Biltong is a kind of cured meat that originated in South Africa. Many different types of meat can be used to make it, ranging from beef through game meats to fillets of ostrich from commercial farms. It is typically made from raw fillets of meat cut into strips following the grain of the muscle, or flat pieces sliced across the grain. It is similar to beef jerky in that they are both spiced, dried meats, but differ in their typical ingredients, taste and production process. The word "biltong" is from the Dutch "bil" ("rump") and "tong" ("strip" or "tongue"). [cite book|publisher=Routledge|date=1977|author=Eric Partridge|title=Origins: An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English| date=2006-09-20 | url=| accessdate=2008-09-24]


The Dutch settlers who arrived in South Africa in the 17th century brought recipes for dried meat from the Old World. Preparation involved applying vinegar then rubbing the strips of meat with a mix of herbs, salts and spices. The need for preservation in the new colony was pressing. Building up herds of livestock took a long time. There was native game about but it could take hunters days to track and kill a large animal such as an eland and they were then faced with the problem of preserving a large mass of meat in a short time in a hot climate during a period of history before iceboxes had been invented. Desiccation solved the problem. Biltong as we understand it today evolved from the dried meat carried by the wagon-travelling Voortrekkers, who needed stocks of durable food as they migrated from the Cape Colony (Cape Town) into the interior of South Africa during the Great Trek. The meat became stable against decay or attack by insects within a day or two and within a fortnight would be black and rock-hard.


Common ingredients of biltong are: [cite book |last=Rockland |first=Louis B. |authorlink= |coauthors= Beuchat, Larry R. |editor= |others= |title= Water Activity: Theory and Applications to Food |origdate= |origyear= |origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate=2008-09-29 |edition= |series= |volume= |date= |year=1987 |month= |publisher=CRC Press |location= |language= |isbn=9780824777593 |pages= p. 318 |chapter= Intermediate Moister Foods |quote= ] [cite book |last=Arora |first=Dilip K. |authorlink= |coauthors=Arora, Bharat Rai |editor= |others= |title=Handbook of Applied Mycology |origdate= |origyear= |origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate=2008-09-29 |edition= |series= |volume= |date= |year=1991 |month= |publisher=CRC Press |location= |language= |isbn=9780824784911 |pages=p. 74 |chapter=Xerophilic Fungi in Intermediate and Low Moisture Foods |quote= ]

* Apple cider vinegar
* Salt
* Coriander
* Black pepper
* Sugar or Brown sugar

Other ingredients often added include: balsamic vinegar or malt vinegar, dry ground chili peppers, garlic, bicarbonate of soda, Worcestershire sauce [cite news |first=Zenoyise |last=Madikwa |authorlink= |author= |coauthors= |title=Making biltong is really simple |url= |format= |work=The Sowetan |publisher= |location= |id= |pages= |page= |date= 2008-09-25 |accessdate=2008-09-29 |language= |quote= |archiveurl= |archivedate= ] , onion powder, and saltpetre.


Biltong is most commonly made from beef. For finest cuts, sirloin is used or steaks cut from the hip. Other cuts can be used, but are not as high quality.

Biltong can also be made from:

* Venison such as Kudu
* Ostrich meat (bright red, often resembling venison)cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |author= |coauthors= |title=Biltong profits cut and dried
url= |format= |work= |publisher= Business Report |location= |id= |pages= |page= |date= 2003-05-23 |accessdate=2008-09-23 |language= |quote= |archiveurl= |archivedate=
* Chicken, simply referred to as 'chicken biltong'
* Fish in this case, known as "Bokkoms" (Shark biltong can also be found in South Africa. [cite book|last= Wylie|first= Diana|authorlink= |title= Starving on a Full Stomach: Hunger and the Triumph of Cultural Racism in Modern South Africa|origdate= |url=|format= |accessdate= 2008-09-23|edition= |series= |year= 2001|month= |publisher= University of Virginia Press|isbn= 9780813920689|pages= p. 83|quote= Sometimes the food donated as famine relief were memorably bizarre, and surprisingly popular, such as shark biltong (dried shark meat). ] [cite book|last= Heemstra|first= Elaine|authorlink= |title= Coastal Fishes of Southern Africa |url=|format= |accessdate= 2008-09-23|edition= |series= |year= 2004|month= |publisher= NISC (PTY) Ltd.|isbn= 9781920033019|pages= p. 63-64|quote= [T] he meat [of the soupfin shark] is dried, salted and sold as shark biltong. ] )

"Bokkoms" should not be confused with other cured fish such as Dried Angel Fish and Dried Snoek.


