Have you ever tried making your own biltong? Good for you! Have you ever tried making your own biltong in your car while adventuring through the Namibian moonscapes? No? Well… what are you waiting for?
This idea came to me for a couple of reasons. The first is because, obviously, like any true South African, I love biltong. Then there was the thing that we’ve been desolate for three weeks, travelling through Namibia and I was out of ’tong. But then we arrived at Sossusvlei – renowned for their venison. And art department had some wire. And culinary department had all the spices I needed. And the Sossusvlei Lodge had a huge selection of venison. And so I was game to experiment. And it worked! There is one rule of thumb though – use the best meat you can get your hands on. Cheaper meat is full of sinew and stuff and doesn’t make lekker biltong (unless you’re making it for a teething baby to suck on).
Once you’ve got your meat, cut it into strips – with the grain – about 20 cm long and 3 cm thick. But on this note – if it’s hot where you are, cut it thinner – the thicker the cut, the longer it will take to cure and you definitely want to avoid the meat going vrot. When you’ve cut the meat to its desired thickness and length, it’s time to spice it up.
First up you’re going to make a dry spice mixture. Mix together equal amounts of:
To this, add triple the amount of toasted coriander seeds (crushed). Then mix through a couple of pinches of salt – but don’t be too heavy handed. There’s nothing worse than eating biltong and feeling like you’ve just licked an entire salt pan.
When your spice mix is ready, place the strips of meat (one layer) in a glass or stainless steel bowl. Add a sprinkle of spice and then a light drizzle of both Worcestershire sauce and vinegar. Add another layer of meat, more spice and more sauce. Repeat until you’ve used up all the meat, then cover the bowl and pop it in the fridge for the night. The next morning before you’re about to hit the road, walk to your car with wire, a wire cutter, your car keys, the cured meat and a vague idea of what to do.
First up, and if you’re going to do it my way, cover the dashboard with tinfoil to catch the drippings and some of the spices that will inevitably drop off the biltong on the first day. And then it’s time to hang it up.
There really can’t be any rules here other than don’t hang any biltong by an open window (dusty roads), in the boot (too hot), in the engine (too gross), or hovering above your passengers (too rude). What I did was hang it above my windscreen, using my rear-view mirror as an anchor, and getting the wire high enough so that it didn’t obscure my view of the road. Make an incision about 2 cm from the top of each piece of meat, thread the wire through the meat, then hang the wire wherever you deem suitable and secure it tightly so that you’re free to still go off the beaten track.
Get in and travel. This biltong hung in my car for about three days and roughly 1 000 kilometres and by the time we arrived at the Fish River Canyon it was ready to eat. Sadly, with all the crew it only lasted a day, but it was worth it and I recommend trying this to any bush-cook road tripper out there.