Where does beef biltong originate?
Beef Biltong has been around for centuries and has its origins traced back to South African countries like Zimbabwe, and Botswana. It was a way for the indigenous people to preserve meat for their meals in future. Back then, they would slice the meat thin, add salt and hang it on a tree. Then came along the European settlers in the 17th Century. While they were intrigued by this food preservation method, they wanted to enhance it by adding ingredients like vinegar, spices, pepper, cloves, and coriander. The history of biltong doesn’t end there. In the 19th Century, during the mass migration of Dutch farmers into South Africa, they needed perishable and portable food to carry along for their long journey ahead. So they carried preserved meat and named it ‘Biltong’. The name itself is a blend of two Dutch words – “bille” meaning buttock and “tonghe” meaning strip or tongue.
How is Beef Biltong made?
The ingredients, methods and tastes of beef biltong are exclusive to the combination of time, meat cut, and the curing process. Using thick strip meat cuts, the beef cuts are then cured using vinegar and salt before being hung for between a week, sometimes up to two weeks, to set the flavour. Biltong doesn’t use heat during the drying process. Air drying retains elements of moisture, allowing a softer dried meat texture and does not break down the proteins.
Biltong is cut only after the drying process, unlike other cured meats. Biltong meat is cut as close to consumption as possible, retaining the living enzymes of the meat until the moment you eat it. Living enzymes are known for helping with your digestion and regulating your stomach levels, as well as turning nutrients into substances protein can absorb into your body for further health benefits. You can read more on the health benefits of biltong here.
What does beef Biltong taste like?
Biltong can be created using a range of the best beef cuts, including fillet, sirloin or steak from the topside or silverside of the Cow. Due to the multiple areas that Biltong can be made from, Biltong can have a range of textures. Depending on where that particular meat has been cut from, some areas create more chewy biltong textures than others. The cut of meat makes all the difference.
Despite the original biltong naming in the 17th century, not all Biltong is cut from the buttock! Therefore, some biltong has no fat and gives a crumblier texture that’s drier than more fatty areas of meat, giving a soft, chewy profile.
Taste wise, Biltong tastes like steak or beef bruschetta.
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