To make authentic South African Biltong, it is essential to understand the ingredients, the spices, and the best way to dry or cure your meat.
South African Biltong is traditionally dried in the sun. In South Africa, my butcher told me that adding black pepper would help with the flies. My family didn’t start traditionally making biltong until they bought a machine.
The “silverside” is the most popular cut of meat in South Africa. It was a cheap cut, as it was more challenging, leaner, and less expensive than steak. Perfect for Biltong. I go to Costco and ask for the cryovac eye of round in the meat department. It’s less sinewy, leaner, and has the traditional layer of fat at the top. Some tricks can help to make the Eye of Round less stringy!
The “eye of Round” is a beef cut used to make biltong
Cut your Eye of Round with the grain of the meat. Slice your meat along this length, adding a thin layer of fat to the top. After your biltong has dried, cut the strips against the grain to reduce the ligament that causes the stringiness.
Cut the meat into strips of 3/4″ thickness along the grain
Vinegar: Submerging each piece of beef into a vinegar bath, which is acidic, serves many purposes. Acid inhibits microorganisms that cause food to spoil. It is, therefore, a natural preserver. Acid also breaks down fibers in the meat, making it an excellent meat tenderizer. I use either apple cider vinegar or wine vinegar.
Spices: Biltong is traditionally spiced with coarse salt, black sugar, coriander, vinegar, and brown sugar. Use only coarse salt. The salt is too fine, giving you more volume with each spoonful. It also absorbs quickly into the meat and makes it highly salty. It’s up to you how much coriander or black pepper you use. I like the taste of black pepper and coriander, so I add more than usual. In a dry skillet, I roast black peppercorns and coriander in their complete form. Once the smell starts, I remove them and grind them to a coarse powder in a grinder or pestle and mortar. Then I combine it with salt and sugar and taste the mixture. You can adjust your mix to suit your taste. I added cayenne just before drying it to give it an extra kick.
Equipment: Biltong hooks. To suspend the meat, angles are required. I made hooks by twisting metal paper clips into an “S” shape. You should hook the thinner end of the heart because the marinade will tend to run down it, making the other side more flavorful and salty. If the meat is too large, you can cut it in half to prevent it from curling.
My gas convection cooker is the best I’ve ever used. I can run the fan in my oven without even turning it on. Voila! Instant biltong box. Remove the base of the stove to increase airflow. The moisture was still there when I didn’t remove the floor. To prevent marinade drips from getting on the gas line, I line the bottom with paper towels. The rack is adjusted to the highest level. Biltong takes two days to dry when the fan and oven light are on. The center of my biltong should be soft and pinkish. You can dry your biltong entirely by letting it sit for an extra day.