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What is Biltong? 10 facts about Biltong

 


WHAT IS BILTONG?

Biltong is a high protein, low carb meat snack that has its origins in South Africa. Its popularity though has grown dramatically in recent years and it is now enjoyed in many parts of the world. It’s great taste has obviously been central to its success but the search for healthy snacking options has also played a major part. We are going to first explore the history of biltong and how it’s made before going on to discuss it’s health benefits and why biltong is different to Jerky.

 

Buy biltong. Raging Bull Snacks selection of biltong and jerky flavours including Original Beef Biltong, Chilli Beef Biltong, Tereyaki Beef Biltong, Sweet Hot Beef Jerky, Peppered Beef Jerky, Original Beef Jerky.

  • What is Biltong?
  • Where does biltong come from?
  • Why is biltong popular?
  • How is biltong made?
  • What are the health benefits of Biltong?
  • What are the differences between Biltong and Jerky?
  • Where does Jerky come from?
  • A summary of the differences between biltong and jerky
  • How to enjoy Biltong. Some biltong recipes
  • Biltong recipe for homemade biltong
  • Biltong is high in protein. What is protein?
  • Biltong is low in carbohydrates. What are carbohydrates?
  • What are the other potential health benefits of eating meat and biltong?

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What is Biltong?

Biltong originated in South Africa and is a type of dried meat snack. It is prepared using premium cuts of meat that have been marinated, seasoned, and then air-dried. The result is a deliciously tender snack that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates.

what is biltong. A picture showing strips of beef biltong made by Raging Bull Snacks.

 

Where does biltong come from?

Biltong has a very long history in South Africa where it was first used as a way to preserve meat during long hunting expeditions. The first recorded use of biltong as a snack can be traced back to the 17th century, when Dutch settlers in South Africa began using the technique to preserve meat during voyages to the East Indies. Indeed the word “biltong” is derived from the Dutch words “bil,” meaning rump, and “tong,” meaning strip or tongue.

The traditional method of making biltong involved hanging cuts of meat in the sun to dry but over time the process was refined. Preparation evolved to include marinades of spices and vinegar which not only added flavour but also helped to preserve or “cure” the meat, vital in the days before refrigeration. Biltong techniques and recipes were passed down from generation to generation and it became a staple snack in South Africa. In recent years there has seen a huge surge in popularity in many other countries particularly in Europe and more recently in America.

Raging Bull Snacks biltong variety box

Why is biltong popular?

Biltong’s popularity has been sparked by people discovering not only its great taste but also the fact that it is a healthy snack alternative. It’s high protein and low carbohydrate characteristics are particularly appealing to people who lead busy and active lifestyles and want to snack healthy or even follow particular diets. There are those too of course who just love its taste with a cold beer or glass of red wine! Biltong is obviously a convenient and portable snack that can be enjoyed on its own are used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes. While you were previously only able to buy biltong at specialist South African shops you can now buy biltong on line and in most supermarkets.

Raging Bull Snacks Original Beef Biltong

How is biltong made?

Biltong is typically made from meat of a high quality. For instance, at Raging Bull Snacks, we use prime cuts of grass fed silverside beef. The meat is cut into strips and marinated in vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices. Recipes and combinations can vary greatly and it’s not unusual in South Africa for family recipes to be passed down through the generations. Once marinated the meat is hung to dry for several days, preferably in a dry humid environment. This will be naturally achieved in some countries (think Southern Africa for example) otherwise fans and heating can replicate the drying process. It is a versatile snack that allows for many different flavours depending on taste. At Raging Bull Snacks for example, along with our more traditional tasting Original Beef Biltong we also make Chilli Beef Biltong and Teriyaki Beef Biltong.

 

Chilli Beef Biltong

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What are the health benefits of Biltong?

