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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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**
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)?
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.
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”
As discussed above, although jerky and biltong share some similarities, they differ in origin, preparation and taste.
Biltong originated in South Africa. Jerky has its roots in North America.
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.
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.
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;
4 cups mixed greens
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.
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.
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.
So what do proteins do?
Carbohydrates, also known as saccharides or carbs, provide energy for the body. There are three types of carbohydrates – sugar, starch and fibre.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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”
References and further reading;
In addition these journals can be consulted:
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