In the never-ending swirl of new food trends, biltong has captured the attention of those looking for fast snacks and a healthy, tasty boost of protein. But what exactly is it and how is it different from the traditional jerky that we’re used to?
Though similar on its face, there are some important differences between the two that are worth considering the next time you open your wallet for a quick, salty snack. With origins in South Africa, biltong is a cured meat (often beef) that’s been aged for a few days. One of the major differences between biltong and traditional beef jerky is that biltong is both cured and dried while jerky is just dried, resulting in markedly different texture and taste.
To make biltong, generally, the meat is left overnight (or longer) in a solution of vinegar and spices. After it’s cured the meat is air-dried with no heat and finally sliced into thin strips or chunkier pieces and packaged or served. Jerky is simply dried either using a low and slow oven or a dehydrator.
Kalahari Beef Biltong (Pack of 3), $22.14 on Amazon
Healthy, protein-packed, and gluten-free!
There are no hard and fast rules on what spices to use in curing biltong, but African spices like coriander, allspice, curry, and clove are some popular choices, giving biltong a distinctly regional flavor. Biltong is also generally healthier than most beef jerkys. Jerky, being dried, can end up tough and thus relies on sauces and flavoring agents heavy in sugar and salt to improve upon the taste. Because biltong is cured, it tends to be naturally tender and gets its flavor from the spices and just a dash of vinegar. There are no official spice or flavor rules for jerky either, and these days you can find the stuff in almost any flavor imaginable, from spicy buffalo, BBQ, and Asian versions with soy, citrus, and ginger.
Having less water and sugar, each bite of biltong has a significantly higher percentage of protein than jerky, making it a great low-carb, high-protein snack to power up before physical activity or during those on-the-go, no-time-to-cook moments. More and more biltong manufactures like Brooklyn Biltong are popping up or entering the American market for the first time, but both jerky and biltong keep for months (or longer), and so can be purchased easily online and in bulk with no issues.
Brooklyn Biltong Grass-Fed Biltong, $12 at Mouth
They call it the South African lovechild of beef jerky and prosciutto. We call it delicious.
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