Biltong, as well as being absolutely delicious, is low in carbs and high in protein. As the meat is cured and not cooked it retains all of its great nutrients and vitamins. The beef biltong we craft at Raging Bull Snacks contains nearly 60g of protein per 100g of meat. In addition, there is only 0.6g of sugar and less than 3g of carbohydrates in our biltong. Meat is also a natural source of vitamins and minerals, including iron and calcium. Experts say the best snack pre and post workout is a combination of protein and carbohydrates which makes biltong a great snack option for those looking to build muscle. Biltong is also a very popular snack amongst people following low-carb diets such as Keto. Whether you want a healthier snack to keep you going at the gym or just need something healthier to get you through the day without resorting to crisps, biscuits or chocolates then biltong is a good solution. If you would like to understand more about proteins and carbohydrates scroll down to the bottom of the blog. You can learn more about the health benefits of biltong in “6 Health Benefits of Eating Biltong”. To learn more visit “6 Health Benefits Of Eating Biltong”.

**Please note that this blog does not contain any medical advice. When it comes to matters of your health and diet you should always consult a medical professional**

 

Teriyaki Beef Biltong

What are the differences between Biltong and Jerky?

Although biltong and jerky share some similarities, they differ in origin, preparation and taste. We know because at Raging Bull Snacks we make both biltong and jerky! So what is Jerky (click here to read our more detailed blog)?

Where does Jerky come from?

There is evidence to suggest the ancient civilisations of the Inca and Aztec Empires dried meat to preserve it for later use. The word jerky is derived from the Quechua word ch’arki which means “dry salted meat”. The Quechuan peoples lived primarily in the Peruvian Andes.

The practice of drying meat was later adopted by Native Americans tribes and early settlers in North America who needed a portable food source that would last for long periods of time without refrigeration. The early explorers and settlers in North America used it as an important source of protein during long journeys and in the 19th century jerky became a staple food for cowboys and pioneers. Over the years jerky gradually became a staple snack throughout the Americas. The rise of healthy snacking and a desire for high protein snacks has seen Jerky and biltong’s popularity grow rapidly in many countries in recent years.

How is beef jerky madeSHOP HERE

 

How is Jerky made?

Jerky can be made from a variety of different meats, including beef, turkey and pork but more exotic types can also be used. In recent years plant-based Jerky has been developed for those seeking a vegetarian option. When it comes to meat jerky then the better the quality of meat, the better the jerky. At Raging Bull Snacks for instance, we only use prime cuts of grass feed silverside beef.

Once the meat is selected it is sliced into thin strips and marinated. The marinade really depends on personal tastes and could, for example, include combinations of soy sauce, brown sugar, black pepper, garlick powder, honey, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and cayenne pepper. There are many different flavours of jerky available on the market. For instance, a search of the internet displays flavours such as coconut jerky, bacon jerky, soy jerky, whiskey jerky, clam jerky and even cactus jerky. At Raging Bull Snacks we keep it a bit more traditional by selling Peppered Beef Jerky, Sweet Hot Beef Jerky and Original Beef Jerky.

Once marinated, the meat needs to be dried. This can be done in an oven, dehydrator or smoker. It is important to dry the meat at a low temperature until its firm and chewy.

To learn more visit “What Is Jerky? 10 Facts About Jerky”

A summary of the differences between biltong and jerky

Slices of beef biltong

As discussed above, although jerky and biltong share some similarities, they differ in origin, preparation and taste.

Origin:

Biltong originated in South Africa. Jerky has its roots in North America.

Meat:

Biltong has traditionally been made from beef and game meat. Jerky on the other hand can be made from a variety of different meats including beef, pork, turkey etc.

Preparation:

Biltong is made by first marinating the meat in a mixture of vinegar and spices to cure it. It is then hung whole, air-dryed for several days to de-hydrate and then sliced. Jerky is sliced, marinated with spices and flavourings and then cooked at low temperatures to dehydrate and cook the meat. The absence of heat in the preparation of biltong is one of the key distinguishing features between the two snacks.

Texture and taste:

Biltong tends to have a softer and saltier taste due to the way it is marinated while jerky can be drier, smokier and more chewy. Jerky’s preparation also allows for much more varied flavours to be created.

