Biltong

Biltong is a delicacy from South Africa. People wanted to know the history of where it came from and what it was made of. So in this post, we will cover questions like what it is, where is it from?

How can you make it the best recipe and the perfect biltong maker for your home? We will also cover the best ways to store it to last longer.

So let’s get started.

What is Biltong?

People often wonder what we eat when they see us eating this delicious treat. It is a South African cured meat made from a cut of beef called “beef silverside.”

Traditional Spices are mixed with the beef silverside consisting of salt, pepper, coarsely ground coriander, and red wine vinegar.

The meat is air-dried for five days and then ready to be eaten.

Biltong is a simple but excellent food, made from dried beef flavoured with salt, herbs and spices.

Gareth van Rensburg

But do you know the history of biltong and where it comes from?

Origin

The meaning of the word biltong is made up of two Dutch words meaning “bil” which is the buttock of the animal, and “tong” which is a strip of meat.

It originated from South Africa but is now produced and sold in many countries worldwide.

It can be traced back to prehistoric times as humans learned to domesticate animals such as cows, sheep, and horses, our ancestors evolved and learned new survival techniques. Preservation was a valuable skill.

They learned to preserve fruit and vegetables and dried meat, an essential part of the daily routine and provided food in the winter months.

History

The Indigenous people of sub-Saharan Africa, the Khoikhoi, travelled around from settlement to settlement, finding pasture land for their livestock.

They needed to carry food with them, so they learned to preserve meat while travelling by slicing it into strips, curing it with salt and hanging it in trees to dry.

When the Dutch, French Huguenots and German settlers arrived in South Africa in the 17th, the hot climate made it essential for them to find a way to store meat without it spoiling.

They took the idea from the Khoikhoi and expanded on it by adding salt, vinegar, cloves, coriander and pepper.

These spices were abundant in the Cape Colony as the Cape of Good Hope was the halfway point for The Dutch East India Company travelling from The Netherlands to India. In addition, ships would stop at Cape Town to stock up on food, including preserved meat, to last on their long voyages.

As more people came to Cape Town, there was a need for people to move north into the space of the open country.

This journey became known as the “Great Trek.”

The Voortrekkers prepared for these long trips by hunting. As the hunters went out to hunt in the mornings, they found Wild game like kudu, impala or springboks, which they shot and used to make biltong and hung out to dry.

This made it perfect to be stored while they were travelling for long periods at a time. They preserved the meat in wooden barrels on their ox wagons.

This helped them to have food supplies for the long journeys that they took. At night they sat by their campsite fires telling stories and eating tong, even as the fire embers died down, the stories continued.

While the Khoikhoi were finding ways to preserve meat, the Quechan Indians from the South American Native tribe, which was from the ancient Inca empire, were also preserving meat and called it charqui.

When the Spanish arrived in North America, they realised this was a great way to preserve meat, and the name became jerky.
Jerky was consumed by the early pioneers and cowboys as it lasted long and was full of protein. This became one of North America’s favourite snacks.

How Does Biltong Differ from Beef Jerky?

The difference between biltong and beef jerky is the way it is made.

The process starts the same, but with jerky, the meat is sliced thinner than biltong. All the fat is removed, so the jerky will not spoil prematurely.

The meat is then flavoured. People have their recipes, but most use either marinades or brine. Salt, spicers and sugars can be added as well.

What Meat Can You Use to Make Jerky?

You can even use meat to make lean jerky as fat shortens the shelf life.

You can make jerky from almost any meat. We have listed the most common meats below.

  • Beef
  • Venison
  • Pork
  • Wild Boar
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Sheep, including lamb or mutton
  • Buffalo
  • Fish

The jerky is then placed onto racks where it is cooked at 160 degrees Fahrenheit for meat and 165 degrees for poultry. You can also use a dehydrator, smokers or ovens to make your jerky.

The jerky is ready when it reaches a moisture protein level of 0.75 to 1 and a water activity of less than 0.85.

Jerky is packed in vacuumed sealed bags so no moisture can enter the packet otherwise, it spoils quickly.

