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Making Biltong

(late reply) re Worcester sauce for flavor. Just leave it out. It wont affect anything. And actually, these days, I keep the making as simple as possible. No sugary things anywhere.

Soak in vinegar for 24 hours, along with black pepper & toasted coriander, and then string the things up.

That's it. My initial fancy approach with lots of seemingly required ingredients, has fallen away somewhat. Everything apart from these listed things: vinegar, black pepper, coriander - are just extra tweaks that aren't necessary to the meat becoming biltong.

In addition, I keep a fan blowing on the stuff, which both speeds up the drying/blackening of the exterior, and hastens the hardening. The fan also keeps bugs off :)

Sep 23, 2009
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Boerewors in CT, at last.

Okay, well, it helps to have tasted the stuff - so that you know whether its okay or not. For me, I just tried grilling some, and its 'sort of' okay - but frying it gives a better result, but...

Its still not 100% 'right' - so I'm probably gonna have to go ask advice of the chefs on various South African forums. (Boerewors and biltong are almost like a religion to some folks, its taken very seriously :) And there's a lot of different, heavily guarded recipe secrets.

I can't work out whether the fault of taste, is the quantities of spices (ie: more needed) or whether its the meat or, ugh 'filler' which may have been used.

That said - as a bare basic recipe - which ALMOST delivers the boerewors taste.

And hopefully I'll be able to update this - or be corrected by SA Chowhound members - the recipe I passed to the butcher was:

recipe 1
(4.4 lb) prime Beef
(2.2 lb) Pork
(50 ml or 10 tsp) Coriander
(½ tsp) ground Cloves
(½ tsp) ground Nutmeg
(25 ml or 5 tsp) fine Salt
(1 tsp) freshly ground Black Pepper
( lb) Bacon
100 ml Vinegar
Casing (Pork casing is good)

To prepare coriander: (15ml produces 5ml)
1. Place in dry pan, heat and stir until light brown.
2. Grind, sieve to remove husk. Grind remainder to a fine powder. (A plastic food storage bag and a rolling pin works well.)

From a taste perspective, it seems to possibly need more cloves, and black pepper - although my partner, who's a wussy sensitive eater, says theres plenty of black pepper already...

So in some ways, a failed experiment - but I do have a freezer full of 'almost' boerewors, that's quite tasty regardless.

Just to clarify, the IGA locally doesnt stock the stuff, they made it up for me - so don't head to it in hopes of seeing it on the shelf just yet.

I think I might expend the money to buy some 'commercial' South African boerwors spice, in order to ensure I get it right the next time..

Mar 29, 2009
TheFamine in All New England Archive

Boerewors in CT, at last.

Given that the online prices for the delicious South African sausage known as 'boerewors' (literally 'farmers sausage') is pretty expensive, when one includes overnight shipping - and given the ridiculous prices being charged in NY for tiny little pieces - as a relocated SA person, I figured 'a plan had to be made' locally.

(If you've visited SA, and tasted a sausage - odds are good that you've eaten one or another type of the basic boerewors family. It blows most of the tasteless sausages of other countries, out of the water entirely. In my opinion anyway :)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boerewors

I supplied the local IGA (here in Windham: http://www.windhamiga.com ) with a basic recipe, and will be picking up the 20 pounds of yummy delicious goodies later.

(To make life easier for them, and reduce the cost, I also provided the spices, which range from toasted coriander, nutmeg, cloves, salt, vinegar - through to my own addition of a dose of standard 'peri-peri' -a Portuguese-South African birds eye chillies, which is way beyond US chillies strength

)

Cost works out to around $3.99 a pound.

Point being - for those people who know the taste of boerewors, and don't want to spend fortunes to get that very unique taste of South Africa again - it can't hurt to make friends with your local butchery and cut a deal.

I'll be eating up a load of the newly arrived sossies later, and testing out the recipe that I supplied them. I'll take pix, and report back on how close to the real thing it is. If the taste is right, I'll post the simple recipe that I passed to them - so that folks in this region, can find their own nearby friendly butcheries who'll be willing to make the stuff.

Mar 29, 2009
TheFamine in All New England Archive

Birds eye chili peppers in CT

Totally old topic, but I found it when googling - and thought for anyone else in CT hunting birdseye chillies (the BEST burn :) I'd add my two cents worth. Ah Dong supermarket in Hartford does have birdseye chillies - bought a couple of fresh bags for next to nothing when I was last there a few months back. And as far as growing them, sure - as long as they're fresh.

Mar 25, 2009
TheFamine in All New England Archive

The economics of "locally grown" [split from New England]

the problem with the 'small farmers' is that there is the SAME amount of wastage of crop, whether its organic, or 'not' - given that the US consumer doesn't and wont like what they see as 'ugly' fruit and vegetable.

The organic farmers are throwing away perfectly good food, in order to fit in with the false aesthetic that US shoppers have with regard to food and crops.

'Conformity' of shape is NOT a norm in natural food crops - even though the Genetically Modified Crops (including so-called 'organic' crop) seem to deliver a large quantity of similar shaped foods.
This isn't reality. The organic farmers may be avoiding pesticides (allegedly) - however there's no whisper about either whether they're using 'Frankenfoods' GMO gene-spliced (potentially carcinogenic) products - or, more importantly, whether they're throwing away a sizable part of their yield, because it doesn't 'look as good' as what the dainty shoppers are used to.

So part of the problem with playing 'eeny meeny miney mo' between organic and regular crop - is that both options are causing anywhere from 10 - perhaps as much as 40% of the crop to be thrown away.

Unless the wasting of food is of less importance than the thought that one is purchasing 'organic' food.

