Boerewors, Droëwors and Biltong

Traditional South African food!

Boerewors

I'm pretty sure that most expats can relate. When you're living in a country where your traditions are not observed, it can be difficult to get hold of the things you miss from home.
Boerewors is simply a farm style sausage, loosely packed (unlike Kielbasa or Chorizo) and comprises mostly beef but can also contain other meats like pork and mutton (in combination) depending on the recipe.

Effectively, the casing is stuffed with a coarsely ground mixture of meats and spices. Unlike brats and other traditional sausages, boerewors is NOT twisted into smaller links, but instead it's wound like a nautilus and cooked as is on the grill. The result is a sausage that's juicy, packed with flavor and simply superb when put into a roll like a hot dog.

Cooking Boerewors

I've heard of a number of ways to cook boerewors but, in reality, there's really only one way: on the grill. First prize for charcoal fire.

The trick is simple. Be gentle, turn it as little as possible, and cook it over a medium fire.

Some guidelines

  1. Don't prick or cut the boerewors before or during grilling
  2. Avoid turning it too much - it WILL break and all the amazing flavors will rush out and be burned and lost forever
  3. Cook it lightly - overcooked boerewors is dry and awful. It should be "medium" inside when you're done. Remember that, when you take it off the grill, the juices inside will still cook it a little before it's served. It should be raw, but it should be slightly pink.
  4. If you've thawed from frozen, allow it to reach room temp before grilling. This ensures that the inside cooks without having to burn the outside. 

Making Boerewors

Making your own wors is somewhat rewarding, and a must for South African expats who want a piece of home. 

Traditional Boerewors

Ingredients 

  • 2 lb. (1 kg) beef
  • 2 lb. (1 kg) mutton
  • 2 lb. (1 kg) veal or lean pork
  • 1 lb. (0.5 kg) spek (the firm pork fat from just under the rind)
  • 25 ml salt (about 0.85 oz.)
  • 5 ml cracked / ground black pepper
  • 15 ml cilantro seeds (coriander), dry pan roasted and then ground.
  • 1 ml ground cloves
  • 2 ml nutmeg powder
  • 125 ml brown / apple cider vinegar
    • If brown vinegar is not available, I tend to use 90% apple cider vinegar and 10% balsamic vinegar
  • 25 ml brandy /whiskey / dry sherry (optional)
  • +/- 7 0z. (200g) sausage casings

Method

  1. Cube all meat and spek
  2. Mix together thoroughly and mince coarsely
  3. Place meat in large bowl
  4. Add all dry spices, vinegar and brandy (if used)
  5. Mix together lightly with a two pronged fork
  6. Place in fridge for +/- 2 hours to blend flavors
  7. Let the casings soak in water while the above mixture stands
  8. Try frying a dollop of the mixture in a pan to taste test before stuffing
  9. Adjust spices if necessary
  10. Fill the casings

Farmstyle Boerewors

The fundamental difference between farm style and traditional is the fact that we are able to import premixed spices for the boerewors from a number of providers in South Africa. Since it tends to work out rather expensive, I tend to ask family to bring my packets of it when they come to visit. When in doubt, stick with the traditional variety above and play with the quantities and ingredients to suit your own taste.

Ingredients

  • 40 lb. (20 kg) Beef (80% meat and 20% fat
    • OR a mixture of 80% beef and 20% pork in the same proportions (80% meat, 20% fat)
  • 1 cup vinegar (apple cider or regular brown vinegar)
    • If brown vinegar is not available, I tend to use 90% apple cider vinegar and 10% balsamic vinegar
  • 26 oz. (750ml) ice cold water
  • 21 oz. (600g) farmstyle premixed spice
  • Some thick (and/or thin) sausage casings

Method

  1. Mince the meat coarsely
  2. Put the casings in water to soak
  3. Mix the minced meat with the water, vinegar and spice and leave to rest for about 30 mins
  4. Let the casings soak in water while the above mixture stands, for at least 30 mins
  5. Try frying a dollop of the mixture in a pan to taste test before stuffing
  6. Adjust spices if necessary
  7. Fill the casings
     

