South African Biltong
The production of biltong, a popular ready-to-eat salted and dried meat product from South Africa, involves a series of steps, including meat preparation, salting, spicing and drying. The preservation of meat through curing and drying is not a new concept. Centuries ago, seafarers salted and pickled meat in wooden barrels so they had food during the long months at sea. It has been said that the indigenous tribes of Africa had their own methods for meat preservation before the first settlers came to Southern Africa. These involved salting and drying meat. Once on land, the first settlers allegedly adopted this process, because of the need for food preservation. While game (wild animals/ungulates) was abundant in Southern Africa, they had no means of storing the meat that was hunted. They took to drying it in the sun like the indigenous tribes, but added vinegar and spices. The spices they used, which are still the same (see below) were abundant from the then Cape Colony and the vinegars were made from the grapes of the French Huguenots. So drying became an accepted means of meat preservation. The Voortrekkers (early pioneers) cured and dried the meat for up to two weeks and wrapped it in cloth for transportation before setting out on their travels across the continent. The word ‘biltong’ is derived from the Dutch word ‘bil’ meaning round or buttock, and ‘tong’, which is related to tongue, because biltong is made from strips of meat.