Its beyond a simple question of 'is this crop grown from natural soil' - and more an additional question of how is this farmer able to deliver similar looking products to the store? Are they using GMO crops, or 'is this farmer making piles of good food to throw to animals, or rot into compost, rather than ship it to consumers who aren't used to what natural food actually looks like?

This also begs the question. What do you know of GMO foods? I hope people here aren't mistaking the term 'organic' for 'safe'.
Even according to US government's own guidelines for food descriptions, the term 'organic' on labels and signs, DOES NOT mean what folks may think it means. If memory serves me right, it has to state '100% organic' in order for the food to actually be what most here seem to think the word 'organic' means.

So you can actually be paying higher prices, for something that is not even organic in any real sense of the word, and which may also be a GMO 'food.'

A little bit of research on definitions of 'organic' - according to the FDA, might help some of you go beyond the perhaps false idea that there's some archetypal 'organic' health-conscious farmer supplying your products, and that the signs and labels in the stores are accurate and honest.

Something simply labeled 'organic' in the USA, does NOT mean 'grown entirely from natural soil without any chemical additives added at any stage to either the soil or the crop' - and it also does not mean 'this farmer didn't throw away a percentage of his crop that failed to conform with US aesthetic norms.'

So folks seem almost entirely unaware of the federal regulatory situation with regards to 'adequate food descriptions.' Not to mention the underlying issue of 'health' as being more than just a about oneself - but about the larger issue of food wastage, food technology, and deceptive practices being employed to delude consumers who aren't seeing the bigger picture.

Mar 17, 2009
TheFamine in General Topics

Good Butcher/Fresh Meat & Poultry in Eastern CT

Locally made should not equal 'expensive' - if it does, someone's profiteering.

Organic means a saving to the farmer on pesticides and fertilizer - just their transport costs stay the same. If that isn't passed onto the consumer - someone's more than just making a living...

That said, from observing the prices of Willimantic co-op, it is ridiculously expensive, putting 'healthy food' beyond the reach of regular folk - which defeats the object of having decent food available in the first place. Unless healthy food should only be for those who can afford to pay 40% or more above market prices for simple vegetables.

The majority of working folk in this area clearly feel the same, and tend to avoid the co-op, for this reason.

Mar 12, 2009
TheFamine in All New England Archive

Good Butcher/Fresh Meat & Poultry in Eastern CT

re the Willimantic Co-op - as I stay a few blocks from it, and its a constant bone of contention for me, I thought I'd sound off.
Yes, the Co-op has some goodies here and there. BUT - and this is a big one, especially in this economic climate - it is expensive, with fairly seriously marked-up prices.
That said, they do have a range of 'bulk' grains, nuts etc which one can dip into. And 'speciality' imported cheeses and breads.
But again - another whammy - if you're not a member of the co-op, (I'm totally open to correction here on the figure, as I forget the exact % amount )- but at the till they then add 10% or a little more, onto the final price.

In addition, as a carnivore who's also a bit of a health freak - they have a supposedly 'vegetarian-only' approach. (Even though their pets food contains meat)

So no meat at the Willimantic co-op. And you'll rarely find the poorer locals loading up there on vegetables - as its prices are so high in comparison to the much cheaper standard Stop n Shop supermarket.

Living in this area, I can recommend - for cheap meat and chicken, the local IGA - just across the river (over the frog bridge) - they sell pretty decently priced meat for a fraction of the Stop n Shop or Walmart. And no injected broth to mess the meat up either. You can pick up big bags of chicken pieces for around $7 or so. I routinely go load up on chicken there, and when I'm in the mood for meat/ribs - the IGA is the place of choice. Can pick up very cheap pork and pork ribs at a fraction of the price of the bigger supermarkets.
I think this is the correct site for IGA Willimantic:
http://www.windhamiga.com/pages/1/ind...
For what its worth though, the Stop n Shop is the cheapest in the area for vegetables - don't get suckered into buying the overpriced Co-Op goods - or for that matter the IGA veg either. IGA breads though are pretty good, and you'll find some nice oddities from their bakery at times.
Hope this helps :)

Mar 11, 2009
TheFamine in All New England Archive

Liver and onions

liver and onions is the basic, most heavenly and easiest dish to quickly
whip up.
Best of all, for most US consumers, its seen as a disgusting idea - which means that liver can be found for next to nothing in a lot of places, as its not regarded as a 'valuable' food to be marked up heavily.

Fry up onions, add salt and black pepper, when onions are browned, add the liver, stir them a bit to seal them (and stop juices from escaping), lower the heat, add some water and let them simmer..
I tend to cook up some jasmine rice, to act as a bed for the liver and onions and gravy - treat it like curry and rice, in other words.

May 25, 2008
TheFamine in Home Cooking

South African Meat Pies

I've gotten into making my own pies (I got very tired of eating third rate, over priced, and often weirdly filled with bizarre chemicals so-called 'authentic' British pies) - so have begun experimenting, making my own cheese and onion, and most recently, steak and kidney pies.. When I've got things properly formalised, I'll do a how-to-do-it post (along the lines of my 'making biltong' post)..http://www.chowhound.com/topics/398671
Already tho, using premade pastry sheets, and cooking up my own fillings, I've gotten great results that give me a good load of pies for my buck..
I seem to be able to get around 15 - 20 pies per packet of x2 pastry sheets..
and my freezer's filling up nicely.

Jan 15, 2008
TheFamine in General Topics

Where to Buy Malt for African Drink?

bought both an East African corn flour, as well as two bags of 'regular' sorghum corn flour (from a South African food supplier I found while in Toronto) - will experiment and report back :)
Found an African store in Hartford CT - and they sold a thick gruel type drink made from their local flour - however, they added serious quantities of cloves and ginger, which to me, made the simple taste of the fermented flour into a fairly weird drink. Even with my Africanized palate, it wasn't too pleasant - so 'regular' American palates would probably have freaked out at the sour clove taste.