Country Style Boerewors

Ingredients

  • 20 lb. (9 kg) beef (80% meat and 20% fat)
  • 7.7 lb. (3.5 kg) Pork (80% meat and 20% fat)
  • 1 quart (0.25 gal / 1 liter) ice cold water
  • 1 lb. (500g) Country premixed spice
  • Some thick (and/or thin) casings

Method

  1. Mince the meat coarsely
  2. Put the casings in water to soak
  3. Mix the minced meat with the water, vinegar and spice and leave to rest for about 30 mins
  4. Let the casings soak in water while the above mixture stands, for at least 30 mins
  5. Try frying a dollop of the mixture in a pan to taste test before stuffing
  6. Adjust spices if necessary
  7. Fill the casings

 

Droëwors

Similar to Boerewors, this is almost identical, except that it cannot contain pork or veal (which goes rancid when dried uncured), and the fat content tends to differ - droëwors tends to be a little leaner.

Ingredients

  • 3 kg beef or venison (no pork or veal, it goes rancid when dried)
  • 100g beef fat (no pork or spek)
  • 30-35 ml salt
  • 5ml ground black pepper
  • 25ml cilantro seeds (coriander), dry pan roasted and then ground.
  • 3 ml ground cloves
  • 5ml Paprika
  • 2ml nutmeg powder
  • 125ml brown / apple cider vinegar
    • If brown vinegar is not available, I tend to use 90% apple cider vinegar and 10% balsamic vinegar
  • 25 ml brandy or dry sherry (optional)
  • 200g then (sheep) sausage casings

NOTE:
Always use lean beef. Even lean beef contains fat, so try to make sure that there is no more than 15% total fat in the whole mix so that the wors is not too fatty. 

Method

  • Cube all meat
  • Mix together well and mince coarsely
  • Place meat in large bowl
  • Add all dry spices, vinegar and brandy (if used)
  • Mix together lightly with a two pronged fork
  • Place in fridge for +/- 2 hours to blend flavors
  • Soak casings in water during this period
  • Fit casings to sausage maker and fill with mixture

 

GeneraL Tips for making sausage

  • I've had great success using casings from sausagemaker.com
  • When grinding meat, try to make sure it's as cold as possible - this will make grinding way easier and will help keep it from winding.
  • If you're using a light duty grinder (like the KitchenAid attachment I use), keep your cubes small (no bigger than 2" x 2") - this will help with the grinding.
  • For the casings, first soak them for 30 - 60 minutes.
  • Once the casings are soaked, just before threading each one, I first flush it by opening one end using my pinkie fingers and then directing a stream of water into it so that it creates a water bubble which flows through and flushes it out. This also helps when threading.
  • To thread the casings more easily, I apply a tiny amount of non-stick spray to the nozzle before threading.
  • Always make sure your casings and fingers stay wet throughout the entire process. This helps avoid splitting or tearing.

Biltong

Similar to droëwors, this is just cured, dried meat. South Africans make biltong mostly from Beef, but also from Game, Ostrich or even chicken. Personally, I prefer beef biltong, but I've had a variety and they're great! While it shares similarities with American jerky, it is NOT jerky.

I'll post my recipe for biltong here in the next few weeks, but in the meanwhile, it's quite simply a process of selecting a cut of meat (I've used brisket, topside or even eye round roast before). Then, we soak the meat in salt and vinegar to draw out moisture and then baste it with spices and hang it to dry. The best way to get the ultimate Biltong result is to use moving air in an area where there are no bugs - flies can ruin your biltong in a matter of minutes!

With my retrofitted biltong machine, I can typically dry about 5-6 lbs of meat in roughly 36-60 hours, depending on how dry you like it. Personally, I like biltong a little "medium" inside, but most prefer it a little more mature (48-60 hours).

My biltong machine is made of base, top and 4 sides. Each of the 4 sides vertical sides are vented at the bottom. A PC fan lies inside the lid to promote air flow and blows air in. Also in the lid is an incandescent 40w light globe. This generates heat which assists in transporting moisture out of the enclosure. The vents are small enough so that flies cannot enter. The meat hangs vertically from 3 rods without touching anything except their individual hangers. I've seen many permutations of this, but the principle is the same. 

I've also seen butchers in South Africa hang their meat in front of a powerful fan. This keeps flies away anyway, and acts as a superb drying agent.

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