Ideally the meat is marinated in a vinegar solution (cider vinegar is traditional but balsamic also works very well) for a few hours. This is then poured off and the meat thoroughly mixed with the spice mix, traditionally equal amounts of: rock salt, whole coriander, black pepper and brown sugar. This mix is then ground roughly together, sprinkled liberally over the meat and rubbed in. Saltpetre is optional and can be added as an extra preservative (necessary only for wet biltong that is not going to be frozen).

The meat should then be left for a further few hours (or refrigerated overnight) and any excess liquid poured off before the meat is hung in the dryer.


It is typically dried out in the cold night air (rural settings), cardboard or wooden boxes (urban) or climate-controlled dry rooms (commercial). Depending on the spices used, a variety of flavours may be produced. Biltong can also be made in colder climates by using an electric lamp to dry the meat, but care must be taken to ventilate, as mold can begin to form on the meat.

A traditional slow dry will deliver a medium cure in about 4 days.

An electric fan-assisted oven set to 40-70 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit to 160 Fahrenheit), with the door open a fraction to let out moist air, can dry the meat in approximately 4 hours. Although slow dried meat often tastes better, oven dried is ready to eat the same day as preparation.

Biltong vs Jerky

Biltong differs from Jerky in two distinct ways:

* The meat used in biltong can be much thicker; typically biltong meat is cut in strips approx 1 inch wide - but can be thicker. Jerky is normally very thin meat. Fact|date=October 2008

* The vinegar and salt in biltong, together with the drying process, cures the meat as well as adding texture and flavour. Jerky is traditionally dried with salt and pepper. Fact|date=October 2008


Biltong is a common product in Southern African butcheries and grocery stores, and can be bought in the form of wide strips (known as "stokkies", meaning "little sticks"). It is also sold in plastic bags, sometimes shrink-wrapped, and may be either finely shredded or sliced as biltong chips.

There are also specialised retailers that sell biltong. These shops may sell biltong as "wet" (moist), "medium" or "dry". Additionally, some customers prefer it with a lot of fat within the muscle fibres, while others perfer it as lean as possible.


Biltong is renowned for being chewed as a snack, it can also be diced up into stews, added to muffins and pot bread. [citeweb | author=3men | date=2004-08-24 | title=Biltong | url= | accessdate=2007-09-10] Several popular restaurants have also included biltong as an option for a pizza topping.Fact|date=September 2008 Biltong-flavoured potato crisps have also been produced. [cite study |url= |title=Examine the World Snack Foods Markets |accessdate=2008-09-29 |author= |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |funding= |date=2008-04-29 |format= |work= |publisher=
pages= |language= |doi= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= Simba Launches Lay's Potato Chips in Biltong Flavor

Biltong can be used as a teething aid for babies. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |author= |coauthors= |title=African snackshot
url= |format= |work=The Daily Telegraph |publisher= |location= |id= |pages= |page= |date=2005-01-10 |accessdate=2008-09-29 |language= |quote= [Biltong is] particularly good for teething babies |archiveurl= |archivedate=
] Some retail stores offer a mild form of biltong especially for this purpose which does not contain the spices used for flavouring.Fact|date=May 2008

Biltong worldwide

Biltong's popularity has spread to many other countries, notably the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand which have large South African populations, and also to the United States, where it is FDA approved.

Biltong produced in South Africa may not be imported into Britain, according to rules governing the importation of meat-based products from non-EU countries laid down by Customs & Excise department. [citeweb | author=HMRC | title=FAQ: Meat, food and plants | work=Her Majesty's Customs and Excise| url= | accessdate=2007-09-10] . However biltong made in the UK can still be purchased in the country.

See also

Foods similar to biltong include:
* Bresaola
* Cabanossi
* Droë wors
* Jerky
* Pastırma
* Pemmican
* Slinzega

Notes and references

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Look at other dictionaries:

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