It was mentioned that no additional malt is added, and that simply putting water with the flour and leaving it for a few days to ferment, provided the next step.

I guess there's a big difference between local US Monsanto-frankenfood style GMO crop flour, and the real African thing. The former isn't alive, and the latter is.
Hopefully the sorghum will result in the simple porridge-like drink that I know. I'll report back with pix, when I get around to it.

Jul 20, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Where to Buy Malt for African Drink?

just a report back, semi failure. don't use this recipe.

the quantities suggested in that recipe seemed wildly excessive to begin with. (two cups of malt is a LOT)- I did note that after a day or so, I had in effect a clone of what folks who know the British hot drink Horlicks smells like.

But after more searching online, it seems that sorghum malt is what is used in Africa for the fermenting, whereas the generic UK import malt I bought from a homebrew store, pretty much did nothing except supply a certain Horlicks-like sweetness to the mess.

However, I did notice that using the cornflour - (pouring it into boiled water and stirring till it thickens) gave me an exact very simple basic porridge that tastes almost exactly like the standard porridge done in Africa by villagers, and which tasted instantly familiar to me.

For those interested, simply boil up a cup of water, then pour in the corn meal, and stir. It'll start to thicken almost immediately, keep stirring for a bit to let it cook slightly. Then depending on whether you like your porridge 'dry' or 'wet' add a tiny bit of water, and keep on stirring. Remove from heat, dump the corn meal into a bowl, add milk (and/or cream) and sugar (or salt depending on your palate) and there's your basic African morning meal. Very simple and basic, but filling.
(It might be taste too 'basic' (bland) for a Westernized palate, so don't expect anything special, it isn't. But it's a standard simple dish to fill an empty stomach.

I've never had 'grits' - the Southern dish, so I'm not sure if I'm reinventing the wheel here, but coming from Africa, it was fun to have discovered a common African taste without even trying.

Looping back to the Mageu experiment, the next step is trying to hunt down 'sorghum malt' - which is apparently the specific malt used in combo with corn meal, to produce mageu.
Incidentally, if/when I can find it, I'll have most of the basics for making another African staple - African beer, although its seriously an acquired taste, as it really doesn't taste like anything even approaching 'regular' beer. It has a weird fermented taste that, when I tried it while growing up, appalled me and made me think of something of a mix between fermented brown milk and some sort of muddy swamp water :)

I'll report back on the sorghum sourcing..

Jun 29, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Where to Buy Malt for African Drink?

thanks for the info. There's a homebrew store near me, I'll go give them a try and report back on the mageu experiment :) The drink itself isn't very sweet to begin with, it's - well, it's hard to describe - but its not a 'sweet' or 'sugary' drink at all.. I love the stuff personally, in South Africa its found in most corner stores, and is either 'banana flavored' or 'plain'- and both ways taste great. Hopefully I can experiment with malt fermentation+maize (corn) without ending up in intensive care :) Given that its a staple kind of food/drink in Africa, it shouldn't be too difficult to reproduce..

Thanks for the info, I'll report back when I try to do it..

Jun 21, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

The eating healthy for $3 a day challenge … help

I make - using a simple South African Portugese recipe, a nice spicy dish of chicken liver peri peri - total cost is about $1.50 - $2 - which makes a meal for two

buy chicken livers (usually cost = 90 cents) 2 tomato's, one onion. 2 breadrolls.

marinade livers in bowl in fridge for 2 hours with paprika, peri peri spice, black pepper, Worcester sauce, vinegar, splash of wine (brandy is technically whats needed)

fry up onion with paprika, when soft, add livers, brown it, then add the remains of marinade and tomato's, simmer it for a while. It starts looking like catfood - but tastes amazing.. pour out onto opened breadrolls. eat.

Thats a good filling spicy meal, that doesn't touch the fat and water filled bloated white flesh that folks in the US call 'chicken'.. and uses a very tasty part of chicken that most stores and butchers figure is worthless - hence the low prices.

Jun 20, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Where to Buy Malt for African Drink?

Hi all

As part of my ongoing attempts to make the various foods and drinks I'd enjoy back in South Africa, I'm in the process of trying to make a favorite drink of mine called 'mageu'.
And no I couldn't begin to tell you how to pronounce it :)

It's a thick fermented-maize drink, with the consistency of wet porridge or gruel - and its very big amongst the local SA population. (Not so much amongst white folks, as the taste is somewhat of an acquired taste). Its a very filling drink/meal substitute that's got a taste that I've always enjoyed.

I have a recipe which seems fairly simple - however it calls for 'malt'. With no explanation of what kind of malt, or even where one can find it. In US stores I've looked through various baking sections, to no avail.

Here's the recipe as I've found it:
Ingredients:

2 1/2 oz mealie meal (fine maize meal) about 72g
3 cups malt
1 cup water

Method

Grind the malt and sift it. Place the water in a pot and bring to the boil. Add the mealie meal stirring to mix. Cook until the meal absorbs the water and a soft porridge is formed.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
When the porridge feels cool to the touch add the malt, stirring to mix well.
Leave covered for 24 hours to ferment.

And that's it. Can any of the forumites advise me on the 'malt' aspect? Or am I looking for the wrong thing locally by trying to find 'malt' - is it called something else in the US?
Thanks in advance.

Jun 20, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Making Biltong

UPDATE:

Having recently moved, and I had to change how I hung the biltong for the heck of it I placed a fan blowing directly at the meat - and this seems to accelerate the entire process dramatically. The meat went from only looking vaguely like biltong on day 3 or so, to looking like biltong within a day - and was edible and good to go by day 4.. So keep this option in mind, if you have the meat hanging someplace secure, and have a spare fan that you can blow at the meat 24/7 - you'll get VERY fast results.

