Monday, 3 March 2008

Making the Biltong Bell

You may be asking yourself "What is biltong ?". If not then go ahead and skip ahead to where I'm not explaining what biltong is.
Biltong is (according to Wikipedia) a kind of dried meat that originated in South Africa. The word biltong is from the Dutch bil (rump) and tong (strip or tongue). It can be made from beef, game meats and a multitude of other meats including venison, ostrich and fish. It's as tasty as hell and as addictive as crack (it doesn't actually say that on Wikipedia, but it should). Now you can introduce your friends to it and become a seedy biltong dealer. Perhaps if you're already a conventional drug dealer, you could add biltong as an interesting and potentially profitable sideline - "adding value" if you like.

I was introduced to biltong on a long, tedious, 10 hour trip to Sunderland. Carl is a web developer extraordinaire and he showed me his biltong box before we left. It was the only thing which made the journey bearable.

This is only a description of how I did it. I've never made biltong before and I haven't been tutored 'grasshopper style' by a wizened oriental-South African.

The box itself is fairly basic - a box containing a lightbulb and some ventilation.

Why make an oven from a monitor ?

Apart from the fact that it looks cool,there's a few other advantages too.

* Everyone has a spare, dead one lying around somewhere.
* The plastic used is designed to withstand a fair amount of heat (up to 60°C / 140°F).
* They have plenty of ventilation.
* You don't have to fanny around making your own box.

I'll come to the recipe I used later, but first - the box.
Firstly, take your monitor. Clean it (I didn't do this first actually, but I'd advise it, as it was a PITA doing it later)

I used a Packard Bell, but I assume any will do. I don't need to remind you that a flat screen is not the ideal choice (nor is leaving it plugged in while working).

Next, open it up and discard all the pointless electronics that a 8 year old worked hard to assemble.

My monitor had pretty uneven insides as you can see, so I cut a simple timber insert for a base.

Next, you need a hole to bring your lightbulb in through. I had an old lamp (which you can see in the background of the first picture) which I butchered for the cable and the bulb holder. I cut a hole with a drill attachment that I don't know the name of, in the lower rear of the casing.

Here you'll need to improvise as your lamp may differ from mine. Basically, find a way to keep it secure inside the box, so it doesn't fall over and set light to your box somehow, burn your house down and leave you destitute. That would be a bad thing.

I used a 60W bulb by the way.

Using adhesive spray, find some way to cover the base and sides with tin foil, to help reflect any warmth from the lightbulb back onto the meat.

Here's the foil on one side

And on all sides, including the base

As the glass front is all part of the CRT, you'll need to replace it. I had some opaque acrylic-type sheet left over, but most DIY stores will probably stock it. I ran a bead of kitchen sealant around the edge to stick it in place, then added weight to it to help it fit the curvature of the screen edge.

The final part is a rod to hang your meat from (I also added a hinge to the front section of the screen). A simple metal rod I had lying around was ok, but again I'm sure any DIY store will provide. I plan to add more later to satiate my yearning for biltong but for now, one is sufficient.

Now we come to the product itself.
Ingredients I used were : Beef skirt, Rock Salt, Apple-Cider Vinegar, Coriander, Ground Pepper and Paprika

Good quality meat is best, although Pineapplecharm has had success with cheaper produce squashed between roasting tins to get rid of the excess moisture over a few days first. I bought Aberdeen Angus beef skirt, from a Farmer's Market (Bassingthorpe Beef from Grantham were the supplier) at £7.75 per kg. I only bought about 400g for the first test run. A few quid seemed pretty good value to me.

Step 1 is salt. Cut into strips and add plenty of rock salt. I've read that table salt sticks to the meat all over and makes it too salty. Leave for approx. 1 hour.

Step 2 is seasoning. While the salt is getting into the meat, grind some coriander, together with paprika and pepper.

When the hour is up, scrape off most of the salt and dip each of the strips in a bowl of Apple-Cider vinegar for a second or two. Coat the meat in the seasoning mix as evenly as possible.

To hang the meat, I used paperclips to skewer it. Apparently it gives a bit of a metallic taste at that point, so remember to cut it off after.

Hang it up.

And switch on the light.

Go away and leave it alone for a while. I left this for about 3 days. It's supposed to be tough when it comes out though opinion differs as to the relative merits of wet or dry biltong.

