference is that biltong is dried and not smoked like beef jerky is. Though they are both made from meat, biltong tends to be made primarily from game meat, including impala, kudu and wildebeest. This makes biltong a bit fattier than beef jerky. Ostrich is also a popular source of meat for biltong.
Biltong is also much thicker than jerky. This is because of the slower drying time and air conditions. Most biltong meats are cut into one inch strips and can sometimes be cut thicker. Beef jerky is generally cut very thin.
Biltong uses vinegar, sale and other spices to help with the drying process and to cure the meat. This also adds extra texture and flavor to the snack. Traditionally jerky is made by using salt, no vinegar, to dry it out. Also, biltong is never smoked, while most jerky products are.
Even though biltong is similar to beef jerky, it is not exactly the same thing. Those who like traditional jerky products might not like the taste from biltong. And vice versa. When it comes to deciding which one is best, it is all a matter of personal preferences.