Only thing to keep in mind, is that with the fan blowing, your meat may shift in the wind and be touching initially, which you don't want. So indirect blowing for a day, and then once the black biltong look has started, then direct blowing, as it wont matter if the meat cuts are gradually shifted by the fan and are jostling each other.

Another thing to simplify the ingredients and create a truly special biltong, is to consider making a purchase or asking someone in SA to send you a bag of premade 'biltong spice'. After a year of making my own biltong, I got a bag of premade genuine SA biltong spice, and it really makes a big difference. I'm not sure what the ingredients are, as the quantities of the spice-mix is a jealously guarded secret with different biltong-makers - but if you get the chance to access a bag of the 'real' spice, it does mean that you'll be tasting the closest thing to SA biltong you'll ever get.

Its not essential, and the ingredients I listed above, will still deliver a fairly tasty biltong - but the darn premade authentic stuff is awesome. The spices aspect is clearly the important part of the process. It makes me want to find a lab, and ask them to detail and breakdown the ingredients in the bag I have :)
The only ingredient I know my own recipe doesnt use, is salt petre, which I havent bothered to try and source, so I'm not sure if that's the 'mystery ingredient X'

regardless, experiment away, and Happy eating :)

Jun 20, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

South African Meat Pies

As a relocated South African, now in the US, I feel your friends pain. The pies are really good in SA. The US generally speaking, has no clue about 'pies' except as some sort of sweet sugary confection - whereas SA follows the UK model of savory pies.

One of the big pie franchise places across SA, is 'the london pie company' - to get an idea of the range of pies, here's a list of their pie types available:
"Beef & Onion, Cheese & Beef, Cheese Pasty, Cheese & Veggie, Chicken &
Mushroom, Chicken Peri Peri, Chicken Roll, Cornish Pasty, Country
Cottage, Mutton Curry, Pepper Steak, Prime Steak, Roast Chicken,
Sausage roll, Spinach & Feta, Steak & Kidney, Thai Chicken, Thai
Veggie, Gourmet London Pie, Veggie Curry, Cocktail Sausage Rolls."

The nearest one is going to get to the wide range of pies in SA - is to hunt for US based 'British' or 'UK' stores, and try their steak and kidney pies at least. That'll be vaguely similar in taste to at least one of the SA pie-genres.

For the rest of the delicious pies, I guess one will have to wait and hope that the company decides at some point, to try break into the US market, like Nando's (a South African-Portuguese chicken franchise), is slowly doing.

The pies themselves generally follow the standard rectangular or round model of the UK pies. (Not 'pork pies' though) - and usually a couple of these are a good meal. Look up recipes for 'authentic British steak and kidney pies' - you want the recipes that indicate pastry that fully encloses the filling, not the fake 'pie crust above and loose food below' type.
That'll give you the basic recipe for the standard SA pie pastry.

Jun 20, 2007
TheFamine in General Topics

Ethnic stores, bakeries, markets Willimantic

Thanks for the info - will be trying the various suggestions. Already tried the fish market when we first arrived, and the fish takeout was delicious.. Explored the Polish place, and agreed, its not that awe inspiring - still, it has a couple of nice oddities which are useful to have access to.
Will be trying the various farmers markets in the area, hopefully starting with the local Willimantic one on Sat morning..

I'm rather curious - given the American focus on the aesthetics of food (of how things 'look') - to speak to some farmers at the farmers markets and ask what they do with their ugly and 'unsightly-looking' fruits and vegetables.
know there's a big tendency towards standardizing of veg and fruit - even with 'organic' produce - but this means there's a percentage of crops that aren't sellable, because they don't 'look' as nice as what people are used to.
It'd be useful to find out what the various farmers in the area do with their produce that doesn't meet organic market/supermarket 'visual' quality controls. Usually its thrown away, turned into fertilizer, or fed to cattle. Its always a good way to get very cheap fruit and veg, if you're happy with odd-looking produce (which most consumers aren't)..

Jun 15, 2007
TheFamine in All New England Archive

Ethnic stores, bakeries, markets Willimantic

Hi all.

Recently. (yesterday!) relocated to Willimantic CT. I'm looking for any info on Asian or Ethnic supermarkets (similar to Super 88) in the area or within a 20 mile radius. Also, if anyone has info on 'ethnic' bakeries, (be it Russian, British or just EU in general) it'd be a great help.
Already found a 'Co-op' here in Willimantic, but its very overpriced..

Thanks in advance.

May 27, 2007
TheFamine in All New England Archive

Making Biltong

Here're some last pix of the final 2 pieces of biltong as they're harvested. Not much difference - and I get the feeling, given the thickness of the initial meat slices, that I could have left them for even longer than a week in the recent hot weather, in order to get them to become 'proper' dark colored biltong.

Next batch I do, I'll deliberately cut some thinner pieces of meat to start with - to show the different results from thinner meat cuts to start with.

Technically, the result you want, using the above recipe, should provide you with a uniformly DARKER biltong - whereas because I was turning very thick slices of meat into biltong, its meant that I have a pinker hue throughout the biltong, that isn't usually there (at least not without something like salt petre added at the start).

So a slightly thinner cut will give better results in terms of proper uniformly dark biltong - whereas what I've made here is fairly 'wet' biltong that is quite edible, but a biltong purist would grumble at - as the 'flesh' is not totally turned into biltong (at least visually).

Here ends the 'making biltong' lesson :)

Next one will be a combo of 'making biltong 'snapsticks' - as well as making 'regular' darker colored biltong (both simply require starting with thinner cuts of meat than I did).

Happy snacking.