How is beef jerky made

How to enjoy Biltong. Some biltong recipes

While biltong can obviously be enjoyed on its own (and it mostly is) it is a great addition to charcuterie and cheese boards and pairs very nicely with red wine and beer. Many people also use it as an ingredient in other dishes such as stews or on salads or even in sandwiches. You can find a wealth of biltong recipes online and we will be releasing regular recipes for you to enjoy. Here are a couple to get you in the mood;

Biltong and Mushroom Risotto:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped biltong
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and translucent.
  • Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat in the oil.
  • Gradually add the chicken stock, stirring constantly, until the rice is cooked and the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Stir in the mushrooms, biltong, and Parmesan cheese.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Biltong and Avocado Salad:

Ingredients:

4 cups mixed greens

  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped biltong
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

    • Combine the mixed greens, avocado, cherry tomatoes, biltong, blue cheese, and herbs in a large bowl.
    • Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl.
    • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.

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1 Kg of biltong the south African snack

Biltong recipe for homemade biltong

Below is just one recipe for making your own biltong. There are many different recipes on the web and through a bit of trial and error you will soon discover a favourite taste.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of beef (sirloin or flank steak)
  • 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

Instructions:

Cut the beef into thin strips, about 1/4 inch thick.

Mix together the red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together the salt, coriander seeds, black pepper, brown sugar, and bicarbonate of soda.

Dip each strip of beef into the vinegar and Worcestershire mixture, then coat it in the spice mixture.

Hang the strips in a biltong box or equivalent. Make sure there is enough space between each strip so that they do not touch. Dry the biltong, for 3-5 days. The biltong is ready when it is completely dry but still slightly soft to the touch.

Biltong Great Taste Awards

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Biltong is high in protein. What is protein?

Protein is a nutrient your body needs to grow and repair cells, and to work properly. They are the building blocks of life. Every cell in the human body contains protein. Protein foods are broken down into parts called amino acids during digestion. Some of these amino acids can be made by your body – there are 11 of these known as non-essential amino acids. There are then 9 amino acids that your body can’t make. These are known as essential amino acids. As your body cannot make them they have to be consumed in your diet. Foods that contain these proteins include meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, seeds and nuts and legumes.

As biltong is cured and air-dried rather than cooked it retains these nutrients and vitamins. For example, the biltong we craft at Raging Bull Snacks contains nearly 60g of protein per100g of meat.

A selection of protein foods. Raging Bull Biltong and meat is high in protein

So what do proteins do?

  1. They help to build blocks of bones, muscles, cartilage and skin. Hair and nails are also comprised mostly of protein.
  2. They help to repair tissue.
  3. They transport oxygen from the lungs to the tissues that need it. This is done through the protein Hemoglobin which is found in red blood cells. It contains iron, which allows it to transport the oxygen.
  4. They help you to digest as about half the dietary protein that you consume makes enzymes. There are two enzymes in your saliva called amylase and lipase. They mostly break down carbohydrates and fats. Once a protein source reaches your stomach, hydrochloric acid and enzymes called proteases break it down into smaller chains of amino acids.
  5. They help to build hormones in the pituitary gland. These hormones then go on to trigger the release of sex hormones, estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone.

Biltong is high in protein. What are the health benefits of biltong

 

Biltong is low in carbohydrates. What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates, also known as saccharides or carbs, provide energy for the body. There are three types of carbohydrates – sugar, starch and fibre.

Sugar

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that is digested and absorbed into your blood easily. It occurs naturally in some foods, including fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products. Types of sugar include fruit sugar (fructose), table sugar (sucrose) and milk sugar (lactose). Added sugars, added in the manufacturing process, can be found in foods like chocolate and biscuits. Excessive consumption of added sugars can contribute to a range of health problems.

Starch

Starch is a complex carbohydrate made of many sugar units bonded together. Our bodies can quickly break down this starch into sugar again. It occurs naturally in vegetables, grains, and cooked dry beans and peas.

Fiber

Fiber also is a complex carbohydrate. Its not strictly a nutrient because we can’t digest it in our stomachs and absorb it into the blood. Fibre is found naturally in wholegrain foods such as oats, wholemeal bread and brown rice.

A selection of foods that are high in carbohydrates. Raging Bull Snacks are low in carbs.

So what do carbohydrates do?

Consuming enough carbohydrates can enhance physical performance, keep blood sugar levels in check, and provide you the energy you need for everyday tasks. Additionally, some kinds of carbs, including fibre, can facilitate better digestion, lower the risk of certain diseases, and increase feelings of fullness.  However, your choice of carbohydrates is important. Whole food sources such as fruit, and vegetables are likely to be better for you than processed carbs like added sugar.