When you make biltong, you don’t cook the meat like Jerky. Instead, you use the air to dry it. This means that biltong takes longer before it is ready to eat.

People often ask me the following questions once they know what biltong is and what it is made from. Is it healthy for you? So we have detailed the benefits for you to see yourself.

Is Biltong Healthy For You

Biltong is made from beef with 60g of protein per 100g of biltong.

When biltong is made, it starts at 200g, but when it dries, it only weighs 100g.

All the protein remains in the biltong, so you are getting double the amount of protein in half the serving.

There are 325 Calories in 100g of beef biltong. It is a high-protein snack that will help you lose weight.

Nutrition

Biltong is low in fat, with just 5g for every 100g serving.

It contains vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12 which makes red blood cells and keeps your nervous system healthy.

It is full of magnesium, iron and zinc.

Weight loss diets use it as it can suppress your appetite. However, being full of protein also keeps you full for longer.

Eating biltong in moderation is healthy. First, check to see if your biltong is good quality. If buying from a biltong shop or buying meat to make biltong, look at where the meat comes from. If you can buy pasture-fed beef.

This means the cows were fed from pastures containing grasses, wildflowers and herbs. The meat will be of a higher quality.

Can You Eat Biltong When Pregnant?

Biltong cravings are normal amongst pregnant moms. But is it safe to eat while you are pregnant?

As we know, eating biltong has many benefits: it is full of protein, low in fat, and full of vitamins and minerals. It keeps you fuller longer and builds healthy red blood cells, and looks after your nervous system.

There are some risks, though; although biltong is made in a controlled environment, it is not cooked, which means it could contain a bacteria called Listeria.

Listeria is found in chilled ready-to-eat foods like cured meat, sliced ham, and cooked shellfish. It can even occur in blue cheese.

The most common symptoms of Listeria are

  • muscle aches
  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms
  • nausea
  • diarrhoea

These normally last 3 days. If they do last longer, you should consult your doctor.

However, people with weakened immune systems, the elderly and pregnant women and their unborn babies are more susceptible to this bacteria.

There have been 200 cases of Listeria out of nearly 4 million pregnancies every year in America. So becoming ill with Listeria is fairly low.

For your peace of mind, I recommend you consult with your local doctor to fully understand the risks and benefits to make up your mind about whether you can eat biltong while pregnant.

How To Make Biltong

Learning how to make biltong at home is easy and a fantastic way to spend time with your family and highly rewarding.

Once you know how to make it, you have learned a lifelong skill that you can use anywhere in the world.

Crown Safaris Spice

This guide is a step-by-step process on how I make biltong at home during the year. Once I perfected my recipe, I hardly ever buy biltong as I can plan my week and timing to know precisely when my biltong will be ready.

The process starts with meat selection. I like to use beef silverside. You can also use Wagyu beef. I prefer to buy a silverside roasting joint and cut that up as it gives me enough biltong to last for a few days.

Beef Roasting Joint

Cutting the Silverside

To make biltong in this recipe, I will use beef silverside. This will make 4 biltong sticks enough for a week’s supply.

Measure and cut the silverside

I cut the silverside joint exactly one thumb width apart, and with the grain, this isn’t too thick, and in the UK, it allows for faster drying times. Cutting with the grain gives you nice-looking biltong with smooth sides.

Spray Vinegar On Meat

After cutting the meat, I lay it side by side in a dish and spray it with vinegar. I use a spray bottle with vinegar as it is easier to coat the meat, and the meat is not drenched in vinegar.

Spraying Apple Cider vinegar on the beef silverside

I then turn the meat around and spray the other side too. This is an important step as coating the meat with vinegar stops mould forming.

Roast Coriander

While the meat is resting, I roast some coriander in a frying pan until it turns light brown, I then crush it in my pestle and mortar.

Roasted Coriander

I use Crown National biltong spice for my biltong mix. I use 45g/kg, so I used 135g of biltong spice for this mix. I mixed the crushed coriander and the biltong spice.

Spice All The Meat

I put the spice mix in a small cup and spread it over the biltong, covering all the meat.

Cover the meat with spice

I turned the meat over and covered it with more spice on the other side.