May 15, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Making Biltong

And here's the 5th pic

May 12, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Making Biltong

Okay - did some more harvesting. It's clear that I was spoiled throughout winter - as it seems to take a LOOONG time for the biltong process to work and dry out the meat, now that the heat has returned. So work on the idea of AT LEAST 6 or 7 days (if not more) to get your meat into the desired total dry biltong state.
My camera is not behaving too well, so I got out of focus pix for some of the steps, until I realized I seem to need natural light to shoot with.

Pic 1. Shows the next three pieces of biltong, with 'S' shaped hanging things still attached.
Pic 2. Shows 1st piece harvested and roughly sliced. 2nd piece cut open, en route to being sliced. You can see that the cut away section shows that the biltong is indeed 'biltong' in the interior of the meat. Also that the biltong is very 'wet' (personally, if I'd known that the process needed to take longer - I probably would have waited even longer to harvest it all. Now I know. I'll deliberately take much longer in my next batch, so that you can see what completely 'dry' biltong looks like.
Pic 3 shows the next piece awaiting slicing. As you can see, the biltong is very wet and quite greasy - unusual to me, as I'm used to a rapid drying out during Winter.
Pic 4 shows the growing pile of wet biltong, as we as the slice cutaway from the next piece of biltong (camera is grrr out of focus) - but you can see that the color of the interior, is the dark color of biltong.
Pic 5 shows the artery-clogging joyful big pile of roughly cut wet biltong. It's now stashed in the fridge, and if I notice that its FINALLY drying out correctly in there, I'll take pix and show you.

I still have two pieces of biltong hanging. One is a massively fatty piece, and the other has a small amount of fat remaining. I'm going to leave these two to hang further, and see how long it takes before they actually dry out as they're supposed to.

But again, given what I've learned in this batch, about biltong-making in Summer/hot weather - leave your biltong hanging as long as possible. Its fine to nibble at from about day 5 - but to get the 'proper' dry biltong - I'm figuring at least a week if not longer - depending on the thickness of your meat to start with.

Its also normal, I figure, for the biltong to have a certain 'greasiness' in places - as the juices inside try to escape. Previously during the winter months, I think the cold air was simply radically drying my biltong, so this aspect of minor grease emerging, is just a normal by-product of the casual open-air biltong making that I'm doing.

I'll leave my two pieces hanging - I think we're now onto day erm? Not sure 6? 7? More?
and will post pix when I harvest it.

Hope this has provided folks with a lot of info, so that they can also dive in and make their own biltong, without any worries or fears.

May 12, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Making Biltong

Thanks for the kind words. Okay, let me address the various questions
as they come up. And bear in mind, relative to the majority of chowhounds,
I'm NO expert - I've just eaten biltong for decades, and finally got irked
enough at the high prices in the US for a staple cheap food back in South Africa,
to start making my own.
Just a first thought - because I have lousy knives at the moment, my slices are
fairly thick, and I've wondered what the local butcher would do if I took my biltong
down to the store and asked if they could slice it on their slicing machine.

Biltong usually comes in either wafer thin slices, or 'bite sized' - and my shapes
(of the end biltong) is fairly stodgy, as the pix show.

Some upmarket restaurants which make their own biltong, deliver a 'shaped' variety,
where the initial meat has been shaped ahead of time, to deliver a more rounded
(circular) slice of biltong. Mine is the totally quick and dirty version - and
I've given no thought when cutting the meat, to anything other than ensuring there's
sufficient 'flesh' remaining in the interior of the biltong.

So one can shape the initial cuts of meat to deliver a suitable end result of biltong thats
pleasing to the eye, if one wants to.

Next - as the next layer of harvesting pix will show (either today or tomorrow)- the soft
wet 'flesh' will continue to dry nicely, and become the same color as the exterior
throughout. It'll still be soft, in comparison to the 'skin' - but nowhere near as soft
as it was when I was munching it.

-The recent very hot weather, has meant that this is probably the longest I've hung biltong.
I've been making it throughout the winter, and in the unheated room here, with the open window (in spite of the snow) - the average time from meat - finished biltong, has been 4 days. So now I'm experiencing the standard length of time that's common, I guess, to biltong making back in Africa, where temps in the 90's and up, are normal year round temps..

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS

To end up with a 1 by 1 piece, you'd probably need a 4 by 4 meat piece to start.
(the best way is to experiment. You can't hurt yourself with this stuff :)
Why not experiment and create a 4 by 4 section of meat, as well as a 3 by 3,
and see if that's large enough at start. If not, make a 5 by 5 ..

(All the best biltong comes from a lot of experimentation, to find just the right
combination of spices and marinades, as well as initial treatment of the meat.
There's no one 'perfect right way to make a uniform tasting biltong' - so no matter
what you add to the initial marinade, you'll get 'biltong' - but its up to the individual
to tweak spices and treatment to get it the way you want it).

To have a good 'yardstick' to shoot for - it could be worthwhile to taste some fairly professional commercial biltong - made by ex-pats who generally know what they're doing and are delivering a consistent tasty version..

I've ordered this biltong before - did it twice, before deciding to try make my own
as a cheaper alternative. (its $16.99 a pound) That said, its very good biltong. The makers have the spices and treatment almost exactly right, in comparison to standard South African biltong. (And no, I'm not connected to whoever this site is run by - it just happened to be the place I ordered biltong from, here in the US)
http://lekker.safeshopper.com/1/9.htm...
their general 'biltong' category: http://lekker.safeshopper.com/1/cat1....
and mainpage: http://lekker.safeshopper.com/index.h...

It can be useful to get your palate to know and taste the quality of 'proper' biltong, so that when you're finally creating your own with this approximate end taste, you know you're getting it right (as well as making any South African who eats it, bow down and worship you :

)

Especially given that there seem to be some folks who haven't ever tasted 'real' biltong to begin with. Its useful to know what the food tastes like, so that you know what your home version is like, and can start tweaking the recipe towards it.

