Biltong is a dry cured meat that originates from South Africa. Early settlers from Holland found that Africa was well populated with large numbers of wild game in the form of a number of antelope species, as well as many other tasty treats. The problem was that meat, however plentiful, doesn’t keep well in warm climates. Cured meat had been part of the staple diet on board the ships transporting the early settlers, and they soon adapted an air curing process to produce a long lasting and excellent source of protein.
Modern day biltong can be found just about everywhere in South Africa and has retraced its steps back to European countries, including the UK. Biltong can be made with a wide variety of meats and common varieties in South Africa include beef, chicken, lamb, ostrich, buffalo and even the occasional crocodile version. Imports of processed meats from South Africa are banned in EU countries, so UK biltong is usually restricted to the beef and game biltong variety – although there are Ostrich farms producing the raw material for Ostrich biltong here as well.
Game biltong is probably the healthiest type of biltong. In the UK it is mostly likely to take the form of venison biltong. Venison, along with other game, is a very lean meat. Containing essential protein, vitamins and nutrients for energy, muscle structure and development, game of any variety is one of the healthiest ways to enjoy meat. Game biltong is a convenient way to eat “on the hoof” making it ideal for those involved in active sports which require energy and stamina. Mountaineers and marathon runners find that biltong in any variety is easy to carry and provides much needed energy.
Beef biltong is by far the most common UK biltong to be found. Produced to traditional South African recipes and using traditional air curing techniques it utilises the best quality and leanest meat with low fat content. Biltong is well known for its versatility and while it makes an excellent snack or energy food, it works equally well as a basis for a range of meals. As it’s dried and can be stored for long periods biltong is a great stock food to keep in the cupboard and can be added to make the base for a soup, stew or even mixed in with salads.
For those on a diet this particular South African Gem makes an ideal addition to a calorie controlled diet. Its versatility is part of the attraction and it can be added to sandwiches for lunch or used as part of a main evening meal. Its low calorie count doesn’t, like some diet foods, equal lack of taste. Marinated with herbs, spices, pepper and vinegars it’s a high taste, low calorie option and can liven up even the strictest diets.
Now produced widely in the UK, biltong can be found in a range of major supermarkets across the country. It’s also beginning to infiltrate the British Pub as an alternative to the rather un-imaginative bag of crisps or scratchings. A long-time favourite with South Africans living away from home, biltong is now becoming a firm favourite across the world.
Biltong is cured with a mixture of herbs and spices, creating a tasty, healthy snack. Originating with Dutch Settlers in Africa it has become virtually a National Dish in South Africa and has now become popular with people around the world. Available from a broad range of outlets in the UK, biltong is one snack that won’t harm your calorie count.