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When educating potential customers about Biltong, Ayoba always likes to start with the drying process. There is a common misconception that Biltong is just South African Beef Jerky. We agree that it is similar in the sense that both snacks can be made with beef, but the differences are more complex and the biggest difference is how the beef is dried. Beef jerky is cooked at a low temperature in a dehydrator or oven for only 4-8 hours. Instead, Biltong is air-dried (ie. cured) for fourteen days and Droewors for five. This process is similar to how you would cure prosciutto, salami, or even pepperoni.
Curing is a form of meat preservation with the use of salt, nitrates, chemicals or sugar. The goal is to remove the moisture from the meat by the process of osmosis. Some curing processes include smoking and spicing but no matter what method is used, the main goal is to inhibit the growth of bacteria through the removal of water. The curing process is used to preserve the taste, color and texture of the meat. Curing can also significantly extend the life of meat and was very popular with our ancestors before the introduction of ice boxes and refrigerators. A great deal of progress has been made when it comes to the curing process but that doesn't always mean 'healthier'. The introduction of chemicals and machines have made curing easier but we believe there is something to be said to sticking to the basics.
As previously mentioned, some meats are dried, or cured, using chemicals like nitrates, or diet killers like sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Next time you are shopping for a bag of jerky, take a look at the ingredients and sugar content, you are almost guaranteed to find either, or both.
Ayoba Biltong is cured using the same method our family’s ancestors have been using for over 400 years (learn more about the History of Biltong). We start with the finest cuts of beef that is marinated in a brine of sea salt and vinegar. The slabs are then hung to dry in an air-controlled room for up to fourteen days, without the use of heat. The end result is a naturally tender slab of beef that can easily be sliced and packaged or kept whole for you to slice at home. Since our curing process leaves the beef naturally tender and preserves that great beef taste (like a steak from your favorite steakhouse), we never have to use any chemicals or sugar.