In previous articles I have written about biltong recipes, dryer construction and making your own using the BiltongMate. DIY biltong is not for everyone and if you want to just buy the product over the counter there are a number of options. One of them is Brooklyn Biltong out of (you guessed it) New York.
CEO Ben van den Heever grew up in Pretoria, South Africa. He could often be found at his grandfather’s butchery. Oupa Dawie (his grandfather) was a very lovable butcher and respected hunter. He made some of the “best biltong” in Pretoria. Ben would never leave without a paper bag full of fresh biltong.
Ben van den Heever was living as a programmer and part time musician in Brooklyn, NY. He made his own biltong every now and again, based on his Grampa’s recipe. After he met and married American Emily Conley, they started their journey in an inspiring city!
The company started with Ben and Em (now van den Heever too!) on their Brooklyn stoop eating leftover wedding food. Having gotten married the day before, they were talking about the party.
So, how does it taste? Before this question is answered keep in mind that there is no substitute for fresh biltong straight out of the dryer. In South Africa every butchery and butchers counter in supermarkets have fresh sticks of biltong hanging. You choose your stick, wet or dry, lean or fatty and have it sliced up right in front of you.
These fresh slices tend to be slightly wet and should be consumed within a couple of days. Most times it gets eaten a lot quicker than that!
Amongst many of the strict USDA requirements the moisture content needs to be reduced. This would allow for retail packaging with up to 6 month shelf life. This process does change the texture and flavor compared to fresh biltong but is as good a a substitute as you’re going to get.
My wife having grown up with the fresh stuff from the butcher plus the products that I make did not like the taste. My teenage daughter who also has been exposed to my home made biltong said that she really liked it but did prefer the home made variety. Maybe she was just being kind to Dad?
The bottom line is that if you are a jerky eater then you really need to give biltong a try to fully understand the difference. If you are an existing biltong eater and have been spoiled by the fresh stuff the products from Brooklyn Biltong while not being quite the same will be a great substitute in the absence of fresh biltong.