By request... the joys of BILTONG

Ah, my dear friend Trifarina has requested to know more about BILTONG. Poor girl she keeps asking for things she doesn't really want to see!

Well sadly I am not qualified to discuss all the subtleties, as I'm sorry to say, I find biltong and all its cousins completely revolting. But in short, South Africa has a long tradition of preserving meat by some combination of drying, spicing, and tenderizing. According to this wiki article, this began with African hurders riding with strips of game meat under their saddles, and I quote, "as the chaffing would tenderise the meat and the sweat of the animals would spice it." OOOOooooh yum.

Biltong took on increasing historical importance as a staple of the TrekBoers (Afrikaaner farmers who left the Cape Colony in covered wagons to escape English rule in the 1830s-1840s). Now it's considered as South African as Afrikaans, and that's fiercely South African. Everybody eats it. Standard snack food, road food, with little biltong stands outside the supermarkets, etc. Traditionally it was made from game (usually antelope) or ostrich but now I think it's mostly beef. But other varieties are available everywhere. Kudu, springbok, etc, anything but lamb which apparently doesn't dry, just rots. It's heavily spiced with something cryptically referred to as "biltong spice"; I can't seem to find out what it is but it tastes like licking the bottom of the spice cabinet somehow, like cayenne with poultry spice with way too much tarragon and corriander and not sure what else. Then it's vinegared and sometimes treated with some nitrates of some kind and left to hang in a dry place until it is absolutely blackened and chewy like jerky.

Some of the variations I referred to above include droëwors (dried sausage). This is even grosser than biltong, as it is somehow simultaneously bone dry but also chewy and greasey. I really don't know how this combination of nasty is accomplished but here are some offerings in the local farmers market. You can see it is highly prized as a stick of biltong (front basket - R20 apiece! That's enough for a bottle of ordinary table wine). The droëwors hanging on the rack next to the basket are going from R20-R35 a pair - that's a large 2 topping pizza.

Just in case my ZA friends are offended, I might as well come clean. I also hate bobotie! And I don't care for pinotage. There I said it. And just so you know, poultry is still meat.

I hope that's not enough to cause Home Affairs to rescind my visa.

PS. Trifarina if you want more BILTONG please download the video podcast from the link at The ZA Show. I think it explains the process perfectly.
PPS. Trifarina - do you know how to make corn tortillas? The maize flour here does not have lime in it - does it matter? I am going frickin nuts for a fish taco with a side of black beans. or tortilla chips! oh god I miss tortilla chips. You know what else are hard to find here? LIMES. What!? alright this post is taking a bad turn and must end now.


Trifarina said...

I have no idea how to make corn tortillas, but it can't be hard...

I have recently fallen in love with this powdered lime from the store, I swear it tastes totally real. I'll send you some.

Fault Rocks said...

I think the masa flour on sale in california has lime in it like CaO. here it's just white cornmeal. I haven't tried to make tortillas yet though, not sure what the lime would do?

powdered fruity lime???? what? what's the brandname, i gotta google.

Anonymous said...

Hi Christie,

Great post about biltong, although you don't like it. :) I see that Cape Town is treating you well and that you are enjoying the sights of the Mother City.

Thanks for the link love.