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BILTONG
A variation of Jerky

This TRADITIONAL BILTONG RECIPE is for the basic South African beef biltong.

It is an interesting and tasty alternative to beef jerky. Like Beef Jerky, Biltong can be produced in various flavors by adding things like garlic or chili peppers to the recipe.

Personally, I find the original plain biltong the most enjoyable.

Biltong Ingredients

25 lb beef (top round/sirloin/London broil/ eye of round)
4 pints warm water
1 lb fine salt
cup brown sugar
cup coriander, coarsely ground
2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp black pepper, ground
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp saltpeter (optional)


To make the biltong

Cut the meat along the natural dividing lines of the muscles of the meat of choice.

Cut into strips of approximately 2-inch thick and any desired length, always cutting with the grain.

Mix the salt, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, saltpeter, pepper and coriander together.

Rub the seasoning mixture thoroughly into the strips of meat.

Layer the meat, with the more bulky pieces at the bottom, in a glass or stainless steel container. Sprinkle a little vinegar over each layer, as you add them.

Biltong, hung ready for eating
South African Biltong. A great taste.


Leave the meat in a cool place for 12 hours or more, depending on how salty you want the meat to be.

(Some experimentation may be required to ascertain the correct length of time to let the biltong 'marinade' for, according to your taste.)

Remove the meat from the marinade Mix the water and vinegar and dip the meat into this mixture. This makes the biltong shiny and dark.

Once this is complete, the biltong is ready to dry.

Pat the pieces of meat dry and then hang them up on S-shaped hooks, or use pieces of string, about 2 inches apart.

Hang the biltong in a cool to warm, dry place with an oscillating fan blowing on it.

Ensure that the air is dry, as too much moisture will cause the meat to spoil.

The biltong is ready when the outside is hard and the center part of the biltong strip is still a little moist.

Let the center dry according to personal taste.

Makes about 21 lb


BILTONG is South African dried meat and has been around for centuries.

Any South African will do almost anything to get a share if he/she knows that BILTONG is available.

Biltong is cut from the "stick" in thin pieces using a very sharp knife. Some people shave off a number of pieces at a time so they don't have to let cutting interfere with eating.

A professional trick is to place the biltong in a vice and, using a wood plane shave off as many pieces of the desired thickness as required.

Eaten on its own as an appetizer or all day munch. Especially at sporting events, but anywhere is OK.

Try it, you'll find it much more addictive than peanuts or potato crisps.

The recipe given above is for beef biltong, but like jerky, biltong may be made using game animals such as Buck and Deer.

Ostrich produces a great tasting but somewhat dry biltong.

PS. Biltong is not really recommended for unfortunate souls wearing dentures, unless its shaved very thin

Make your own biltong box:-

I never found it really necessary to make my biltong in a biltong curer until I moved from the dry Transvaal to the relatively humid Cape Town when I found that my biltong was at some danger of becoming mouldly.

Depending on the materials used it can be relatively cheap and easy to make your own biltong box. You can however go to extreme lengths and make a really deluxe box, in which case you may just as well consider purchasing one.

Your biltong maker can either be made out of a strong cardboard box, or if you want something more durable you may use something like chipboard or super wood. In my example I have used chipboard.

The dimensions of the biltong maker may vary depending upon the amount of biltong you wish to make in it at any given time.

My thanks to my daughter for drawing the boxes, in order to enable me to explain it better.

The box below should be about 900 cm to 1 m high and about 400 cm to 500 cm wide and 250 cm to 300 cm deep.

    drawing f biltong maker
Drawings of Biltong Box © K Tracey 2012

Drill holes in the box as indicated and affix a light fitting in the centre of the biltong boxes base, lead the power wire outside the container and affix an electrical plug to the exterior end of the wire. Fit a 60 W lightbulb in the light fitting.

Place a board, in which you have drilled holes as indicated, 10 cm above the top of the lightbulb. Ensure that no holes are drilled directly above the lightbulb as the board is to ensure that no blood drips onto the lightbulb from the biltong. The holes in this board should be made with your largest drill bit; in fact a circular drill saw would be ideal if you possess such.

It is a great idea to place a thin sheet of plastic on top of this board, leave the plastic loose so that it can be easily removed and cleaned or replaced. Of course you will make holes above those on the board.

Next, drill holes at the bottom and top of the sides, back and front of the biltong maker, this will encourage a draught caused by the heat of the lightbulb. The circulation of warm air speeds up the biltong curing process. The top holes should be about 5 cm from the top.

Either run 2 wooden dowels [or metal rods] across the width of the box. They should be about 3 cm from the top of the box and placed equidistant from each other and the back and front of the biltong curer. Or, you can screw cup hooks into the top of the box in place of the dowels. Use a wire coathanger [or other stiff bendable wire] to make S shaped hooks on which to hang your biltong.

It would be a nice touch, to line the inside of the box with either tinfoil or plastic adhesive shelf paper. This will assist in keeping your biltong box clean. Of course it goes without saying that you need to make holes in this lining as well.

Cover the holes in the sides of the box with metal gauze to keep out flies and insects. You also need to ensure that you use spring hinges on the biltong box door or have some other method of ensuring it keeps closed.

You now have a very efficient and useful biltong maker which will speed up the curing of the biltong quite considerably. Depending upon how wet you want your biltong to be you should be looking at between four to six days to complete your curing process. You will need to experiment with this time because it also depends on the thickness of your biltong slices.

The above is only one example of how to make a biltong box; various materials may be used in the boxes construction. As previously stated you can use cardboard and I have even seen a biltong box made out of a plastic bucket with a lid which acts as the door of the biltong maker.

Enjoy your biltong.

Well, a rather amusing result of my posting this recipe on my site is the amount of rather annoyed correspondence that has resulted.

Seems that biltong purists have taken great umbrage at my daring to compare South African Biltong with Jerky, beef or otherwise.

It would appear that true biltong lovers believe that traditional South African Biltong Recipes produce something so superior to Jerky that Biltong and Jerky shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath, let alone the same web page.

Hence my daring to suggest that Biltong is a tasty alternative to Jerky has raised considerable ire amongst those who feel, once you've tasted properly made traditional South African Biltong that you'll never be satisfied with Jerky again.

I have to concede that Biltong is the superior product and is a far tastier munch than Jerky, which is insipid by comparison.

Biltong recipes updated February 20, 2012: added instructions on how to make a biltong box.


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