Making your own biltong at home!
Every biltong company started off the same way, with home made batches, makeshift equipment, and a very good finished product! The next step from there is what biltong consumers benefit most from: great tasting Kosher biltong that's widely available for you to enjoy.
While this is hardly an industry (non) secret, its fairly obvious that this would be step one for everyone. After all, it had to start somewhere and big fancy factories would not be a recommended starting point.
Ever thought of trying it yourself? Or perhaps wondered what goes into it? We are proud to share here with you, the good, the not so good, and the not so good looking side of home made biltong! These notes are from our personal experience and some may resonate with you, others you may disagree with. Let us know if there's anything you think we left out.
So why are we sharing all this? Well as you will read about shortly, its not all so smooth sailing, and while it has its pro's, there are a number of drawbacks. It's a lot easier to buy and have someone else do it all for you.
As well, the points below are related to original biltong only. It does not apply to droewors(drywors), biltong chili bites, JOPS (biltong slabs) and Fire Poppers, which have different and often more complicated factors involved. So if any of those are your favorites, unfortunately these will not be discussed here
And lastly, we are confident that after reading this you will have a greater appreciation for your favorite zbiltong snacks and enjoy them that much more!
So with any further adue, here are 10 things to know about making your own biltong.
1) Not hard to do and simple equipment works fine.
Lets start with some of the encouraging and positive ones. The process is straight forward, and you can make your own biltong box out of pretty much anything. The most important parts are curing the meat properly and giving it proper air circulation while it is drying. There are no rules on what it needs to look like or include.
2) No experience necessary!
Don't be shy, give it a try. If your grandfather made it for everyone but never gave you the recipe, thats fine! Even with prior knowledge and experience, conditions will always require trial and error for every new setup.
3) It'll take a few tries.
Like we just mentioned, it's a lot of trial and error. The taste, the texture, the cut of meat that you have access to, room conditions, are never the same from one person to the next. Making bad biltong is pretty hard to do, but if it doesnt come out the way you want it, don't give up! Eat up and try again!
4) Try it with anything, not just beef
Biltong in general, and specifically kosher biltong, is the vast majority of the time made with beef. But it can be done with other meats and food as well. Some that are worth trying are chicken, salmon, turkey, bison or lamb. A vegetarian version with mushrooms, soy or eggplant. Only way to find out if it will taste good or not, is if you give it a try! For any of the meat versions mentioned above, keep in mind extra precautions for contaminants such as salmonella.
5) Time consuming and labor intensive.
We told you it wasn't all so flowery and wonderful. Each step can be itself a process. Even after building or putting together a biltong box, the individual steps such as trimming the meat, mixing up the liquids and spices, weighing and mixing in according to your recipe and hanging, each take time. One roast from beginning to end can easily be 2-3 hours of manual labor. And thats only the before! Once dry, cutting it and packaging it according to preference can be time consuming as well.
6) It takes time.
In addition to the hands on part being time consuming, from start to finish biltong can easily take 5-7 days till you're enjoying it! After preparing it, leaving it to cure, spicing and hanging, it will need a good few days to dry properly. The biggest problem here is that its fit for consumption pretty quickly and you'll find yourself picking and snacking on your batch every time you check on it. By the time you're done, that 5lb batch that you wanted to make and surprise your friend with for their birthday party, is now just a couple sticks that at this point.....eh, I may as well just finish it myself.
7) Its not necessarily cheaper
This one may be a surprise. But when you factor in the amount of meat that you paid for that is lost due to trimming, and then more so from water weight during the drying process, you would be doing well if your final product is 30% of what you started with! Yes, that much. And if you're a picker, anything like what was mentioned above, that number will be half of that or less. Above that is the necessary hours you put in to making it. Time = Money!
8) Small handmade batches always are better.
Let's get back to some encouraging ones. Fresh is always better. The spices and recipes are available today for anyone to try and when you give it the proper attention, your finished product will be up there with any of them!
9) Can taste better than store bought, and can be according to personal preference.
Besides for the advantages we just said, if you have any preferences such as super wet, super dry, a little fat, an extra bit of this or that put in, you can do it and noone is stopping you! It's exactly the way you want it! But the advantage you have is time and attention. Give it the proper amount of each to enjoy it properly.
10) Make, make, and make some more.
If 1-9 are fine with you, and you're now a regular biltong maker and on the way to becoming an expert, one of the biggest advantages is how much you can make. If you want to set a side a day for your biltong making, and make as much as you can, that's not a problem as its very easy to store for the long term. Just freeze and you will have a ready supply for whenever desired!