I’ve always loved biltong – I grew up with it and the only time I got it was when we visited the family in South Africa. I never realized how easy it was to make. If you are a jerky fan, it is like the rare roast beef of jerkies – beefy flavor, it is great to gnaw on but it still leaves the inside of the meat tender and if you use a preservative, a little rare and red. So this weekend I decided to throw all that I know about safe food handling to the wind and dry some beef.
I bought a 2 lb beef round roast yesterday and cut it into 6 inch by 1 inch by 1 inch strips. I marinated it in vinegar with lots of “biltong mix” my mother brought back from South Africa, but in reality it is just coriander, coarse salt, pepper, MSG, and saltpeter as a preservative. But most online recipes just have vinegar dip and curing with salt, pepper, and coriander. I let it cure overnight in the refrigerator. This morning, I scraped most of the cure off and cut a slit through the top of the meat. I passed some jute string through the slit, and knotted it, to put 7-8 pieces of beef onto a 3 foot piece of string. I took it to the unused study room we have upstairs and strung the 3 pieces of string with about 25 pieces of beef between two barstools. I put a tarp down to catch any drippings. I put a lamp out and a small fan to assist the drying process. I just checked on it and the outside of the meat is already darkened and it is drying nicely. The entire room is permeated with the smell of vinegar and coriander. We’ll see where we stand in 4-7 days.
I’ll be watching the meat carefully because it’s humid here and I don’t want it to get moldy. Inside it isn’t so bad due to airconditioning but I may have to repeat the process in a few months after the humidity calms down a bit. Another slight issue is that the unused room upstairs will become home to a displaced Tulane medical student at the end of next week. So if it isn’t dry by Thursday, I’m going to have to move the operation somewhere else in the house.