Tasty Offenses to Biltong Purists
You can find recipes for traditional South African Biltong with coriander all over the web, and it’s awesome – but let’s try a few quite different flavors for a change. These are all tasty offenses to biltong purists!
First of all there’s the Scandinavian style biltong recipe with mustard and dill. The second recipe is for the Mediterranean lamb biltong with wine, balsamico vinegar, rosemary and/or thyme. Both are very different from the traditional recipe but they’re really good.
All measures are approximates since a ‚this looks about right‘-method has been applied. Biltong is basically a raw product, so you should not eat it if you are ill, pregnant, or too young to read this.
Scandinavian Style Biltong
two pounds of high quality meat, preferably beef or elk or reindeer (rather lean and tender cuts, but not entirely fat free – e.g. flank)
Vinegar (malt or white wine or balsamico bianco will do)
demerara sugar or mild liquid honey
whole mustard seeds
coarse and fine salt
fresh nutmeg or white pepper (optional)
Besides the biltong box and numerous hooks, you will also need a sharp knife, a bowl, a mortar and some kitchen towels.
1. Cut the meat into slices about 2-3 cm thick. Cut with the grain, i.e. along the length of muscle fibres. Remove sinews and excess fat if necessary . Wash the meat under water and dab it dry.
2. Make the marinade: mix 2 dl of vinegar with 3 tablespoons of salt, 5 of sugar/honey and 2 of slightly crushed mustard seeds (the marinade in the bowl in the background is a traditional coriander recipe made at the same time).
4. Prepare the spice mix: grind about 2 tablespoons of mustard seeds in a mortar. Add half a teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg can add a nice taste to it too. Add a teaspoon of fine salt and 2 tablespoons of dried dill and mix.
5. Take the meat out of the marinade, dry it thoroughly again and rub it with the spice mix until it’s well covered.
6. Hang the meat in the biltong box using hooks (or thread). Don’t cram the slices in too closely packed, the air needs to be able to circulate. Put the box into a cool, dry place. Switch on the light bulb. It’s important that the outside air is cooler than the inside of the box so as to create a steady light draft.
7. First day, not much happens. On the second day the meat should start to get dry on the surface. Keep checking on it every day. After three days to a week (pending on thickness of cuts, temperature, draft and humidity) there shouldn’t be much moisture left in the meat. Take it out before it gets too brittle. Put into solid freezer bags which you don’t seal entirely, and store in a cool dry place (it can also be frozen, but usually it’s gone before one can even consider freezing it).
8. Slice the meat thinly just before serving. Cutting tough dried biltong provides an excellent opportunity for self-mutilation, so sharpen your carving knife well or use an electric cutter if you have one in your kitchen.
9. Have friends over and serve as nibbles with a spicy, fruity IPA. If you’re not a biltong purist, it also makes a really nice topping for a crisp herb salad, or finely grated and eaten on fresh bread with sour cream.
Mediterranean Lamb Biltong
two pounds of high quality lamb (or beef or anything else, but the result will be quite different) from leaner parts
black pepper, freshly ground
coarse sea salt
some rich, dry red wine
dried rosemary and/or thyme
As always, you will also need a sharp knife, a bowl, a mortar and some kitchen towels, plus a brush for basting.
1. Cut the meat into slices about 2-3 cm thick. Cut with the grain, i.e. along the length of muscle fibres. Remove sinews and excess fat if necessary. Wash the meat briefly under water and dry well.
2. Mix 100 g of sea salt with 75 g of sugar and rub generously over the meat. Let everything sit for half an hour if you use very tender meat (like saddle of lamb), somewhat longer if you use beef flank or similar. Briefly rinse off the excess salt and dab dry.
3. Make the basting mix in the meantime: 3 cl each of balsamic vinegar and red wine, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of sugar and some freshly ground pepper and herbs. Brush the meat thoroughly. Dab with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Rub some extra crushed herbs and ground pepper on the meat.
5. Have friends over and serve as nibbles with the corresponding wine. Goes nicely with ciabatta dipped in olive oil.