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The Biltong Virgin

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Biltong Virgin

If you’re a Biltong Virgin and you’re wondering what Biltong is and why people love it so much then you have come to the right place.

What Is Biltong?

Biltong is a delicious meat product created through a certain type of meat preservation.

Native to South Africa, the process of making Biltong was adapted from the Southern African peoples’ process of preserving meat. Indigenous peoples such as the Khoikhoi preserved meat in the hot climate by slicing it into strips, curing it with salt, and hanging it up to dry.

When European settlers, like the Dutch, German and French, arrived in Southern Africa in the early 17th century, they adopted the Biltong curing process, and then altered it by using vinegar, saltpeter and spices including black pepper, coriander and cloves during the curing.

This was very useful in a hot climate at a time when refrigerators and iceboxes hadn’t been invented yet! As the colonies grew the need for food and food preservation techniques was pressing. Whilst building up herds of livestock would take a long time, using the local indigenous game population was ideal. Using the traditional methods of preservation allowed for the curing of these meats, especially on animals with large masses of meat such as the eland, a type of deer.

As colonists, specifically the wagon-travelling Voortrekkers, migrated from the Cape Colony north and north-eastward (away from the rule of the British) into the interior of Southern Africa during the Great Trek, dried meat was essential. The meat was preserved and hung to be dried for a fortnight after which it would be read for packing into cloth bags.

Biltong as we know it today evolved from these meat preservation and meat drying techniques and remains a nutritious and delicious food!

How is it cured?

Biltong curing ranges from Supplier to Supplier. In South Africa, Biltong is produced in the winter months when the humidity is low and cold dry air passes over the meat to remove the moisture. Here in the UK, companies often tend to use traditional metal biltong cabinets to try the meat.

What makes Simply African Food’s Biltong so great?

At Simply African Food we try to adopt the traditional method of non-heat drying. This gives our biltong the freshness that Biltong deserves.

Our silverside of beef is 100% hand cut strips of the finest beef money can buy, it is then treated to Simply African Foods’ secret method of marinating! This is probably the most crucial part of Biltong making.

Time to dry… Our state of the art Biltong drying room has been cleverly designed to ensure that the air coming in is heated only to 20 - 30°C. This removes humidity but doesn’t overheat the meat and our large commercial fans do the rest.

The difference between Jerky and Biltong?

Biltong differs from Jerky in three distinct ways:

  • The meat used in Biltong can be much thicker; typically biltong meat is cut in strips approximately 1" (25 mm) wide – but can be thicker. Jerky is normally very thin meat
  • Jerky is traditionally dried with salt but without vinegar. The vinegar, salt and spices in Biltong, together with the drying process, cure the meat as well as add texture and flavour
  • Jerky is often smoked; Biltong is never smoked

So, there you have it, all you Biltong Virgins need to do now is browse our selection of Biltong and order your first lot to try!

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