Ah – biltong – the staple food of South Africans since 1652.
What is it? Well, in case you don’t know and you haven’t already clicked through the link above, it’s essentially seasoned, dried meat.
But there’s more to it than that. It’s completely addictive, it keeps the South African toothpick and dental floss industries afloat and at anywhere between R150 – R350 per kilo (do the sums on the smaller packets), it’s damn expensive as well.
And it was these outrageous prices which led me to consider making my own biltong. But wouldn’t that be rather difficult?
Actually not – thanks to an article in June’s Popular Mechanics magazine. (I’m trying to keep this bit quiet because June still doesn’t know I’ve got it.) And, a couple of bits of wire, a light bulb, some dowel, a plastic box, an old computer fan and two hours later, I have my own homemade biltong dryer. And it works. Really well.
The first lot came out midweek and actually tasted very professional. And so the next lot has already gone in and will be ready by Tuesday morning: 72 hours being the current estimate for the optimum drying time.
I’m using strips (or “stokkies”) of Scotch Fillet (on offer at R60/kg at Pick n Pay) and seasoning with a mixture of black pepper, rock salt and coriander seeds. Then it’s into the dryer:
The meat is hung on bent paperclips from doweling crosspieces around a 45W light bulb. The lid goes on, the fan blows fresh air in and the timer is set.
And at night, it looks like a UFO has landed in the corner of the garage. Which is also quite cool.
Further tweaking of my methods and repertoire will obviously follow, but I think this must surely be the final step in my integration into South African society.
UPDATE: And here they are – ready to eat (remove paper clips first).