UPDATE 4/20/2014: I was referring back to this post to make another batch of tasty, tasty MEAT and realized I skipped writing down a step between Part 1 and Part 2. Sorry about that! Here is the missing info:
After your strips of vinegary, salted, optionally spiced meat have sat in the fridge for 24 hours, give-or-take, it’s time to hang them to dry. Select a place where insects and critters can’t get at them i.e. outdoors probably won’t work. Since I have a big basement with a cement floor, I used that. You can also use a dog- and cat-proof room inside your house. Spread newspaper on the floor to catch any drips. String some twine, thin rope or clothesline across the area. Get some large metal paperclips and sterilize them by boiling them in water for five minutes. Allow them to cool off. Then unbend them into S-shapes. You are now ready to hang your biltong! Take a piece of meat and skewer it at one end with one of the hooks on your S-shaped paperclip. Then hang the other end of the paperclip over the twine. Proceed with hanging the other pieces, making sure that the pieces do not touch one another. The idea is to have full, 360-degree airflow around each piece.
Following up on Biltong part 1: when we last met, I had a basement full of slimy pieces of raw meat hanging from the clothesline with paper clips. Newspaper was spread on the floor beneath them to catch bloody drips. Mmmm, I’m hungry already! OK, not really. But I will be… in 3 to 10 days, which is how long it should take the biltong to “cure”. How long it takes depends on variables such as temperature, humidity, and air flow in the area where you hang the meat. I was careful to make sure that none of the strips were touching one another. It’s winter in New Hampshire, so the air is pretty dry here right now. But I really had no basis for judging how long it would take for them to dry, never having done this before. Therefore, I used the highly scientific method of waiting three days, then eating a piece and seeing if it made me gag.
On day 3, I took a fairly small piece off the line, removed the paperclip (protip: do NOT consume metal paperclips), and cut it in half on a cutting board. It looked like this. I hesitantly put a piece in my mouth. It… was… AWESOME. Seriously. I’ve never been a big jerky fan, and I have always disliked chewy meat, but this was moist and tasty. I really liked the taste of the freshly ground black pepper. It was so good, I stood there by the cutting board, chopping off more small pieces and “testing” them (hey, it’s important to be thorough and to replicate one’s experimental results!) until there was none left.
I probably should have taken down all the pieces at that point, but I hadn’t planned ahead by having mason jars cleaned and ready to go, so I let the meat hang until day 4 while the mason jars were drying. On day 4, I removed all of them from the line, removed all of the paper clips (none of them broke, but it did take a bit of wiggling to get them out of the thicker pieces), and packed them into mason jars. I was short one jar, but an alternate form of storage is to wrap each piece in aluminum foil and then put them in a sealed baggie. Biltong stored in either manner can last 10 years without refrigeration.
And… voila! I’ve got three pounds of longlasting, portable, and *delicious* dried meat. Nothing even went wrong!? (Note that it’s been over 24 hours since I ate the test piece, and the only discomfort I’ve experienced is emotional frustration from not allowing myself to EAT MORE BILTONG!)
Bring on the zombie apocalypse. I’m ready.