Unless you’re from South Africa, you’ve probably never heard of biltong. But jerky aficionados take note: this specialty cured meat may just replace your Slim Jim.
Biltong, Dutch for “meat strip,” has been eaten in Southern Africa for centuries. The cured snack was originally brought from European settlers and adapted by natives as a hunting snack over the years. Because of the way the meat is cured, it's illegal to import it into the U.S.
Now, chefs and food purveyors are making their own version of the traditional snack in America. In New York City, Jonty Jacobs is the only shop that exclusively sells biltong.
Owner Monique St. Luce, originally from South Africa, was craving the childhood meat snack she grew up on during her first pregnancy but was annoyed when she couldn’t find anything similar in the U.S.
“A lot of jerky here has a sweet flavor and there are a ton of preservatives. The smell really turned me off,” St. Luce told FoxNews.com. She decided to team up with her husband Camran, originally from the Caribbean, to open New York’s first biltong shop.
Unlike traditional jerky, Jonty Jacobs uses only quality sirloin and bottom round cuts of meat. It’s preserved with just salt, pepper, vinegar and other spices over three weeks—no smoking or heat is involved in the process.
“Traditional biltong is just air dried in a well-ventilated room,” says St. Luce. “It’s such a simple process but the meat turns out chewier and has a lot of moisture.”
Jonty Jacobs get their meat from U.S. farmers somewhere the South (they wouldn't divulge their sources), and work with a curing house in Georgia to age their beef. All cows are grass-fed and the company currently makes lean, spicy and sausage variety snacks. Like upscale charcuterie, biltong comes at different price points, starting at $35 a pound for their traditional recipe up to $85 for a specialty, premium aged meat.
So how does this expensive meat stack up?
We tried the original spice traditional and 3-month aged varieties and were blown away by the taste and texture. Think if jerky and prosciutto had a baby.
The meat is cut into small, snackable strips with a simple spice mixture that doesn’t overpower the natural flavor of the beef. It’s chewier than regular jerky, too.
“A lot of Americans who first try biltong like it with some nice cheese or on a cracker, but really the best way is to just bite into it and enjoy,” St. Luce says.
Can’t wait to get your hands on some biltong? In addition to taking online orders, the St. Luces plan to open a West Coast outlet in San Diego next year.