More than a few of you have asked me to put my Biltong Prep post onto the permanent sidebar, so I have.

Just FYI:  I changed the spice measures ever so slightly, and also (based on the last batch I made) substituted red wine vinegar for malt.  Yum.  New Wife and I have actually had to measure out the sliced biltong into daily-ration portions, because we have absolutely no brake pedal on this addiction.

It should be called beefcrack and not biltong, except that sounds vaguely suggestive.

Weekend Food Prep

From exasperated Reader Lowkey:

With much respect… DAMN YOU AND ALL SEFFRICANS for biltong. This stuff is just too tasty and easy to make.
I half-assed a batch (slice roasts into 1 inch-ish strips, soak in cider vinegar for a few hours, dredge in salt/pepper/coriander, then hang for a few days with an old computer fan running to circulate the air) and it’s fecking delicious. I’m gaining weight on what is supposedly a “survival food”.
Damn you.
Please, share with us your recipes for this (and your preferences for it… I seem to like my biltong a touch “wet”).

Actually, Lowkey’s “half-assed” approach isn’t at all bad.  Biltong bought online or at specialist food shops can cost up to $20/lb, or even more.

Make it yourself and it’s the per-pound cost of the meat from the supermarket (usually around $5 to $7).  It’s the gastronomic equivalent of handloaded vs. commercial ammo.

It’s been a while (years, actually) since I made biltong, but here’s the scoop on its preparation.

What you’ll need:

  • 1lb of boneless beef, whole (not sliced).  I like my biltong quite fatty because of the flavor and moistness of the fat layered over the dried beef;  your preferences may vary.  Just FYI:  filet, while tender, doesn’t make decent biltong because of the lack of fat.  Top sirloin or bottom round make the best biltong, I think.  Feel free to experiment to find your  favorite.
  • 8 tbsp red wine vinegar (brown apple cider vinegar can be used too).
  • 1.5-2 tbsp coarse (kosher) salt (some people like their meat salty, others less so.  I prefer less, so I use at most two tablespoons).
  • 2 tsp coarse ground black pepper (ditto as for salt;  too peppery makes it something other than biltong, but be my guest if you’re of that persuasion.  If you must  have it spicy-hot — South Africans refer to it as “peri-peri” biltong — then add ground red pepper flakes, but in moderation.  I don’t recommend it).
  • 2-3 tbsp whole coriander seeds (this  is what sets biltong apart;  I use 3).

Some people suggest adding brown sugar to the spice mix:  these are Satan’s minions, and should be roundly shunned if not actually flogged for their heresy.  Jerky  is a sweet meat snack for children, and we shall speak no further of it;  biltong  is a savory snack, and the food of the gods.

Spice mix prep:

  • Lightly toast the coriander seeds, then grind into a coarse powder (about the consistency of the black pepper);  if you have a few shell fragments left, that’s fine.
  • Combine all the dry spices until the mix has a uniform color and consistency.
  • Divide the mix in half.

Meat prep:

  • Slice the meat with (not against) the grain into broad flat strips about 1.5″ thick.  Try to have each piece include a piece of fat along the outside, although if the meat is well marbled, that’s fine too.
  • Pour the vinegar into a glass baking dish, then lay the strips down side by side, turning the meat strips over and over to get the vinegar well set into the meat.
  • Sprinkle half the spice mix over the strips and rub it in vigorously, then turn the strips over and add the remaining mix, rubbing as before.
  • Make sure that the pieces do not touch when you’re done.
  • Cover the dish (foil or plastic) and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  Most of the vinegar and spices should have soaked into the meat by then.

