Monday, September 20, 2010

second biltong

It's been nearly a year since the first satisfying biltong venture, and while I still have a bit in the freezer it feels like time to try again. I did receive a slight prodding from the sight of the disassembled components of my homemade drying rig during a recent garage cleanup operation.

Biltong does freeze quite well, although my wrapping wasn't ideal and I can detect a bit of freezer flavor. We last enjoyed it during World Cup while watching one of South Africa's games. Our respectful gesture did not seem to help them any.

The interior of the first biltong is still pretty pink. It oxidizes in a matter of seconds after being sliced. I think this is probably on the rare side for biltong but there doesn't seem to be any problem with it spoiling in this state.

This time I thought I'd try flank steak. QFC had it on sale so I picked up a little under nine pounds at $5/pound. I used something pretty close to the same recipe, doubling it and also adding a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. I did not double the salt, however, sticking with two tablespoons.

The steaks were sliced in half with the grain, yielding eight long slabs. These should all fit in the dryer just fine despite the doubling of quantity.

It went into ziplock bags. I later noticed that the marinade dregs included perhaps a teaspoon of salt, so this recipe is using considerably less than the last. It is very tasty and I should come up with some other use for it.

After marinating for more than 24 hours they went into the Meat Wardrobe on Monday evening. I ran it it a little cooler than last time, probably averaging less than 100 degrees. Since the fan runs only when the heating element is on there's less air flow as well.

Friday evening I took a sample. It was still quite rare inside.

The flavor was good and I liked the texture at that point, although it will certainly become a little less pliant after a few more days. The sheen on the sliced surfaces is fat, not water. It's not nearly as moist as it looks.

Saturday morning I pulled one out to take to Matt's pig roast, wrapped it, and forgot it. The rest came out Monday morning, for a total of 6.5 days in the dryer. The final weight was 63 ounces.

I'm very pleased with it. It strikes me as more flavorful than the first one. There's no detectable heat from the red pepper flakes, so next time I might crank that up. It certainly doesn't need more salt for flavor. I wonder to what extent the salinity affects the transfer of marinade flavors into the meat, though. Too little salt may be detrimental in that regard.

I think the slices at an angle across the grain of the flank steak produce a better texture than either the tri-tip or sirloin.

So, good result. If I didn't keep poking at it and taking pictures it would be an entirely hands-free operation between hanging and harvesting, so probably only about an hour of active time is required. It works out to a little more than $11/pound, while I see it advertised for more like $25 - $40/pound. It's much tastier than any beef jerky I've ever had. Definitely a worthy undertaking

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