Grill Hills

Is it true that the best time to make biltong is after the first frost?

Our food expert answers your culinary questions

01 July 2020 - 13:51
Traditionally biltong is cured using five simple ingredients: salt, pepper, vinegar, brown sugar and coriander.
Traditionally biltong is cured using five simple ingredients: salt, pepper, vinegar, brown sugar and coriander.
Image: 123RF/Victoria Agureeva

THE QUERY

My grandmother always told me that the best time to make biltong at home is after the first frost of winter. Is this true or merely an old wives' tale? — Andreas, Durban

THE ANSWER

I too can hear my late paternal grandmother’s voice saying exactly that in her determined manner. When it came to anything to do with Afrikaans food heritage, she was the expert and she could certainly sniff out good biltong.

In Gauteng we’ve had plenty of proof that now's the time to be making biltong, what with the many icy, crisp, mornings when blankets of frost cover the grass. I can’t say I have any proof that this old wives' tale is correct, but logic tells me it makes perfect sense.

This idea came about long before SA’s favourite snack was mass produced in industrial fan-driven biltong dryers year round. Instead, our forefathers relied on something as simple as nature as a sign that the time was right.

The first frost meant that the temperature was cold enough to have eradicated flies and bugs, that the humidity had disappeared (something which could cause the biltong to go mouldy), and that when hung in a draughty place, over time, the cured meat would dry out to perfection.

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