In the days without fridges people used various methods to cure meat in order to preserve it.
It was smoked, wind dried, cured by salting.
Soutribbetjie was a favourite method of preserving mutton ribs and often accompanied groups on their journey into the hinterland.
This traditional recipe for soutribbetjie was handed down through generations, from the 19th
century to a dear friend of mine who passed it onto me.
I often see recipes specifying Lamb
ribs for Soutribbetjie but would really advise the use of mutton as the smaller lamb ribs tend to disappear into unsatisfactory portions during the curing/cooking process. Additionally, although mutton is regarded as a somewhat tough meat, mutton soutribbetjie is extremely tender due to being both boiled and grilled.
WARNING Because of its popularity so-called raw soutribbetjie is sold through supermarkets and butchers. In general, although not always, these "soutribbetjies" are nothing like traditional versions they're often merely a section of raw rib marinating in a wholesalers pre-mixed spiced sauce containing various artificial colourants.
They certainly do not deserve the name of "Soutribbetjie" and are in effect an injustice to the original. It is far better to make your own in order to experience the proper taste and texture of genuine soutribbetjies.
Now I've got that rant of my chest let's cut the cackle and get on with the recipe:-
1 mutton rib with the breastbone pre cut by the butcher
30ml (2 tbsp) coriander (optional)
250ml (1 cup) salt
30ml (2 tbsp) soft brown sugar
NOTE Traditionally soutribbetjie recipes called for saltpetre (nitre, niter or potassium nitrate) which is obtainable from a chemist. This gives the cooked rib its traditional pink colouration. I've left it out as many people are reluctant to use saltpetre, a component of gun-powder, in a recipe. I do however use 2½ml (½tsp) of it myself. I also use the coriander as I believe it improves the taste.
Cut the mutton fat in a criss-cross pattern to form diamond shapes about 2cm (1 inch) square
Grind the coriander coarsely either by using a mortar and pestle or giving it a very quick buzz in a coffee grinder.
Mix the salt and brown sugar together with the optional coriander and saltpetre and rub thoroughly into the mutton (or lamb if you insist)
Place the rib in a glass or plastic container (not metal which will react with the salt mixture) and place in a cool area (you can use a fridge nowadays)
Leave for 3 days but turn the rib twice a day during this time.
Then either, hang the meat out to dry in the wind, preferably in a gauze covered meat safe to prevent flies crawling over it, or dry in a biltong maker
The Soutribbetjie can be dried out completely in much the same way as you would dry biltong.
You could then leave it for some time until your next braai (BBQ)
Braaiing the Soutribbetjie
Rinse off the ribbetjie in cold running water
¾ fill a large pot with cold water, add the ribbetjie making sure it is fully covered with the water.
Bring to a rolling boil, reduce the heat and boil slowly for 2 to 2¼ hours.
Decant the resulting salt water and pat the ribbetjie dry with a paper kitchen towel or, as in the old days, a piece of flannel cloth.
Use the time you take to boil the soutribbetjie to make the fire for your braai.
You should braai the ribbetjie in a grid high above the coals (not being licked by flames)
Since it will take some time ensure you have a fire going alongside to be able to replenish the coals when necessary
The Soutribbetjie is ready when the fat is crispy and the meat is somewhat well done, if you use saltpetre the mutton will turn pink during cooking.
And there you have it:- Traditional South African SOUTRIBBETJIE
cut pieces through the breastbone to serve.
I'm sure you'll find the taste, distinctly different from the commercial rubbish, an absolute treat and well worth the time and effort involved.
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