Cooking venison in a modern kitchen
1. Do not use overpowering spices
The meat is naturally tasty therefore you need to prepare it in a way that enhances the natural flavours. At Pierneef a La Motte, where I am the Culinary Manager, game is always on the menu and is always popular. The question “How do I get my game to be so tender and flavorsome?” is regularly posed, and the truth is that I just keep it simple – which most people do not believe. I did as little as possible during the preparation. No marinade, vinegar, wine or lots of spices. Just lemon juice, or (and) olive oil, salt and pepper and of course I started with good meat.
2. Let the animal bleed out properly
When you go hunting – make sure that you cut the animal’s throat in order for it to bleed out properly because you don’t want that irony livery taste, which is a result of an animal that has not bled properly.
3. Process your meat the right way
If you do not have time to hang the meat, then re-think your processing of meat. Don’t cut steaks and meat that have to be prepared quickly and a la minute out of a carcass that cannot mature. If you don’t have time to hang the meat then a better option is to make sausage, biltong or minced meat.
4. A biltong-making tip
We used to make biltong and then freeze it, and we’d end up with a freezer full of biltong, but frozen biltong is never as good. Recently we discovered another effective method to preserve biltong. Now we cure the biltong with various biltong spices – which can be left overnight or however you prefer it.
After the spicing we vacuum pack it and then freeze it. You can then take one vacuum sealed bag of biltong out of the freezer at a time and dry it in a small drying unit, that can be bought at any local supermarket or online for R300-R500 – within two to four days you have delicious, fresh biltong.
A friend, who lives in Calvinia on a 5th generation family farm, told me that it is a family tradition to make biltong. In days gone by, before modern refrigeration, they had to systematically plan the butchering and processing of meat. Some had to be consumed immediately (fresh) and other parts had to be processed, cured or dried to keep for later.
So on day one they would have the pluck and liver. Also, on the same day the offal would be cleaned and scraped to eat the next day and sult/brawn would also be made. And so the process went on with pickling, making biltong and droëwors. The pan biltong would be made from what we call the ‘rondebiltong’ or Muscularis Semitendinosus.
This rondebiltong is a big muscle and is actually too tough and dry to make good biltong from, so we made a plan – as they say a boer maak ‘n plan. For this the meat is treated/cured exactly like biltong, however the difference is that it is hung in a drier or ‘biltong room’ for a day or two, in order to form the thin harder outer layer. You can then slice it into 1cm thick slices, place it in a pan and bake it off very quickly, just to re-heat.
Another method to eat this would be to cut up the whole biltong, keeping its shape and then baking it just until it is re-heated in the oven. Dirk even smokes it lightly and serves it as carpaccio.