Viw Magazine

Food & Beverage

There’s no doubt that both biltong and jerky are delicious. Loaded with protein and low in carbs, they’re the ideal guilt-free snack to keep you fueled for longer. Impress your guests the next time you whip out a pack of jerky at a summer pool party with some cool facts about cured meats that we’ve compiled below.

Where did biltong and jerky come from?

Biltong originated from South Africa, where early Indigenous inhabitants preserved game by using what was readily available in their immediate environments. They began by curing strips of meat with salt before hanging them up to dry. It took about a fortnight for the meat to thoroughly dry.

Dutch settlers introduced new spices and vinegar to improve the curing process. The Great Trek, which was a mass migration in 1836 away from British control in the Cape Colony is said to be the reason for improved meat preservation methods. The migrants needed protein-rich food to sustain them on the journey.

Variations of jerky, on the other hand, have been found in multiple cultures and countries throughout history, so it’s harder to pin exactly where jerky came from. Ancient Egyptians, Native North and South Americans, Incas and farmers in small towns outside Rome found ways to enjoy this preserved snack using different types of animal meat, ingredients, and methods of preparations.

How biltong and jerky are made today

Although both biltong and jerky are dried meats, they have distinctly different textures and flavours that set them apart from each other. This is because they are prepared using different key ingredients and drying methods.

Biltong is made using lean or fatty cuts of meat that have been soaked in a marinade of vinegar and various spices. They are hung up as a whole steak to dry for about a week or two. The slow process of curing while drying retains more moisture in the centre, making the end product a lot juicier than jerky. Biltong is sliced after the whole steak is dry.

Jerky is made a little differently: lean, thin strips of meat are marinated in sauces and spices then immediately cooked on a rack at a low temperature or air dried. This method of “cooking” helps to remove moisture more quickly, resulting in a chewier, tougher snack than biltong.

A cured meat for all your needs

There are many variations of cured meats out there to suit different lifestyles. But when it comes to beef biltong and beef jerky, their distinct flavours and textures might make one better than the other to, say, take on a road trip.

For the health conscious parent who’s juggling home and work responsibilities, a few pieces of jerky tossed into their kid’s lunch box can save a lot of time while making sure protein and iron needs are met. Jerky is also a healthier snack to have right after a good workout, as it can help curb an appetite for unnecessary carbs while fueling your body with protein. Jerky also has a longer shelf life than biltong, which makes it perfect to pack for road trips or while camping.

Biltong is much better enjoyed immediately to get the benefits of its juicier center. There are lots of quick and easy recipes that incorporate biltong or use it as the highlight of a dish. Some ideas could be to skewer them with olives or cheese to serve alongside other canapés and cocktails, to garnish a pizza or salad, or even use them as a substitute for deli meat when making a sandwich.

Non-meat/ plant-based jerky options

If you’re vegetarian, pescatarian, or just not really a fan of meat, this doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the chewy goodness of jerky. There are some delicious vegetarian/vegan jerky alternatives on the market made with mushroom, soy, peppers, and other veggies. If you’re pescetarian, there are squid and cuttlefish jerky usually found in oriental grocery stores that’ll satisfy your craving for something that’s sweet, savoury, and chewy all at once.

Chomp responsibly!

Now before you go ahead and fill your shopping cart with packs of biltong or jerky, remember that they are best consumed in moderation, as with any snack. However, your body will probably thank you if you choose to have some cured meat over a bag of lollies in between meals.

While you could use cured meats as meal replacements due to their high protein and iron content, they are best enjoyed alongside a balanced diet. That said, it can’t hurt to throw a few packs in your bag or pantry for whenever you need an energy boost - or just feel like snacking!


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