Let the Meat Marinate

I let the meat rest for 8 hours. I turn the meat around at the 4-hour mark to let the other side marinade. I also drain excess liquid from the bowl.
You can leave the meat to marinade longer as the flavours get better the longer you leave it.

While the meat is marinating, I boil my biltong hooks to ensure they are clean and sterile. I then spray them with vinegar just before inserting them into the meat.

Finally, I put the hook through the thickest part of the meat to ensure it won’t pull through as it is drying.

Hang The Biltong To Dry

I then hang the biltong in my biltong maker and wait five days for it to be ready.

first day after hanging the biltong

This simple biltong-making process allows my family and me time to enjoy making biltong.

The total time to make biltong is around 20 minutes, excluding leaving it to marinate for 8 hours. Then, when the biltong is ready, we use the biltong cutter to share it evenly. I hope you enjoy making biltong.

The Best Biltong Recipe

We all like tasty biltong. Using traditional biltong recipes guarantees lovely flavours. To make it, you need good quality meat.

We recommend using Silverside or Topside cuts as these cuts of beef work well. In addition, you can use game meats like kudu, impala and springbok.

Traditional Biltong Recipes

This is the best-tasting spice for the biltong recipe. It is essential to follow the instructions. You can make small changes to the recipe until you get the perfect combination that suits your taste.

I added roasted coriander seeds to my biltong spice mix to increase the flavour. I have included the instructions here on how I do this.

The width you cut the meat is essential. An effective way to measure the meat before cutting is to place your thumb on a table and push it down lightly.

Your thumb should be the width of an inch as it is pushing against the table, and this is the ideal width to cut the meat.

All the seasoning ingredients below are ones that I have personally used. Please make sure that you use a sharp knife and that the equipment used to cut and prepare the meat is sterile before use.

You can change the quantities of the ingredients to make more if required.

What Vinegar Do You Use to Make Biltong?

Depending on your preference, you can use white vinegar, brown vinegar, or cider vinegar. We prefer cider vinegar. We place the cider vinegar in a spray bottle. This makes it easy to cover the meat by spraying each side of the meat.

Biltong Spices

If you have time, this is a perfect biltong recipe. You need two bowls. You will need to spend some time roasting the coriander before you start the process.

Place the coriander in a frying pan and roast the seeds until they are light brown.

Ingredients

  • 2kg fillet of beef
  • 150ml vinegar
  • 50ml Worcestershire sauce
  • Two tablespoons of crushed coriander seeds
  • One tablespoon of black pepper
  • 500g coarse salt
  • 150g brown sugar
  • One teaspoon of bicarbonate soda

Steps

Take the cuts of beef and cut the meat with the grain into 5cm thick strips. Put all the silverside meat into a clean bowl and pour the vinegar and Worcestershire sauce over the meat. Mix well, covering all the meat.

In a pestle and mortar, mix the coriander seeds and pepper.

Take the meat out of the bowl of cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Add the meat to a container and cover both sides of the meat with the spices, crushed coriander, salt, and brown sugar.

Leave it for 6 hours to rest in the bowl.

Turn the meat in the bowl and leave to rest for a further 6 hours.

Remove the meat from the bowl and lightly pat it down to remove excess moisture.

Insert the sterilised hooks into the thickest part of the meat and hang the meat to dry. Do not use paper clips as these rust and turn the biltong green.

Drying Times

Drying time takes 5 to 7 days, depending on the climate you are in. The airflow should be able to flow around the meat in the box, and no meat should be touching each other as this can cause mould.

You can test the meat by squeezing it slightly to see how firm it is. Some South Africans like wet biltong, but I like slightly drier.

The longer you hang the meat, the drier it gets, depending on your climate conditions and location.

The final product will taste great; you only need a sharp knife to cut the meat and enjoy it. If you like this biltong recipe, you might also want to look at our Biltong Chutney Recipe!

Mrs Balls Chutney

Chutney Biltong Recipe

Mrs Balls Chutney gives a lovely flavour. It is easy to make if you follow the chutney biltong recipe below.

