27 March 2014

The Biltong Company - Original Sticks & Sweet Chilli Jerky [Review by @CaptainKindling]

The Biltong Company - Original Sticks & Sweet Chilli Jerky

Continuing with my new duties as Foodstuff Finds' designated carnivore, I was recently given a choice of a couple of products from The Biltong Company.  Originally from South Africa, Biltong is on the rise in the UK at the moment.  They do a range of different products, so to get a little bit of variety in both flavour and texture I chose their original sticks and sweet chilli jerky.

Seeing as it was in more managable, bite-sized chunks I started with the sweet chilli jerky as a lunchtime snack.  I am a big fan of both jerky and sweet chilli, but had never tried a combination of the two, so I had quite high expectations going into this one!  The first thing to notice is the size of the chunks - unlike your typical off-the-shelf supermarket jerky which tends to be finely shredded, the jerky in this pack came in very generous portions.  The 125g size bag was the smallest size available, and this still felt like it was more than enough to snack on for a few days.
To keep the meat well preserved the jerky was kept well-sealed, so when I opened the pack I was hit by a potent waft of both beef and chilli in equal measure.
As you'd expect with jerky, you need a decent set of teeth and strong jaw muscles to dig into it!  The sweet chilli taste hit me first of all, but as it softened up the beef flavour was released more and more, eventually leaving the chilli as a tingling aftertaste.  I managed to get through five or six pieces before my teeth started to ache, so I begrudgingly allowed the rest of the office to try a piece before popping the rest into a tub to return to over the following few days.  For my colleagues this was their first taste of jerky, and it was met with a positive reaction all round.
As a jerky fan I know that the natural flavour of dried beef is a very strong one, and so it's difficult to add a flavour which won't be completely overwhelmed.  In this case the chilli competes for its place very well, but I couldn't help but feel that the sweetness was lost amongst those two strong flavours.

After a few days of finishing off the jerky and letting my jaw muscles recover, I moved onto the Original Stick.  As the photo shows, this was just one solid slab of dried meat, which made it quite an inimidating prospect!  I was slightly tempted to just go nuts and have at it like a dog with a chew stick, but decided to be a bit more sensible and use a knife to cut off strips as and when I fancied a nibble.
As with the sweet chilli jerky, there was a strong aroma released as soon as I cut through the vacuum packaging.  On this occasion it was overwhelmingly peppery, and personally I found it a bit much!
I have to admit the overpowering aroma made me a little bit hesitant when it came to tasting time, but in fact it didn't taste nearly as strong as it smelled.  The pepper was there, though more as a complementary taste, allowing the full flavour of the beef to come through.  Being a dried meat product it was quite salty, but not as salty as many other products I've tried.  According to the ingredients label it did also contain worcester sauce and coriander, but neither of these were particularly apparent to my tastebuds.
In terms of the texture, it was actually surprisingly tender!  I'd geared myself up for another jerky-esque war of attrition going into this, but it was much softer and more managable on the teeth.  While I did decided to play the nice colleague and offer tasters around the office, I did feel as though this was something I could have selfishly tackled on my own!

To summarise I'd say that the sweet chilli jerky is something I could have as an occasional treat, but the original stick was something I could happily have on a regular basis.

The Biltong Company  does have a wide range of products to choose from starting from £2.80 for a 125g pack, so if you're a fan of dried beef or just fancy taking the plunge and giving it a try then they'll probably have something to take your fancy.

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