Biltong is an edible dried, cured meat snack that originates from South African countries. To be more specific, this high protein snack is from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia. The word Biltong comes from the Dutch word ‘bil’ and ‘tong’ which respectively holds the meaning of ‘buttock” and “strip” or “tongue”. Biltong can be made of a variety of meats, though beef biltong is the most common one in modern times. Strip-cut beef fillets that are flat with muscle grains are used to make biltong. Due to this, biltong is usually slightly chewy. Biltong has traditionally been made of game meats such as kudu, springbok and wildebeest. You may also find biltong made of chicken, fish and ostrich meat.
History[change | change source]
Biltong has actually been around for centuries with its roots tracing back to South Africa. In a time before refrigerators and freezers, indigenous people needed a way to preserve extra meat for future meals. To do this, they used the basic resources at hand — knives to cut the meat, salt to flavor and preserve, and tree branches to hang the meat until it was dry.
The 17th century European settlers who arrived later saw the benefits of having a stock supply of food. They quickly adopted this method, adding their own ingredients of vinegar and saltpeter (potassium nitrate) to the meat-curing mix.
Then, in the 19th century, came the Dutch. In a mass migration known as the Great Trek, thousands of Dutch farmers hitched their wagons to avoid British rule in Cape Colony and moved into the inland of Southern Africa.
For this long journey, they needed food — something portable, something non-perishable, and something with sustenance. Biltong was their perfect solution.
They toted the preserved meat with them as they traveled, calling it “biltong”— a combination of the Dutch words “bille” (for buttock) and “tonghe” (for strip or tongue).
This marked the beginnings of biltong, now one of South Africa’s favorite meaty snacks.