Beer and Biltong
This is my first post where I’ve cheated. Cheater cheater biltong eater.
I’ve cheated because I didn’t actually cook anything this time, even though this is a cooking blog. A while ago on Twitter, someone suggested I try biltong as one of my dangerous foods. I didn’t get around to trying it, but always kept it in the back of my mind, and only got around to ordering some last week. Apparently you can make it yourself (here’s how to do it), but how would I know if it tasted right if I didn’t try some of the good stuff first? I may use this logic to order in cool stuff from now on.
If you’re not from South Africa, you might now be wondering what biltong is. It’s a special form of dried, cured meat,
similar to jerky, although it’s not sweet or spicy, includes coriander, and is usually thicker (and South Africans say that labelling biltong ‘jerky’ is an insult). Apparently when the Dutch migrated to South Africa in the 1600s they brought the process of drying meat with them, which was handy because it took a while to build up herds of farmed animals, and large game kills could have gone to waste in the hot climate. South Africans biltong-ize just about anything now – game, fish, shark (yes, I know shark is a fish, but it’s cool enough to mention on its own. Hey, did you know sharks pee through their skin? An aside, yes, but one of the few nuggets I recall from my university education so had to share), ostrich, but most commonly, beef. According to the wise old Internet, biltong is South Africa’s national snack, always present at sports matches, and best accompanied by beer. You had me at beer.
I ordered some online from Eat Sum More, a South African food store north of Toronto run by SA immigrants who come from a long line of butchers. I ordered a half-kilo for $28.75 without having a mental image of how much a half-kilo was. It was a lot. So I had to figure out what to do with it. Of course my mind leapt to “baby shower,” which was where I was going yesterday. I chopped some into bite-sized pieces and brought cheese and crackers to go with it to decrease the weird factor, ready to biltong-ize my Aunt Sharon’s house full of women.
I walked through the door into a world of pink, in honour of my cousin’s new baby Madelyn. There were gorgeous pink cupcakes, a table full of different sized jars of every pink candy you could imagine, and a table full of carefully chosen lovely luncheon foods. I pictured myself slapping my dehydrated wrinkly brown meat sticks
into the middle of it all and chickened out. Imagine a bunch of ladies daintily gnawing their way through some sinewy meat carcass? Entertaining, yes, but I became concerned I may have become excommunicated from my family. I sheepishly snuck my biltong back out the door again, un-unveiled.
I’m kind of glad I reclaimed it, though, because the biltong is very tasty, and even though it’s been less than 24 hours since I opened it, my half-kilo supply is quickly dwindling. And I haven’t even tried it with its suggested ale accompaniment yet! I keep telling myself that the added protein will quickly turn into muscle and give me a biltong-a-licious bod, but the salt and fat might foil that plan. Oh well, the taste is worth it. Rating: 3 Yums. Definitely worth a try.
Beverage Pairing: This was an easy one. Zulu Blonde Export Ale – a South African beer with an awesome name whose brewmaster says on the website, “For sure, it’s a beer that will go well with biltong.” Seems to be available in the UK, but check the website for other availability.