Cut it up and serve to your friends. At this point, I'd recommend that you be very clear to people that this is essentially raw meat, and that you explain how you've made it. Legal action among friends is such a dirty process.

Pretty much the whole idea of biltong is that it would last for ages in hot weather, preserved perfectly as carrying a fridge on horseback is generally impractical.

In theory, in a box it will last for quite some time. In practice, it just never seems to last that long. I have it next to my desk while I'm working and some days it just kind of sits there whispering gently in my ear like a tender lover keen for me to devour. Other days it screams at me like a crazed slut, demanding that my will power collapse. Either way, it's consumed greedily.

So go, build and enjoy.

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rob said...

It should be pointed out to the unwary, that on no account should you let meat juices drip onto the lightbulb, as this will cause explodey electric death (I did, and the bloody thing went BANG! just as I openet the door and nearly blinded me).

DavidM said...

When I saw this in the b3ta news letter I thought you might just lay the meat on top of a monitor, forgetting about dripping. I use that method to dry chillies, it works very well. The warm air rising from vents on my 21" CRT will dry a small chili in about three days.

Anonymous said...

That round saw thing that makes holes is called a "hole saw" just so you know. You can now avoid feeling like a pampered wazzock when you need to ask for a replacement.

Anonymous said...

According to WikiPedia Biltong comes from the Dutch word Bil (rump)...
I have to correct WikiPedia and you here... Bil actually means buttock.

So you're eating ButtockTongue... How nice... Something realy tongue in buttock?

Anyway if you have doubts, check babelfish or something. :-)

Nice project!

Anonymous said...

I am definitely going to do this. I love biltong, but can never be bothered to go and buy it as it is expensive and a long way to go!

Was the stuff you made as good as shop bought biltong (proper stuff, not the stuff in pubs)?

Biltong Bell said...

Can't really compare, as I've never tried shop-bought biltong. Only ever had home-made. I like it though.

I'm also experimenting with a batch of venison right now, so I'll update with that.

Anonymous said...

Biltong is yummy. I have heard you can also hang it behind your fridge to dry..

rob said...

Hmmm, I dunno if I'd eat *anything* that had been down the back of the fridge, not even biltong.

BTW, I came back to nick yr recipe, as the last one I used was shit, so I hope this one turns out better (and doesn't go bang in my face).

Anonymous said...

This looks great! Finally a good use for the collection of crt's in the loft.

Oh yes, love your writing style too.

kali said...

love this! well done for making biltong without ever having tasted the 'real' thing. your recipe looks pretty close to how it's made in RSA, although there are obviously many variants. as long as there is coriander in it, you can't go wrong (in my opinion). and venison biltong, including ostrich, is very good. yours looked quite dry - have you tried it wet? biltong and avocado (and peppadews) on a salad somehow combine into an orgasmotron.

Adam G said...

I've bought all the little parts for this contraption on e-bay, including a USB fan with blue LEDs, a ceramic BC holder, insulation and bulbs. Can't wait to get this thing going. Love your design and thanks for posting it. Great description and much appreciation in the step by step photos.

Good man,

Adam G. said...

Check out my box!! Don't know if facebook allows this link. Thanks again for the design!!

Danyelle Rocha said...

Uma boa proposta esta máquina,sobretudo quando minhares de PCs são sucateados todos os anos
Por Dany, tecnico em alimentos
do Brazil.

Anonymous said...

The one thing that worries me about this project (yes, I said the only one) is the CRT itself. CRT's have lots of lead in them, so I would be really careful when you're taking it apart first not to contaminate any of the meat-touching-surfaces with lead, and also to dispose of any waste through a toxic-waste facility, rather than the everyday garbage. The recipe looks delicious, though!

Anonymous said...

it is extremely dangerous for people to muck around inside of a CRT. There are capacitors in the device that hold a potentially lethal charge even when the device is UNPLUGGED.

There are also a lot of bad chemicals inside of a monitor.

CRTs can implode with deadly force.

I would recommend against using a CRT for this project.

bushmansdelight said...

love it!!

Anonymous said...

Fucking brilliant!!!

Screw the lead and all that shit just wash the monitor with detergents before use.

Stuart Miles said...

What a great recycling idea, I've looked at a lot of biltong makers, but this is the strangest!