OKAY BACK TO THE ANSWERS

So shrinkage seems to vary - I found it shrunk more during winter, than it is shrinking now in the heat - thus a guestimate would be 30% perhaps? (I'm unsure because the biltong process was much faster with cold weather)

VINEGAR. I'm pretty sure its initially there as an anti-microbial (of a sort available
to traveling farmers in the 1600. That said, again, I've had nice results using a malt vinegar, as well as apple vinegar - and also regular white vinegar. The variables to add a subtle tang to your biltong, are infinite.

NITRATES
and 'Morton Tenderquick' Nope. I haven't added any - as I'm wary of most of the foods and chemicals here in the US, to begin with. And I've tended to operate on the idea that the meat anyway is filled with who knows what amounts of nitrates and chemicals. But that's just me.
I know some folks add salt petre, to get that pinkish sheen, but I'm too lazy to go hunt for it, and also I don't really mind a darkish looking biltong. I know its meat anyway, I don't always need it to have a pinkish sheen to it. Also, I'm erring on the side of 'total simplicity' - using the most simple ingredients I can. (My laziness again :)

RE EXTERIOR CORIANDER AND PEPPERCORN

(and if one coats densely, will it overwhelm it)
Short answer is, 'I think it would'.If one checks most recipes online for biltong, the spice quantities aren't that large to begin with. And that's often for 10 or 15 pounds of meat. The marinade time is when the spices and ingredients seem to get sucked into the meat, and I only once made the mistake of trying the 'dense' approach - using chili, which meant I had some fairly painful-to-eat spicy biltong that had a level of heat that was fairly ridiculous.

By coating it densely (such as with peppercorns) I think you'd end up with something overly peppery. I recall that some German meats use this dense layering - but that's not how to make biltong :)
(Although again, as I said.. experiment. Make up a batch of a variety of different meats to different approaches, then stick Post It Notes on each, so that you know which is which.. (if I still have pix, I'll show you my initial Post It notes versions of biltong, as I tried different recipes and treatments).

re the coriander, by the way, I should have browned them on the stove and then crushed them slightly - but again laziness took over.. but coriander is an integral part of the taste of biltong..

re different hanging methods - I've only ever done this 'hang in open alcove' route. And as I'm a fresh air fan, I sit here beside an open window - and have done throughout winter as well. So this small room is fairly well aired. Air flow is apparently vital to the process. The farmers in the 'old days' would hang meat from tree's and from the eaves of their houses (altho how they kept flies off it if it was from a tree, is beyond me).

As a side thought, I WAS eying some 'made in china' plastic mesh hanging cupboards - and wondering about enclosing biltong in a fly-proof material for outside hanging. That or mosquito netting might be a useful bug deterrent, if one was hunting out in the wilds and wanting to turn meat to biltong while traveling.

Again, for any hunter-types - just remember that its 'meat' and very tasty-smelling meat - and liable to attract every hungry animal in the area, from domestic cats and dogs, through to big scary bears :) So be careful with biltong-making if you're genuinely out in Nature. I'd recommend if you have to try doing it in 'real' Nature, you do it FAR away from your camp, and strung up high. If biltong attracts and turns cats and dogs into evil thieves, then you don't want to be on the receiving end of some larger wild animal hunting down that delicious smell :)

re hanging equaling 'aging' - I'm not sure, to be honest. I think the marinade opens the meat up and inhibits the aging process in favor of a radical 'drying out'.

On one of my first batches of biltong, I made the mistake of using (what I thought was suitable) quantities of salt - assuming then that salt was somehow a main part of the biltong process. And stupidly rolled the meat in salt. I ended up with ridiculously over-salted and inedible biltong that I eventually had to throw out. So forget about any 'salted meat or fish' approaches. Biltong requires just a tiny pinch of salt in total.

re freezing biltong - nope. Most online resources suggest that vacuum packed biltong should keep for some time. As regards my 'wet' biltong - I'd be wary of freezing it, given the amount of water inherent - which I guess would rupture the cells and alter the taste. (Like if you've tasted the crispness of a 'fresh' tomato versus the interior softness of a frozen tomato thats been thawed - the latter has a 'mushy' feel when chewed, because of the cell damage during the freezing of its water component. (Something I've run across a lot here in the US)

Also, remember that my version of 'wet' biltong, is actually too 'raw' still. The standard definition of 'wet' biltong, does require that it kind of looks like biltong - whereas I'm almost doing the equivalent of the sausage maker snacking on a bit of the raw mince amidst the sausage making. More or less. It's not strictly 'biltong' yet - its 'mostly' biltong, but not entirely - and because I'm familiar with the product, I know the difference between meat-flesh and biltong-flesh - so this is just on the edge of 'biltong-flesh' - and still en route to becoming uniformly biltong throughout. So don't mistake my biltong snacks yesterday as being the pinkish 'done' wet biltong. Or the pinkish sheen from nitrates. Its just me snacking on what I know is very freshly created biltong at the earliest possible eating point.

Point being - if you don't know the product well enough yet, hold on for another day or so - and err on the side of caution (not out of 'danger' - just in order to get the proper taste experience). Almost all biltong is 'soft' inside, regardless.
Dont assume that 'wet' biltong means it has to look as 'raw' as what I'm eating it looks like. It looks like this because I know the difference between meat-flesh and biltong-flesh. If you don't, then wait a day rather.

Again, its all about personal taste, I tend to like biltong in all its different stages - and this degree of 'wetness' - isn't really commercially available. Its just because I'm making it, that I can snack at this early stage of the process.

I'll post more pix of either today or probably tomorrows next batch of harvesting. (The hot weather is making this process much longer than I'm used to, which is why the last few days I've been a bit vague about when I'm harvesting.
Previously in winter I had it streamlined nicely, now I'm having to get used to a 2-3 day extension to the length of process I'm used to.