Easy To Make Chutney Biltong Recipe

Here is a picture of the biltong that I made in my biltong maker.

This picture was taken on day 3 when I just coated the meat with chutney. I didn’t spread the chutney too thick, just nice and thin to allow the biltong to dry within the 5 – 6 day period.

Chutney Biltong

The spices to make chutney biltong below are per kg of meat.

Ingredients

  • 1kg fillet or silverside of beef
  • A sprinkle of vinegar to cover the meat
  • 18g Salt
  • 2g Pepper
  • 4g roasted coriander
  • 2g brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. Mrs Balls Chutney

Steps

  • Put all the meat into a bowl and pour the spice and vinegar over the meat
  • Mix the spice into the meat so that all the meat is covered. Put the bowl of meat in the fridge for 12 hours
  • Rotate the meat at 6 hours to allow both sides to get covered in spices
  • Hang the meat and make sure that none of the pieces touches each other
  • Leave for three days

After day 3

  • Take the meat out and cover with Mrs Balls Chutney
  • Pour the chutney sauce over the meat, but do not make the coating too thick otherwise, the meat can go mouldy as it takes too long to dry
  • Hang the meat to dry. Make sure there is enough space between the meat and that it is not touching, as this will cause the meat to go mouldy.
  • Check after 2 days to see how the meat is progressing. If it is firm to the touch, it is ready to eat.

The Best Biltong Maker

Now that you know the best recipe, you can make it at home. You will need a biltong maker; if you are in the UK or North America, you can buy a biltong machine online.

My favourite website is Amazon, and I found my biltong box there. I wrote a review for you so you can see how it works.

Biltong Maker Review

When I saw this Satara Biltong Maker on Amazon, I knew I had to buy it. It had good reviews, it came in different colours and it was well priced.

My pricing point was £100, and this device fell just below that.

This makes an ideal Father’s Day present for the man who wants to make his own biltong. I have been using this device for five years now, and it is still going strong.

Buying a Biltong Box

I wanted to purchase the Biltong box from a company in the UK, as this makes getting spare parts easier.

I prefer using Amazon for most of my purchases, as the delivery is quick, and I can return items if broken.

I had a search online for a biltong box and found this on Amazon.

The biltong box is available in 6 different colours:

  • Red
  • Grey
  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Blue
  • White

The owner, Brad, quickly replied to customers’ concerns or questions about his Amazon shop.

I could see from past reviews that customer questions were answered quickly, and items that were broken were replaced. I saw that he sold spare parts like fans and biltong hooks. This filled me with confidence.

I went ahead and bought it from Amazon for £79.99.

What is Included in the Box?

In the image above, you can see the Biltong Dryer’s top and Bottom panels. The dryer is flat packed.

Included in the box are the following items

  • 1 x Rigid PVC plastic base with five rubber feet.
  • 1 x 3mm thick clear Perspex front panel.
  • 2 x Thick clear Perspex side panels with 2X self-clip on Rod holders.
  • 1 x 3mm thick white gloss Foamex panel with vent slots.
  • 2 x Black rigid plastic hanging Rod supports.
  • 3 x Square aluminium rods.
  • 9 x Clear plastic Hooks.
  • 4 x Corner beading.
  • 1 x Rigid Matt finishes PVC plastic top with 220 and 240V fan including a lightbulb.
  • 1 kg Crown National Safari Biltong Spice.
  • 1 x Make your own biltong recipe card.
  • 1 x Assembly instructions, including what is in your box checklist.

Well Made

It is made from 3mm thick impact-resistant acrylic Perspex, including a durable 3mm thick white Foamex back support panel.

Easy to Assemble

It is easy to assemble. It has rigid corner beading that provides greater strength and reliability to hold the 3mm thick impact-resistant acrylic Perspex sides.

The assembled Walls on the biltong maker

Satara Biltong Box

The lid and base are finished in a matte colour giving it a very professional look.

The rods are made from square aluminum and can be placed in varied locations along the black angled support bracket allowing you the freedom to move your meat closer to the light bulb or further away.

Biltong Hooks

These biltong hooks are included and are sold in sets of 9 on Amazon for £1.99 each if you need more.