Drying the meat:

  • You’ll need an enclosed drying area such as a seldom-used household closet or even a mover’s garment box with some breathing holes punched in the top.  Biltong does not need warm air to dry — in fact, many of the biltong cognoscenti  will specify cooler temperatures — so an ordinary household climate will do fine.
  • What’s important is to circulate the air gently (Reader Lowkey’s use of an old computer fan is spot on), so run a small household fan into the closet/box and set it to its gentlest strength.  Do not direct the air flow at the meat or it will dry unevenly.
  • Hang the meat strips, making sure that they do not touch each other.  Use plastic-  or stainless-steel hooks — iron or wire will add a metallic taste to the whole piece of meat over time.  I use thick nickel-plated shower hooks, myself.
  • Put a tray lined with newspaper (the New York Times  is best — it’s about all it’s good for) underneath to catch any drippings.
  • Leave to dry for about two to three days, depending on the size of the slices*, then test the biltong by squeezing it gently.  It should be outwardly firm, but “give” a little as you press harder.  If it still feels “raw” (it won’t), then leave it for another six hours.  Feel free to cut a sample piece to check on the hardness.
    *Check the meat for mold each day.  There shouldn’t be any mold (tiny white spots) on the meat during the drying process, but if there are, wipe them off thoroughly with vinegar and just re-hang the meat.

Some people like their biltong to have the consistency of driftwood — I happen to prefer ostrich or game biltong that way — but the ideal beef biltong should be to have a firm outer crust, with softer meat in the center.  The longer you leave it hanging, the harder it will get.  Four days is about the maximum for “standard” biltong.  The dried strips should look something like this:

Cutting the biltong:

  • Biltong is hard meat to cut.  Make sure your knife blade is thin and extremely  sharp — my grandfather used to use a box-cutter*, and replace the blade for each batch.
  • Cut the strips across the grain (unless you want to spend an hour chewing each piece) as thinly as you can, to ~1/16″ to 1/8″ thickness.
  • If the biltong pieces are too fatty for your taste, just wrap them all in a paper towel and pat dry.

New Wife and I prefer our biltong “wet” (moist and fatty):

…while others may prefer it a little more dry:

It’s all good.

My suggestion is to cut all the strips into pieces, then store in a greased paper (not plastic) bag in the fridge.  It should keep about two to three weeks without any mold growing on it (not that it matters, because I guarantee you’ll eat it all inside a week anyway).  When New Wife brought a few pounds of it Over Here for her final Atlantic crossing, we made it last a full month (exercising massive  self-control), and the last mouthful was as delicious as the first.

As a survival food, it’s difficult to beat biltong.  Three or four small pieces constitute all your protein needs for a day.  When I was in the army, I used to buy a single stick of (very hard) game biltong from the commissary just before going off-base (so to speak), and I would consume it over a week.  I never went hungry, as long as I had a couple mouthfuls of biltong and a “dog biscuit” (hardtack) each day.

As snack food?  Oy.  I would remind everyone of Reader Lowkey’s complaint above.

*By “box cutter”, of course, I mean the old-fashioned and robust replaceable-blade kind:

…and not the “snap-off blade” type, use of which will just lead to frustration:

Legal notice:  I accept absolutely no responsibility for any ensuing addictions.


The old joke goes:

Q: “Why do men die sooner than women?”
A:  Because they want to.

I think the same is true of this study:

A DAILY tipple nearly doubles a man’s hope of hitting 90, a study says.
Those on half a pint of beer a day are 81 per cent more likely than teetotallers to reach a tenth decade.

That’s because we drinkers are kept alive by thinking things like “Only five more days till Friday night pub time!” — whereas non-drinkers have fuck-all to look forward to and their bodies simply shut down out of either hopelessness or boredom.

For precisely the same two reasons, this may be why meat-eaters live longer than vegans.

Anyway, whatever it all means, I know that right at this moment it’s Pub Time at the King’s Arms in All Cannings, Wilts, so I’m going to join The Englishman and others of that ilk by opening a life-extending pint (and I know it’s not Wadworth 6X, but London Pride is all I can get Over Here — a rant for another time).

Cheers, y’all.

More Busybodies

Oh NOES we’re not going to meet our gooooooooooaaaaaaaallll!