May 11, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Making Biltong

And here's the remainder of the 'early harvesting' of the two biltong pieces. The rest, it looks like, should hopefully be ready to roll tomorrow - I'm leaving them longer as they're either much thicker, or contain a lot more fat - which slows the process down a little..

Keep in mind these sections are 'wet' biltong, so the interior is soft and chewy, and there's a nice 'greasiness' to it - which might not be to everyone's taste - whereas in a day or so, it'll be harder and more firm (and thus a lot less like 'flesh').
When I harvest the remainder, I'll post pix of that biltong, to show what regular semi-'dry' biltong looks like.

May 10, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Making Biltong

As it got too hot and I needed a salty snack, I used up two of the pieces of biltong and sliced them up.
Here's a series of pix showing the slicing. My camera decided not to focus properly here and there, but it still shows the quite simple end process.
As you can see, they're still technically what's called 'wet' biltong - but utterly tasty and safe to eat.

May 10, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Making Biltong

Okay, we're up to DAY FIVE.

Here's two pix. One is the overview as usual, showing the biltong.

If you compare the sizes of the meat in the sequential pix thus far, you'll see the gradual shrinkage that occurs, as the meat turns into biltong.
Usually things will shrink by anywhere from 30% to 50% of their original size. This is quite normal - but it also demonstrates why one should make reasonably thick slices of meat to begin with, otherwise you'll end up with biltong thats more 'skin' than 'flesh' (although they're the same thing) The 'skin' biltong would just be too hard and not a lot of fun to gnaw at. But again, its all about individual tastes.

The second pic - is a close up on the section of biltong that I cut off yesterday. Again, if you compare yesterday's pic - to todays - you can see the way that the exposed area has 'sealed' itself and continued turning into biltong. No spoiling, and it simply doesn't behave like I'd imagine untreated meat would.

Technically its probably almost ready - but I'm going err on the side of caution and only harvest (slice up) the stuff tomorrow. Unless of course hunger and the fun of taking pix to demonstrate the process, gets the better of me :)

Hope this ongoing experiment is of use - just to demonstrate that one doesn't need expensive materials, ovens or dryers, to deliver a tasty food/snack.
I'll update as I progress towards the final steps, and show pix detailing what the slicing looks like, and the sliced product - so that there's clear visuals covering every step of the biltong experience :)

I should point out that any 'debris' or 'stuff' visible on the surface of the biltong, in these close pix - are spices left from the marinade.. So its dried chili, black pepper and roughly ground up whole coriander (I was too lazy to brown the coriander).
Most of this excess spice will be shaken off during the cutting up, and end up at the bottom of the storage container or bag.
Anyway - I just thought I should mention it, in case folks wondered.
Next pix either later day, or tomorrow :)

May 10, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Making Biltong

No, I've only experimented with whats known in the US as 'eye round' (mainly coz that was one of the types of meat suggested on various south african forums as being an approximate equivalent to the biltong in SA).
I have eyed various meats in supermarkets - things like bison for instance, I think its called.I haven't seen much general 'game' meats in the stores I've been in.

I've read somewhere that 'pork/ham' type of meats don't work too well as biltong - but I'm not sure. I'd imagine that pretty much any type of animal should be able to be turned into biltong (with apologies to the vegetarians among us :)

Thing is, biltong and biltong-making is hundreds of years old - and there are serious purists with the stuff, who say only this or that type of meat is good enough, and that the meat should be carefully stripped of sinew ahead of time, and countless other tweaks - never mind the minefield of which spices to add. There are hundreds if not thousands of different recipes, each delivering a subtly different kind of biltong. So my lazy method is a fairly simple and not especially tweaked or sophisticated version.

But looping around - I'm pretty sure that if you have a form of meat, as long as the cuts of meat are with the grain, and that you marinade it, you'll be able to create biltong.

Hmm, ostrich meat.. hmmm. Haven't seen that in stores anywhere (at least here in Boston) that would be an interesting experiment..

The real thing that I wish I had the skills to do, is make the dried sausage that's sold along with biltong, known as 'droe wors' (pron. 'drewer vors' - Afrikaans for 'dry sausage') now that's a truly tasty snack.. But it'd require casings and perhaps a local butcher to mix up ingredients..

May 09, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Making Biltong

If you're in a seriously humid area - I've heard tell of folks putting a fan on to blow directly at the meat, which can both help with drying, as well as keeping any bugs off. I was wondering if the fridge might be a viable 'plan b' - but again, most techniques I've heard, require some airflow around the meat - so I wouldn't recommend the fridge method.

Experiment a bit, and maybe (as I did when I first started making my own biltong) I tried different recipes and divided the meat up into three different approaches - in order to see what seemed to work best.
Perhaps divide up your first load of meat, and place in different area's, to see which gives you the best result by day 3 or so?

Ultimately, recipe-wise, I soon realized that no matter what fiddly route I took, I'd always end up with biltong :) The only 'for certain' thing needed, is that 24 hour marinade in your fridge - as well as a stirring up of meat and spices and liquid at some point during the 24 hour period. Thereafter, hang the suckers up, and you'll get biltong.

Initially, I didn't marinade the meat for long enough - and ended up with a very bland-tasting biltong, so the marinade is important to give it the taste and bring out the proper flavor.
If you're a spicy food fan, this is the time to add whatever spices you want the end biltong to taste of.. (be careful with chili, I've been too enthusiastic in the past, and ended up with biltong that was almost unpleasantly spicy)

May 09, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Making Biltong

Well, you can grate the product when its done, and use the powder, or gnaw away at big slabs of it and play caveman and eat it that way - or do the genteel thing and slice it into thin slivers and use it as the ultimate tasty snack.. A casual search online will show a lot of different ways to use the product when its ready. And everyone has their own ways of eating biltong, what kind of taste they want to give it, as well as how they use the end product. Having a tasty dried meat that doesn't spoil, and which can be incorporated into other foods, is pretty useful.
I've heard mention online about biltong only 'keeping' for a few weeks or a month or so - but currently, I'm still sitting with biltong in the fridge from a few months back, that's fine to eat. I think the folks in wet and damp climates have to struggle to make it and keep it.

