When we visited The Carter Street butchers in Fordham last weekend there were long slim peppered beef sausages hanging in the window. Beyond these was a rack where some dark dried meat was hanging.
“There are fifty Southern Africans living in the village. Eventually I had to try my hand at making Biltong,” the butcher confided as he cut us a bit of peppered beef sausage to sample. The beef sausage was very good and we bought one.
“Shall we buy some Biltong too?”
“Not today.” Danny was firm.
By the time I returned to collect a pork belly there was one key priority. I had to taste the Biltong, it had played on my mind all weekend. Never having tasted this delicacy, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As the butcher sliced a sample, I discovered that the meat is only dry on the outside. I took a tentative bite.
It was wonderful. All that a lover of dried, cured meat could want and so much more. So I bought a small piece and rushed home to introduce Danny to this exceptional treat.
We discovered that The Fordham Butcher’s Biltong is extremely moreish. The small slices slipped down so well as we chatted. They were tasty for breakfast the next morning and as an appetiser as I made the sandwiches for lunch. I took a few slices to work to ease me through the four o’clock watershed when energy is low. We have feasted and still have some left – in a plain brown wrapper in the fridge.
The butcher buys his Biltong spice mix from South Africa. I couldn’t resist venturing onto the Internet to check out recipes and curing methods. If you live in southern Africa you can hang your Biltong in a tree. In the northern hemisphere you can get fancy using fans and wire mesh cages (where did I put that meat safe?).
At it’s most basic level you can produce Biltong in a large cardboard box with a 60 watt light bulb as a heat source. This seems like a great site for recipes and curing information.
Salami production chez Cottage Smallholder ceased during the summer months as the temperature went well above those for safe initial air drying. Biltong is different. It needs warm air.
I couldn’t wait to photograph the Biltong this evening and hoover up those three slim slices. Danny likes it but finds it a bit too salty. For me, it’s the start of a love affair that will have me returning to that shop in Fordham regularly until I can make my own.
Watch this space
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