Not a single country is on course to meet targets to reverse spiralling obesity rates by 2025, a damning report has revealed.
Countries are ‘worryingly off-track’ to meet World Health Organization targets agreed to by member states, according to the World Obesity Federation (WOF).
Research suggests there is a less than a 10 per cent chance the world will meet targets within five years, while the UK and US have zero chance.
Around 200 countries had pledged to significantly cut their obesity levels by making sure levels didn’t rise any more from 2010.

Wait just a fucking minute.  “World Obesity Federation”?  When the hell did this quango come into being, how  is it funded, and how much do its members get paid?

I am so sick of self-important fuckwits telling me how to live my life:  what to eat and drink, how to spend my money, when I can do this or that, what cars should look like, how much water toilets may use when flushed, where I can and can’t shoot my guns, what light bulbs I can and can’t use, et cetera, et cetera, et  fucking cetera.

The world is getting fatter because people are no longer two meals away from starvation (which was the case for pretty much most of human existence until about 1970), and our metabolisms haven’t adjusted — because this stuff takes a lot longer than a few years, and it does not respond to scolding, shaming and guilt-making.

“Oh but that’s unhealthy and if you don’t do what we tell you, you’re gonna diiieeee!” comes the perpetual whine of Busybodies International (the parent company of the World Obesity Federation, also of the Federal Highway Administration, the Food & Drug Administration, et al.)

Well, to use a Texas expression:  fuck all y’all.

It’s a little early to have another pint of gin, but it’s never too early for one of of these:

Back in a bit.

So Much To Do, So Little Done

Okay, Sir Winston may have had more weighty matters on his mind when he said that, but I know how he felt, after reading this:

Britain’s BEST chippies: Top 15 seafood eateries are revealed in National Fish and Chip Awards 2020

As any fule kno, one of my favorite meals in Britishland is the venerable F&C (proof below).

So when I read articles like the above, all it makes me want to do is hop on a plane across The Pond and embark on a tour of the top 15…

However.  The list shortens quite a bit as some of the chippies’ locations are on Kim’s List Of Places Never To Visit (based on the recommendations of Stout Bulldogs like Mr. Free Market, The Englishman and the Sorensons) — places such as Belfast, the whole of Wales and anywhere in County Durham.

Still, this one (in Kent) looks promising:

…especially as Kent is home to one of the best beer brands anywhere:

And if they haven’t got Spitfire, there is an alternative:

Tell me you wouldn’t, if you were me.

Fish Footprints

Is there any possible part of our daily life that isn’t going to be measured by this bullshit metric?

Fish sticks may seem harmless, but the tiny food is creating a huge carbon footprint.
A new study has found that transforming Alaskan Pollock into fish sticks, imitation crab and fish fillets generates nearly twice the greenhouse gas emissions produced by fishing itself.

I’m getting to the point where the more I’m scolded for behavior which (allegedly) harms the planet or in some way offends people of a certain type, the more I’m likely to increase said behavior.

I’ve never been that keen on fish sticks — I think I grew out of the taste at age 8 — but I think I’ll pick up a pack or two of Gorton’s the next time I’m at the supermarket, just for spite.

And then there’s this, from the same article:

Families that often dine out and consume large quantities of sweets and alcohol are likely to have a higher carbon footprint than meat eaters, a study claims.
Researchers came to this conclusion after studying the food habits and carbon footprints of around 60,000 households across Japan.
They found that meat consumption typically only accounts for only 10 per cent of the different in environmental impact between low and high carbon households.
In contrast, households with high carbon footprints typically consumed around two to three times more sweets and alcohol than those with low footprints
Eating out, for example, was found to contribute 175 per cent more carbon emissions for the average household than eating meats.
In fact, dining in restaurants was seen to contribute an annual average of 770 kilograms (121 stone) of greenhouse gases towards the environmental impact of those households with a high carbon footprint.

That does it.  Tonight is Pizza Night chez  Du Toit (which is an immutable institution), but tomorrow night I think I’ll take New Wife to Hard Eight BBQ, which boasts a meat smoker that puts out more smoke than a fucking 19th-century steamship.

Chide me, I dare ya.