Cafe Chat: Canterbury Biltong

David and Nicole Stanley have made Christchurch the biltong capital of New Zealand.
EWAN SARGENT/STUFF

David and Nicole Stanley have made Christchurch the biltong capital of New Zealand.

Canterbury Biltong snack maker David Stanley has no hopes of cracking the vegan market anytime soon.

"We struggle with them a bit," he says. It's a joke of course.

His strips of chewy, cured and dried topside beef would be about as far from vege food as you can get, but while biltong doesn't pass the no-animals-harmed-in-the-making test, it does have other very modern health benefits.

The tough, leathery beef strips make a high-protein and preservative-free snack.
EWAN SARGENT/STUFF

The tough, leathery beef strips make a high-protein and preservative-free snack.

For a start, it is preservative-free, gluten-free, low-fat and high protein. 

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It takes 270 grams of steak to get 100g of biltong after the curing and drying, and that 100g has 55g of protein.

Canterbury Biltong came from humble beginnings 14 years ago when South African Stanley quit his Christchurch day job to put biltong-making first.

It is a way of preserving meat when there are no fridges. 

Strips of meat are cured in a combination of salt and vinegar, plus some spices but he won't say any more than that.

"There are lots of ways of making it. Our way takes a little but longer but it gives it a really good flavour."

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The original recipe came from a hunting mate in South Africa. Meat was cured, then hung to dry in the garage "just out of reach of the dogs" for a few weeks. 

New Zealand in 2018 is full of fridges but Stanley says it's the flavour and texture that is still the big drawcard. 

At his new purpose-built factory in Woolston, the drying out process is speeded up to three days in an industrial-sized dryer.

"It's hard to describe biltong. It doesn't taste like bacon, it doesn't taste like cooked beef. It has a flavour all of its own and once you've tasted it, for a lot of people, it becomes addictive.

"In South Africa you will first taste biltong as a child and then you will yearn for the taste for the rest of your life," Stanley says.

The biltong comes in a variety of flavours, but the original flavour is the one straight from the hunting plains of South Africa. 

About one tonne of biltong a week is made from South Island beef and is sold across the country and overseas.

BILTONG TIPS

Biltong can last years out of the packet. Stanley says he found some six years after the earthquakes and while it was very dry, almost like bark, the flavour was still there and it was still fine to eat. Biltong is best eaten by itself, but Stanley says it can add interesting flavour and texture when chopped up into small bits and added to pizzas and scones. "You can put it in a salad, or on a cheese board." In South Africa, babies teethe on it, so another possible use?

MEAT ON THE MOOVE

Elite Butchers of Bush Inn has launched a mobile meat wagon to sell well beyond its popular mall shop. The wagon is at Rolleston every Thursday from 2pm and Vegeland (Marshlands road) both days of the weekend from 9am to 5pm. The butchery says the new service is going well and more locations are planned. Boss Corey Winder can also be seen on TVNZ On Demand in the documentary series Knives Out, which follows the national butchery team (which he captains) on its quest for the world title earlier this year.

 - Stuff

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