Plastic biltong hanging hooks

You can buy the 9 x plastic biltong hooks from Amazon.

Three aluminum rods are included, but more could be bought if required. The rod holders have been designed for easy clip-on and off.

This makes cleaning the machine much easier. I put mine in the dishwasher to be washed after I have made biltong.

Hook hangers for biltong machine

Assembling the Biltong Box

The dimensions of the biltong box are as follows:

  • Heights = 510 mm
  • Width = 300 mm
  • Depth = 300 mm
  • Fully Assembled

Fully Assembled

It can hold up to 3 kg of meat, and the 3mm clear impact acrylic provides a clear view of the meat while drying. I always put some tinfoil and a roller towel on the base. This makes cleaning much easier.

My Final Thoughts About the Biltong Maker

If you are interested in making your biltong at home, this is the perfect biltong machine. This box seals tight and contains all the smells.

It is easy to clean; it is professionally made and feels firm. I enjoy using it, and it looks good in my study.

It only takes four and a half days to make biltong. If I hang freshly spiced meat on a Tuesday evening, it will be ready to eat on Saturday afternoon.

If you want to buy a new biltong maker, I can wholeheartedly recommend this as I have been using it for three years, and it is still going strong.

If you don’t want to make your billies at home, you can buy online from companies like Cruga, Raging Bull or St Marcus, They have online shops or you could buy directly from Amazon.

If you want to buy this biltong maker, you can click this link to go to Amazon, and I will receive a small commission from Amazon.

When I made my biltong at home, I had a problem. I needed to find a way to store it. I tried different ways to make it last and eventually found three ways to store billing properly.

How to Store Biltong

The best way to store biltong to keep it fresh and tasty is to keep it in a location where it is dry, and the air can circulate it.

We have three ways to store biltong to ensure the flavour and tastes remain, making it delicious to eat.

Store Biltong

Biltong is a natural product made from meat and spices and is best stored naturally.

You can use the following methods to store it:

  • Keep it in a wooden bowl on the table with a cloth covering it.
  • If you buy biltong, keep it in a brown paper bag.
  • Keep in the fridge only if the packet is still vacuumed and sealed.

Biltong Mould

One of the things to watch out for is biltong mould. I regularly check all my meat to ensure no mould is forming or is present mould forms when there is moisture in the food and no air circulation.

biltong mould

So the wetter the meat, the higher the probability that it will get mouldy.

Mould on biltong can occur quickly, so pay careful attention to how you keep your biltong. You can remove mould by running it through a mixture of vinegar and water.

I like to use 30% vinegar and 70% water.

I mix the vinegar and water and put this into a bowl.

I then rinse the meat making sure to wipe all the mould off.

Finally, I pat the meat and hang it to dry. If mould has contaminated the meat, it will not dry. Even if left for a week, discard it as it is not safe to eat.

Questions on How to Store Biltong

How Long Does Biltong Last?

It can last for 4 to 7 days before the mould starts.

How to Stop Mould From Forming

You can use one of the three methods below to ensure mould does not form.

  • Keep your billies in a wooden bowl covered with a paper towel or cloth.
  • Hang it in a location where air can circulate.
  • Put your billies in a paper bag in a dark cupboard, this allows the meat to breathe, but you will need to eat it within a few days.

Make Sure You Have Airflow Around Your Biltong

In South Africa, where I grew up, we made it in winter; It was hung in the garage rafters to dry.

As kids, we would eagerly wait for what seemed like ages for uncle bob’s biltong to be ready. Hanging it in the rafters allowed air to circulate naturally. But, unfortunately, the UK’s climate is wet and humid and not great for making or preserving meat in winter.

The first time I hung meat in my garage, I came home from work one evening to find the whole batch had gone mouldy. I realised then that I needed a stronger system.

So I redesigned my biltong box to ensure airflow and heat to remove moisture from the meat.

After making our biltong, we cut it and put it in a brown paper bag in the cupboard until we are ready to eat it. Then, we mix it every few days to ensure air circulates the meat.

Should I Keep Biltong in The Fridge?

