A Meat Treat That is not Jerky, You Understand?
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Bos* for Biltong
By Tayla Blaire
No South African braai (a cookout, specifically with fire) or rugby game is truly a party until someone shows up with a brown bag brimming with biltong: Slabs of meat, seasoned with salt, vinegar, coriander, and other spices, hung and dried until sliced and served. South Africans take biltong seriously. Even vegans have created dupes.
Typical biltong is thinly carved, by machine or knife. At the butcher, it’s standard to request the meat (usually beef), then weight or price you’re prepared to pay, followed by the dryness and the amount of fat. The slab is selected, shredded and a gloriously heavy bag is handed over, the fat already staining the brown paper. Droewors, another variety of biltong, is made from a long, thin sausage which is dried out and then cut into pieces. They’re very tough and favored by some as a teething toy for babies.
Biltong is often compared to jerky, but they taste nothing alike. And jerky is leathery, whereas traditional biltong is dry on the outside, with a moist and tender inside when cut. South Africans can’t let biltong go, even when they emigrate – find a country with South African expats and you will find biltong importers, producers, or even biltong restaurants. Biltong has been a South African staple for centuries, originating with the Khoisan people who preserved meat from their hunts by drying chunks in the open air. This skill was imparted to colonizers, who adapted the process.
South Africans will never all agree on the best type of biltong, the best spice blend or the best butcher – but we agree that biltong is a point of national pride. 🇿🇦
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Biltong is less like jerky and a lot like bresaola or basturma!