I have a few friends from South Africa, and they all love to chew on biltong. The dried meat delicacy is quite expensive to buy in the UK because it is regarded as a specialist product, and requires special equipment to prepare in our cooler, more humid climate. I took care of the special equipment problem with my water bottle biltong maker, and that just leaves the problem of a good biltong spice recipe. This basic spice mix should be sufficient to coat about a kilo of meat.
- 3½ tbsp of salt
- 2½ tsp of brown sugar
- ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp of black pepper
- 2½ tsp of corriander seeds
- ¼ tsp of saltpeter – NOTE: Evidence suggests that saltpeter can increase the risk of cancer. Use at your own risk.
- Trim excess fat from your meat. I use a thick slice of hip bone steak, since the native beasts of South Africa do not flourish in my climate.
- Soak the meat in vinegar for a couple of hours. This will tenderise the meat. Some recipes prescribe a light vinegar, such cider or wine vinegar. I find that balsamic vinegar gives a more pleasing taste.
- Toast the corriander and the black pepper in a dry pan until the corriander takes on a light brown colour, then transfer into a pestle and mortar.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the mortar, and grind to a powder.
- Remove the meat from the vinegar, and coat the meat thoroughly in the mixed spices.
- Leave the meat in the refrigerator to absorb the spice mixture for approximately 24 hours. This time can be varied depending on taste.
- Rinse the meat with a 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water. This prevents the meat from becoming over-seasoned.
- Hang the meat in the biltong drier, and leave in to dry in a warm, dry place for approximately four days. Drying time will vary depending on temperature, size of meat, and relative humidity. Some people prefer their biltong to be very dry, and if this is the case, dry it longer. The finished biltong will be about 50% of it’s original size when it is ready.
You can vary this spice recipe almost infinitely. I like to add a few chilli seeds to pep up the heat, but the choice is ultimately yours to make. Experiment as much as you need to get the flavour you want.