Stellar biltong: how to make your own and where to buy the best

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The question “who makes the best biltong?” is likely to start a fierce debate, with people swearing their butchery’s rendition simply can’t be beat. This was certainly true at the Sunday Times Food HQ when we called for recommendations of places that make a stellar version of SA’s favourite meaty snack.

Here are some of the butcheries around SA whose biltong our staffers rate highly, plus an easy recipe to make your own at home.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN BILTONG

It’s easy to make your own biltong, which is traditionally cured using just five simple ingredients: salt, pepper, vinegar, brown sugar and coriander.

Start off with the best cuts of beef money can buy, like the hindquarter cuts of topside and silverside. I’ve used forequarters cuts like bolo and thick flank too. Select cuts with little marbling of fat, rather aiming for those that have a good strip of fat running down one side, as this adds flavour and succulence.

Cut the meat into 2-3 cm thick slices. Remember you’ll lose about 50% of the original weight when it dries out, so don’t cut it too thinly.

To cure 3kg of beef, you’ll need 100g (just under 1.2 cup) coarse salt, 30ml (2 tbsp) brown sugar, 5ml (1tsp) of freshly ground black pepper, about 100ml vinegar – I prefer the brown grape variety – and most importantly 45ml (3 tbsp) of FRESH coriander seeds, not the ones lurking in the back of the cupboard which have lost their flavour.

Roast the coriander seeds in a dry pan, taking care as spices can burn quickly, and once they release the fragrant aroma, remove them from the heat. Grind in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder, then combine with the other dry ingredients to make a spice rub.

Rub the meat with the spice mixture, then layer it in a plastic or enamel container that’s long enough for the strips to lie flat. Sprinkle over the vinegar and leave covered with a clean dishcloth to marinate overnight.

Then insert wire or plastic hooks into each strip of meat and hang then in a draughty place, not too closely together, to dry for anything from seven to 14 days, depending on how you enjoy your biltong, wet or dry.

FIVE PLACES WE RATE FOR THEIR BILTONG

STELLENBOSCH: EIKEBOOM BUTCHERY

“We make biltong with high quality meat, high quality spices and no funny stuff in-between. We don’t use fake enhancers, it’s just good old-fashioned biltong,” say the owners of this butchery, which won the 2019 Pinotage and Boland Biltong Competition.

As well as beef biltong, R270/kg, they make springbok and kudu biltong.

Visit their branches at Devon Place Centre in Bottelary (call 021 865 2559) and Plein Street in the Stellenbosch CBD (call 021 886 5731).

VENTERSBURG/MMAMAHABANE: THE FAT BUTCHER

“Our biltong is made with a touch of love and is special because we use older cows that have had more grazing time which gives the meat more flavour. Once you have tasted it you want to have more and you can’t get enough,” say the owners of this butchery on Voortrekker Street.

Their beef biltong sells for R349/kg and they make dry wors, chilli bites, bacon biltong and salami too. Call 082 388 0118.

JOBURG: REMBRANDT BUTCHERY

“Nothing beats the quality of our beef biltong,” says the owner of this neighbourhood butchery on 4th Avenue in Linden. Their biltong sells for R285/kg and they make dry wors too. Call 011 888 4663.

KWAZULU-NATAL: BILLIE BOYS BILTONG

“The consumer’s opinion is what counts, not ours, and we have many satisfied consumers who return for more,” say those at the La Lucia Mall branch of this KwaZulu-Natal chain of biltong stores. Apart from their top-selling beef biltong, R390/kg, they offer game and chicken biltong too. Visit billieboys.co.za to find your nearest store.

PRETORIA: KINGS MEAT DELI

Consistent winner of the red meat industry’s Cleaver Awards, this butchery at Lynnwood Bridge is famous for its “ceiling of biltong”. Apart from their beef biltong, R279/kg, “which is made with quality meat, herbs and spices”, they make dry wors and kudu biltong too. Call 012 348 2189.