Cape Town in South Africa is perhaps not the most interesting city on the planet, although it was the site of my first ever biltong experience! I have seen this biltong available for sale in supermarkets across the world, but never got round to trying some. So when I had the chance to sample some of the local variety here in Cape Town, I couldn’t refuse!
Biltong is a variety of dried meat that originated in South Africa. Various types of meat are used to produce it, ranging from beef and game meats to fillets of ostrich from commercial farms. Ostrich biltong is a personal favourite of mine! Biltong is a high protein food. Often, 200g of beef is required to make 100g of biltong, and the process of making biltong preserves most of the protein content. It is similar to beef jerky in that they are both spiced and dried meats. The main difference being that biltong is dried and subsequently sliced whereas jerky is sliced prior to drying.
Walking through some of the suburbs of Cape Town, I got the chance to see the biltong on sale in shop windows and inside cafés. It doesn’t look like the most appetising snack ever, but biltong is surprisingly tasty for something so chewy! It seems everybody in Cape Town loves their biltong, and in fact I have never known an Afrikaner to turn it down! Yet before it gets to the presentation stage in shop windows, biltong meat is marinated in vinegar for a few hours, and then a spice mix of rock salt, barbecue spice, whole coriander, black pepper, and brown sugar is sprinkled liberally over the meat and rubbed in. At which time, the biltong is typically dried out in the cold air or in cardboard boxes.
While biltong is usually eaten as a snack, it can also be diced up into stews, or added to muffins or pot bread. Biltong-flavoured potato crisps have also been produced, and there are cheese spreads with a biltong flavour. Finely shredded biltong is eaten on slices of bread and in sandwiches. I can full well imagine a Gatsby sandwich from South Africa being full of shredded biltong (rather than fresh meat), and who knows – maybe Afrikaners include biltong in their bobotie?