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If you saw the headline and thought, “Wait, isn’t biltong already preserved?’ then this is the article for you!
Although biltong is a dried meat, which means it’s low-hassle to store and will last for a long time when treated right, there’s still a few things you need to know to get the very best from your biltong.
1. More moisture means less shelf time
First of all, it’s a good idea to know exactly how you enjoy your biltong! If you happen to like a ‘moist’ style, that means your juicy meat may not last for years and years- and that’s ok!
While your biltong won’t go off or become unfit to eat, it will slowly dry out over time and may get drier than you like. If you want to keep your moist biltong perfect, your best storage option is a home vacuum sealer, after which you can put your biltong in the fridge.
Great news- there’s more of an excuse to eat it up if you like it moist!
2. The best way to store biltong
For most average styles of biltong, however, you need to create storage with two key characteristics: cool and dry. Keeping biltong dry means you avoid mould issues, while a cool temp reduces the risk of fat going rancid. You’ll also want to keep it out of UV light, which will degrade the taste.
This is a lot easier than it seems! Store biltong in a clean, dry, brown paper bag on your countertop. Paper can ‘breathe’, so it’s a better choice than plastic. If you want to put biltong in a bowl, line the bowl with a kitchen towel.
Always keep it sealed so pests can’t share your snack.
3. Don’t ignore it
You’ll want to shake or stir your stored biltong every few days, especially if it’s moist. This makes sure moisture can’t pool and create nasties, and allows the biltong to breathe. Plus it’s an excuse to nibble!
4. You can freeze biltong
If you want to keep your biltong longer, get it vacuum sealed and place it in the fridge. If you’re going to need longer than a week, however, it’s better to pop it in the freezer. It can freeze for up to a year, but the texture may be a bit different.
Defrost it on a paper towel so your biltong doesn’t get wet.
5. Hygiene counts
Be sure to wash your hands and utensils before you dig in. This will make your biltong last longer, and prevent germs from getting into the bag.
6. White on biltong isn’t always mould
Some varieties of biltong may have white, non-fat, clumps on them. If your biltong is from a reputable vendor, it’s way more likely to be a salt crust from the meat than mould! If you don’t like the look, use a drop of cider vinegar to wipe it away.
If it suddenly appeared on your biltong, you’re unsure of the supplier, or you see it develop, however, don’t eat it. You cannot eat mouldy biltong, even if you wipe it off.
7. Bigger isn’t better
If you want to preserve biltong in big chunks, as it was hung, many of the same rules apply. Cover each chunk with a brown paper bag. Try to leave it hung, so air can circulate around the whole piece, or turn it very regularly.
Remember moisture will continue to express from the meat, so it’s not just about your air. Trapping it on a surface is a recipe for spoilage. If you can store big chunks, however, you get to experience the flavour explosion of freshly sliced biltong cut to suit your needs.
8. Rancid and mouldy are different- and both matter
Mould is the biggest issue with preserving dried meats. Biltong is a unique snack, however! Good biltong has a little more fat than beef jerky or other meat-based dried snacks. This means you should always be mindful of the temperature to store biltong.
If the biltong fat goes rancid, it will spoil the taste and make it sour, although it’s not as dangerous as mouldy biltong.
9. A glass jar can work
If you don’t have access to a paper bag, store your biltong in a jar and place a paper towel or culinary cloth over the top of the jar with an elastic band.
It looks pretty enough to leave on a shelf, but remember that light will deteriorate the taste of your biltong- you’re better off leaving it in the cupboard unless you need to flex.
10. Getting slightly darker is ok
If your biltong was slightly pink when it was fresh-cut, and it goes a little darker, that’s nothing wrong. It’s merely a little oxidation. Of course, you should always use your common sense- if it was left somewhere in the sun, has gone unpleasantly hard, or smells strange, don’t eat it!
Good biltong will only ever go off through bad storage, so knowing how to store your biltong is a valuable skill to learn. Remember, we’re always happy to hear about your bilong adventures and trade tips, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with your favourite tricks.