If you are storing biltong in the fridge, it is best to use vacuum bags and keep the bags sealed until you decide to eat them. Also, the wetter the meat is, the shorter the lifespan.

How Long Does Biltong Keep in The Fridge?

We recommend keeping moist biltong in vacuum bags in the fridge and seeing the Best Before dates.

Once opened, put it in an open bowl and mix it up a bit. Mix it up daily until consumed.

Do not leave an open packet of meat in its plastic bag. It will go rancid much quicker than if kept correctly.

rancid biltong

Can You Freeze Biltong?

You can freeze biltong for up to a year. Storing biltong in the freezer will add to its shelf life. When you decide to defrost your billies, it will release a lot of moisture.

Make sure the packet is open with as much natural airflow as possible. Also, ensure any moisture evaporates, allowing the stick to thaw out.

Keep on mixing it around and loosening the bundle of meat. Daub with a kitchen towel if you can to remove any excess moisture.

Now that you know how to preserve your biltong, it will taste great and still have the freshness and be full of flavour until you are ready to eat it

I use a knife to cut my tong normally but on special occasions, I use my cutter to cut pieces of meat for the family.

Biltong Cutter

Are you looking for the ideal Father’s Day present for the man with everything? Look no further. Buy the special man in your life a biltong cutter! It is fit for a king, he will like this, and I know as I got one for father’s day.

Why Buy a Biltong Cutter?

A biltong slicer makes it easy to cut biltong, set the thickness to your liking, and cut a whole stick quickly with its sharp blade. It also looks nice, and you can leave it on display for your friends.

Biltong cutter

If you are using a knife, you must first sharpen the knife. Otherwise, you will be sewing through the biltong to get through it. You must be careful not to cut yourself instead of cutting the biltong.

Using a Biltong Cutter makes the job easy and fun.

The cutter blade is sharp and is made from high-quality steel, which means it is strong. It cuts through the thickest pieces easily.

Having a wooden biltong slicer is a showpiece, and you can leave it on display when not in use. It looks good, and the design complements your counter space.

Introducing the Ultra Tec Biltong Cutter with Steel Tray

When you remove this biltong cutter from the box, you will see it is a premium product. It has been designed well and is beautifully crafted.

The curved trough of the cutting board allows you to cut around objects like biltong, salami, chorizo or vegetables.

This biltong slicer has a stainless-steel blade and uses precision bearing guides to keep the blade perfectly aligned to the cutting edge.

It has a unique design; you can adjust the thickness you want to cut by placing your biltong over the cutting edge. The more it hangs over the cutting edge, the thicker it will cut the biltong.

The Perfect Cut

When you cut biltong, it simultaneously uses a rolling and shearing action to provide the perfect clean cut.

The cutting angle is positioned so that when biltong is cut, it is in the center of the board. The stainless-steel base attaches magnetically to the wooden base and catches all your cut meat.

When not in use, the stainless-steel tray is stored under the base. The wooden base is fitted with non-slip super grip pads. These Wooden biltong cutters are for people who enjoy making billies at home.

Amazon Reviews

This item has exceptionally good reviews on Amazon and lots of positive ratings. Customers liked the packaging when it arrived, commenting it looked very professional. When they opened the box, they were amazed at how beautiful it was crafted.

If you want to buy this cutter, you can click this link to go to Amazon, and I will receive a small commission from Amazon.

How to Sharpen the Blade.

The cutter blade will stay sharp for many years, but if you need to sharpen it, you can use a regular sharpener. Importantly, only sharpen the side of the blade that faces the removable tray.

Make sure to match the angle exactly and remove any burr created during the sharpening process.

Watch this video to see how to sharpen your blade

Can the width of the slice be adjusted?

The width can be adjusted depending on how far you place your meat over the cutting edge. You can make your slices very thin or an inch thick, depending on how you like them.

Conclusion

So there we have it, a complete history of biltong. I hope you try and make your biltong. If you do, please send us a picture on our Facebook Page, and if you buy the biltong box or cutter from Amazon, I will get a small commission from them.

We have lovely boerewors and droewors recipes you can make at home too.