What are the other potential health benefits of eating meat and biltong

Meat apart from being a rich source of protein contains essential vitamins and minerals. These include iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and niacin. Iron is important for oxygen transport, and a lack of it can lead to anemia, while zinc is essential for a healthy immune system and wound healing. Vitamin B12 is essential for nerve function and DNA synthesis, and niacin helps regulate blood sugar levels and improves skin health.

A selection of foods containing vitamin B12. Meat and Raging Bull Biltong contain vitamin B12

 

Eating meat can also help you feel full and satisfied, reducing the likelihood of overeating or snacking unhealthily. The high protein content of meat takes longer to digest, keeping you feeling full for a longer period of time.

Finally, meat also contains omega-3 fatty acids which are meant to be good for brain function!

To learn more visit “6 Health Benefits Of Eating Biltong”

 

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References and further reading;

    1. Biltong Association of South Africa
    2. Biltong USA Trade Association
    3. Biltong: The South African Snack Taking the World by Storm” (Food & Wine, 2020)
    4. “A Guide to Biltong: South Africa’s Delicious Dried Meat Snack” (Eater, 2021)
    5. “The History and Health Benefits of Biltong” (BBC, 2019)
    6. “Biltong: The South African Snack You Need to Try” (Men’s Health, 2020)
    7. “Dietary protein – its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health” by J.A. Douglas, published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2012.
    8. “The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review” by A. Astrup et al., published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2004.
    9. “Protein and muscle health during aging: benefits and concerns related to animal-based protein” by A. Santesso et al., published in Frontiers in Nutrition in 2019.
    10. “Protein intake and its role in weight management” by K.M. Hill et al., published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2015.
    11. “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Interventions for the Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults” by J.O. Hill et al., published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2013.
    12. “Zinc in Human Health: Effect of Zinc on Immune Cells” by F. Wessels and M. Rink, published in Molecular Medicine in 1998.
    13. “The Biological Role of Zinc in the Skin” by K.M. Alam et al., published in Nutrients in 2020.
    14. “Zinc and reproduction: effects of zinc deficiency on prenatal and early postnatal development” by M.A. Wuehler and L.M. Olin, published in Birth Defects Research Part B: Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology in 2010.
    15. “The Role of Zinc in Mood Disorders” by S.M. Swardfager et al., published in Psychiatric Clinics of North America in 2013.
    16. “Zinc Lozenges and the Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis Comparing Zinc Acetate and Zinc Gluconate, and the Role of Zinc Dosage” by H. Hemilä and E. Chalker, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2017.
    17. “Vitamin B12 and health” by J. Watanabe et al., published in Clinical Calcium in 2014.
    18. “Vitamin B12: essential nutrient with complex interactions on several metabolic pathways” by A. Pawlak et al., published in Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2013.
    19. “Vitamin B12: Vital for Health, Critical for Vegetarians” by R. Mangels, published in Vegetarian Nutrition Update in 2013.
    20. “Vitamin B12 and bone health” by K.L. Tucker et al., published in Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism in 2013.
    21. “Vitamin B12 status and rate of brain volume loss in community-dwelling elderly” by A. Vogiatzoglou et al., published in Neurology in 2008.
    22. “Nutritional composition of biltong: A traditional Southern African meat snack” by A. Bester et al., published in Meat Science in 2016.
    23. “Biltong – the nutrition and health benefits of this traditional South African snack” by K. Silvis, published in The South African Journal of Natural Medicine in 2018.
    24. “A nutritional and microbiological comparison between beef jerky and biltong” by J.L. Bosman et al., published in Food Control in 2020.
    25. “The Role of Dried Meat in a Balanced Diet” by C. Ncube et al., published in Foods in 2021.
    26. “Biltong: A traditional South African meat snack with a multitude of applications” by L. Mabasa et al., published in South African Journal of Science in 2021.

 

In addition these journals can be consulted:

      1. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
      2. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
      3. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
      4. The British Journal of Nutrition
      5. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

 

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