Re making it with a dehydrator or convection oven. Well, if you do a search on 'biltong box' - you'll see there're a number of businesses online that are selling what they suggest is a perfect way to 'make' biltong. it usually boils down to a closed box, with a horizontal hanging rack, and a bare lightbulb, which provides some warmth and thus apparently helps dry the biltong.
But as you can see, depending on the climate you're in - this isn't actually needed. I suspect its more for folks in Europe, with its traditionally wet and damp weather, than for the climate in the US.

re smells - well the first smell you'll have is a vinegar smell, which comes from the meat having been soaking for a day in the mixture. Thereafter, that fades in a day or so, and then there's only a faint 'meat' smell - which isn't unpleasant at all - and gradually the smell of 'biltong' emerges, which is a fairly distinctive smell. Sort of a vinegar-cured meat smell, akin to the smell of the meat section in a good deli, with salami's and other dried meat products.
There's no real smell that would indicate spoiling - of course if you hang meat without marinating it, naturally I guess there'd be quite a vile smell within a few days - clear evidence of rotting. But biltong - if it does spoil, and I'm thinking back to occasional store-bought examples in South Africa, as I've never had any mold, rot or spoiling with my home made version - it'll be very visible as a mold on the outside of the meat.

From what I've read online, if its caught early enough, a good solid wipe with a vinegar-soaked cloth will take care of that. And also if its only on one piece, and you're squeamish, throw it out. One needs to understand that biltong is a SOLID thing, it's not raw meat (even though it is) - and once the process starts, the 'raw meat' interior diminishes and disappears and is replaced by the biltong, which is an almost 'soft plastic-like' texture at first, which then slowly hardens. Any mold or rot, usually appears just on the surface, and can be seen immediately. It'll look whitish, and utterly not like the various pix I've shown here.

Be advised that animals go CRAZY for this stuff. It seems to totally push hidden buttons in most dogs, if you give them a taste of it - and they'll turn into serious thieves, given the chance. This is normal behavior - and in South Africa, folks are used to having to hide the biltong away from animals - but here where this isn't known, you could end up having your stash demolished by a previously well-behaved cat or dog, if you don't take precautions :)

As I was hungry earlier, I cut a small piece off one of the hanging segments - and it was mostly 'proper' biltong, but the interior was still midway between 'meat' and 'biltong' - I'm attaching a close pic of the cut piece of biltong to show what it looks like when the process is still underway. I'll take another close pic tomorrow of the same cut segment, and you'll see how the 'meat' interior dries, blackens and turns to biltong.

Note on the close views, especially the very close one - how a small segment of the meat on one side of the cut has already become 'biltong' in the proper sense of the word, black in other words - whereas the remainder is still 'turning' into biltong.
Don't let the pinkish look fool you, its not 'raw meat' any more, its what I guess could be called 'very wet biltong'. Its quite edible at this point (which is why I cut a little bit off to nibble on) - but in another day or two at most, it'll be black, rather than pink, as it dries out further - and then it will be technically 'ready to eat biltong'. And simple to slice up, or grate or whatever.
I don't think the biltong can 'spoil' at this point - I would imagine the danger points are within the first 2 days mainly, as one's hanging raw meat that's been marinated - and once the flesh has hardened and dried, it becomes rapidly more difficult for any parasites, bugs or flies to contaminate the biltong-to-be.

May 09, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Making Biltong

Here's a pic of the biltong on DAY FOUR.

As can be seen, if one looks closely, there's almost no 'meat' look
left to the biltong - it's uniformly black, in other words, en route to perfect biltong.

At this point, the two pieces on the left seem to be almost ready for
'harvesting' - slicing up and storing - and the other pieces 'feel' almost
ready, but I'll give it another day, and then post close pix as I wade in and start the slicing up part of some of the pieces.

I'm usually too eager and start slicing it too soon, and then have to wait a day or so for the process to continue. Technically it feels like a couple of the pieces are ready - but I'll do my first slicing on day Five.
Understand that you can't get sick from it, if its not quite ready - because its not 'raw meat' anymore, it's 'biltong' - just very soft biltong.
The longer one leaves it, the harder it gets - and depending on your own tastes, you can enjoy it 'wet' or 'dry' - I tend to like it somewhere between the two. So by day Five, a few pieces will be as ready as I like it - and the remainder will be good to slice up on Day Six at the latest.

The pieces that are least ready, are the very fatty ones - as this slows down
the transformation into biltong.

At this point though, it's essentially biltong now - and it won't spoil or rot from here on, and the outer 'skin' is too hard to allow bugs or flies to cause any damage - except for the fatty pieces.

And just to allay any fears - its not meat anymore, and doesn't behave like regular 'raw meat' would.

But for hunters or the folks wanting to store meat in a useable eatable form that doesn't require any cooking, its the perfect technique.

Tomorrow should hopefully be the slicing and nibbling day. I'll post pix.

May 09, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking

Hot weather dinners: your faves?

yup, spicy food (or hot beverages) will cool you down. You have to work against the idea that its going to make you hotter, and just try it.
Thats why I have a major curry fetish, picked up from growing up in hot and humid sub tropical climate. Eating 'cold' things is only a very short term fix against high temperatures, for best comfort, spicy foods is it - hence the use of spicy stuff in hot climates.

May 08, 2007
TheFamine in Home Cooking