“Ho ho ho!”
No, it’s not Hugh Heffner calling his three little maidens. It is Christmas in August, for I bring you glad tidings of great joy. The flavoured biltong recipes are ready for consumption. [By the way, you can read the The original biltong recipe here].
Both of my readers (yes, I got another one recently – and our sympathies go to their families, of course) have been really patient while I do my research and recipe testing. And on that subject, there appears to be a large contingent of biltong makers who feel that their recipes ought to be kept v.e.r.y secret. In the past months, I’ve visited several biltong makers throughout the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape provinces, and nearly all of them give the stock standard response, “Nah boet, I just use the normal spices hey.” It seemed as if nothing short of a stint in Guantanamo and a healthy disregard for the Geneva Convention would separate them from their biltong making secrets.
Well I haven’t taken this lying down. I didn’t even take it kneeling – except for on unfortunate incident with a very large farmer who took it up the wrong way, and the ensuing conversation required a hot extraction by Mrs Chips (I’m just getting myself deeper into this aren’t I?). No but seriously, the chaps have not been readily forthcoming with their ‘winning’ recipes, so I’ve done quite a lot of experimenting (no, not with the burly farmer – quiet you, in the back!). So, in the spirit of the internet and ubiquitous information here is what shall henceforth be known as:
OPEN SAUCE BILTONG RECIPES –
You read it here first people.
Today’s recipe is a Brandy flavoured (Cognac, if you’re feeling flush) biltong. It is an adaptation of the original recipe by adjusting the spices and adding a little cognac. In so doing, a most pleasing layer of flavour was subtly added.
For you who are in countries other than South Africa, where Saltpetre, or Potassium Nitrate, is outlawed (we will leave the manufacture of explosive snacks to other, more radical peoples – here we just eat the stuff), you will be relieved to know that these recipes contain NO Saltpetre.
You will also be pleased to note that, unlike the original recipe for 25kgs of meat, the following quantities were used for a mere 1.8kg to 2kg of Silverside
Before we start, dear Reader, just a word of caution on flavouring. Flavour is about as subjective as a work of art; a flavour that appeals to one, might not be too lekker [Afrikaans: delicious] to another. So be prepared to do some experimentation, adjusting the levels of spices to suit your palette.
Also, with when making a cognac-flavoured biltong, subtlety must be our watchword. Adding too much cognac or brandy (as enjoyable as a “Brannas en Coke” – a beverage I am told is favoured among certain echelons of society) has all the subtlety of a leopard skin speedo….Not an image upon which one need linger… Right, on with your biltong.
- 1.8 to 2kg of your butcher’s best Silverside:
- 60ml rock salt (I use Maldon)
- 15ml Demarara sugar
- 3 ml Sodium Bicarbonate – or Bicarb
- 5 ml Ground Black Pepper
- 50ml ground Coriander [see ‘notes’ below]
- 5 ml ground Caraway seed [optional and see ‘notes’ below]
- 4 or 5 Juniper berries – roasted and ground [optional – see ‘notes’ below]
- 40ml Vinegar mix [consisting of Brown Malt, Honey and Balsamic vinegars. [you guessed it…See ‘notes’ below]
- 20ml Worcestershire Sauce (HP Sauce is also permissible)
- 20ml Cognac or Brandy.
- One CLEAN trigger spray (you can buy these at most supermarkets or cooking supply stores).
- Make the vinegar mix – in the ‘notes’ below
- Mix the dry ingredients together
- Add the roasted and ground Coriander
- Add the roasted and ground Caraway & Juniper seeds if you’re opting for this
- Ensure the meat is at room temperature – about 18-21C
- Rub the spices into the meat. Give it a good massage
- Liberally sprinkle (about two thirds of the quantity) of vinegar mix onto the meat and massage the meat for another minute or three.
- Leave the meat to soak in the spice/vinegar mix for about 10 to 12 hours
After the soak
- Add 1 litre of boiling water to the remaining 1/3 of the vinegar. If you live in a humid area, add another 30ml of brown malt vinegar
- Insert the plastic hooks into the meat and dip it into the vinegar solution to remove any surface spices. Remove quickly and allow to drip.
- Hang the biltong in your drying area. As per normal
- After the first 24 hours of drying, take your trigger spray magafter [that is South African for ‘thingamabob] and insert the suction pipe into the cognac (bottle or handy glass if you so desire), and give the meat a SHORT spray. Don’t soak the meat – remember the subtlety thing.
- Repeat after another 48 hours until you’re happy with the flavour.
Roasting and grinding.
Preferably, roast and grind the three spices separately. In this way you will get an idea whether you want to add the Caraway or Juniper seeds and te respective quantities.
Coriander. It is entirely permissible to use the ground Coriander bought from the supermarket. However, since you’re going to all the trouble of making your own biltong, why not make sure it tastes that bit better.
If you buy the Coriander in seed form, lob the required quantity into a dry pan over a medium heat. Watch it like a hawk and as soon as they start to turn brown (or give off the first hint of smoke), whip them off the heat and into the mortar and pestle for a good grinding. Try and do this on the day you’re making the biltong as the added intensity of the freshly ground seeds really enhances the flavour of the biltong and makes the kitchen smell all Jamie Oliver-ish – i.e. professional.
Same goes for the Caraway and Juniper seeds.
With the Caraway, don’t heat them too much because you’ll get a bitter aftertaste. Take care with the quantity too, because Caraway has a strong flavour and if you put too much into the spice mix, you’ll overpower the other flavours. So add the Caraway pinch by pinch.
I found that adding 4 or 5 Juniper berries (also roasted and ground) complimented the Cognac pleasingly.
The vinegar mix I used was a follows:
- The 40 ml of vinegar was made up of
- 20ml of Brown Malt Vinegar,
- 10ml Honey Vinegar and
- 10ml Balsamic vinegar.
The biltong will taste quite satisfactory with just the plain old Brown Malt Vinegar; and you may well prefer it that way. I simply added the others for the ‘gourmet’ flavouring.
Best of luck with your attempt. I really hope it goes well and that you enjoy the end product. Let me know how you go.