For today’s episode of Sandy-in-the-Kitchen, we’re going to attempt… BILTONG. Will this result in a skillful demonstration of our Zombie Apocalypse survival skills? Or a zany up-close-and-personal interview with e-Coli? Let’s find out! (Hey, it’s raw meat… what could possibly go wrong?)
Biltong, in case you don’t know, is “strips of lean meat dried in the open air”, and is commonly believed to have originated in South Africa. I took a class on how to make it at Area 23, home of the Informal University, last weekend. Interestingly, the class was taught by an American Free State Project early mover from Michigan, but 50% of the class attendees were actually from South Africa (but had never made their own biltong before!)
I took lots of notes during the hands-on class, during which the instructor went through the entire process from start to finish. She even brought finished biltong for us all to try at the end. It’s kind of like beef jerky, but moister, and can be flavored any way you like. I had never had it before but thought it was pretty tasty. It can keep for ten years in a sealed container.
So, without further ado, let’s get to the kitchen, shall we?
First things first: work with sterile surfaces, as you will be handling, and eventually eating, uncooked meat. Longtime readers will know that “sterilized surfaces” is not my forte. As a matter of fact, I kind of pride myself on being willing to eat anything, no matter how long past its expiration date, and surviving the gastrointestinal aftermath. My gut can take a BULLET. My gut can DIGEST a bullet. But I digress.
I did a quick Google search on “how to sterilize a cutting board” and found handy instructions which I dutifully followed. First, wipe off cutting board with dish soap. Then, soak for two minutes in solution of one gallon water and 2 T bleach. Done! I did use a gallon of bottled water with an expiration date of 2012, but hey, throw me a frickin’ bone here, I’m trying! I also soaked a knife in the bleach solution.
Next, take hunk of raw meat. My instructor recommended eye round, but said that any red meat would do. Remove all visible fat, as when dried, it tastes like wax. Unless you’re into that, in which case, leave fat. Next, slice hunk of meat into uniformly sized strips 1-2″ in height and width; length doesn’t matter. Protip: don’t use a knife like mine; use a sharp one.
I think I may have sliced my hunk the wrong way because my strips vary quite a bit in length, but oh well, moving on. Next, place strips in nonreactive (glass or ceramic) dish, and sprinkle with 2-3T of apple cider vinegar. Be sure to flip the strips over so the vinegar gets on both sides. The strips should feel slimy at this point. Yes, you read that correctly: your goal is to *create* slimy food.
Next, sprinkle the strips with coarse (kosher or sea) salt. My instructor recommended salting them “like pretzels”. I liked this part, cuz I like salt. In fact, I did a second round of salt at the end, cuz, you know… SALT.
Optional step: add additional seasonings. Traditional South African seasonings are pepper and coriander, but you can use whatever spices you like. Protip: use lots of spices. If your sinuses start going wild, you’re doing it right. I used freshly ground black pepper and ground coriander. We are all about tradition here at Sandy-In-The-Kitchen, dontcha know. It’s best to use coarse spices if possible, as this will help to keep flies off your meat during the drying process. Protip: try not to dwell on that last sentence; I certainly am.
Next, cover your dish and refrigerate for 24 hours. The 24 hours isn’t a hard and fast rule, the basic idea is, come back tomorrow. Which is what you, dear reader, will need to do for the next exciting installment of… Sandy-In-The-Kitchen!
And now, a word from our sponsors…