Cured Meat Chronicles #1 – Biltong Hybrid

Biltong is an African treat that many seem to be quite passionate about. People get upset if you call it jerky. By rights, it may look like jerky because it is dried meat, but based on photos I’ve seen, the meat is much thicker, and sliced thin like italian salami or lunch meat to eat, versus simply gnawing on a hunk of the stuff. I picked this delicatessen because it seemed a bit easier to manage for my first foray into curing my own salumi’s and a little less involved. I am not sure if that is true or not, but that is what I am telling myself.

I call this a hybrid because I marinated my meat in a fairly traditional jerky cure, and I got lazy, so it sat in the juice for five days. Then I let it sit in the salt cure for another five days. Traditionally, biltong is made by curing meat strips in a salt and coriander seed mix for several hours, dipping it in a vinegar wash to rid the meat of the saltiness, and then hang drying it in drafty, low humidity, slightly warm area. Laziness. I have no idea how good this stuff will taste in the end, but here we go!

Wet cure recipe:

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp rooster sauce (garlic red pepper sauce)

1 2 lbs. beef roast with a decent marble of fat in it. Not a ton, but make sure it you can see a bit.

Cut your meat at an angle with the grain – about one inch thick by two inch wide strips. Place all ingredients in a large plastic bag, swish around until the brown sugar dissolves and marinate in the fridge for 5 days.

Dry cure:

1 cup salt

1/2 cup cumin seeds (or coriander) – slightly crushed up. You can do this mortar and pestle, food processor, etc.

Dry the meat off with paper towels and lay on a cutting board. In a 9×9 pan, place 1/2 of the salt/cumin/coriander mix and a layer of meat, add another layer of salt and repeat until everything is well covered. Place back in the fridge for 5 days. (Pic below shows meat after the dry cure.)biltongcure

After ten days total, pull meat out of fridge and pour 1/2 cup of vinegar (I used organic champagne vinegar) on a plate or lid of the dish you used. Dip your meat in the vinegar and set it on some paper towels to help absorb the moisture- this helps to alleviate the salty taste. Salt and vinegar are integral for curing purposes. They both help keep mold away from the meat while it is slowly drying to perfection.

dipinvinegarNow the (potential) fun begins. Get a big ass needle, or a knife to make a slit in the meat, some cooking twine and thread these babies up.


Hang it up in your drying area…chamber….somewhere. This is where it gets sticky. Everybody does it differently. There are machines you can buy specifically for this. Some people just hang it in their garages or hall ways. The one thing I did read over and over is to hang it in a drafty place with air circulation that isn’t too humid and around 50 degrees.


And a larger view of my defunct freezer turned curing chamber:

curingchamberThe meat has been in there since Saturday and I’m monitoring it several times a day. It has been hard to get the humidity level right. Apparently the inside of that fridge, when closed, is quite humid (yeay for me! I need that for bresaola and such, but not for this). The temp is good. Ive got the old temp gauge you see in the bottom, and one that shows both temp and humidity on the top. I’ve had to crack the door a bit to cool it off and dry it out and I’ve added a fan.

More photos to come in the following days of the set up and curing meat. Plus a taste test review when its ready to eat!

Update 11/20/13: You can see the finished product here

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