Special Delivery: Biltong, Mrs H.S. Ball’s Chutney and Rooibos
Recently my parents were on holiday and decided that their travels would include visiting me in Germany. Not only was it great to see them, but they brought pieces of my native South Africa with them.
Biltong : A South African Specialty
In South Africa, Biltong – or cured meat is a particular specialty. To some, the terms; “cured meat” or “ jerky” conjure unpalatable memories of salted chewy masses as opposed to gastronomic delights. However, biltong, is unlike your average jerky. Because South Africa boasts fresh and healthy livestock, we are already ahead of the game when compared to the resources of more widely distributed jerky. Additionally, our cured meats come from a deep tradition and unique process of both curing and seasoning the meat. This tradition of curing meats dates back to the time of the Dutch settlers. When the British came to South Africa, they colonized and took everything that they could, including fresh beef. This, coupled with a need to preserve meat in the heat resulted in a tradition of cured meats. The Dutch settlers found a way to make their meat seem less appealing to the Brits.
The Dutch cured the game with spices, coriander and vinegar and would then dry it and store it in non-refrigerated areas. They were able to enjoy this food without worrying that the Brits would confiscate it. The cured option was also great for the outdoorsy lifestyle of many Dutch settlers. It was portable and a great source of protein, and remains a staple for many.
Mrs H.S. Ball’s Chutney: A Culinary Icon
In addition to sharing this particular South African specialty, my parents were also accompanied by the always popular, Mrs H.S. Ball’s Chutney , as a great pairing for the meat option. This brand is a perennial favorite of South Africans, not just owing to posterity, but because the recipe is unlike any other (it is a secret recipe known only to the family) and consistently delicious.
The story of Mrs. H.S. Balls goes back a few generations. Mrs H.S. ball’s Chutney was concocted by Captain Adkins and his wife who settled in King Williamstown after surviving a shipwreck in 1852. The two would go on to become two venerated culinary icons owing to this recipe. They shared the secret recipe with their daughter Amelia who would later establish a real business around the popular chutney with the help of her husband Herbert Ball and Cape Town businessman Fred Metter. Popularity and demand continued to grow, both in South Africa and in Great Britain.
Some Rooibos to Top it off
As if lugging these two South African staples wasn’t enough, my parents also brought an expansive selection of rooibos tea. Rooibos “bush tea” or “redbush tea” comes from the leaves of the Rooibos plant. These are generally grown in the mountainous region of the Cederberg, located in the Western Cape province of South Africa.
Usually, the leaves are oxidized leaving a distinctive reddish-brown color of rooibos – this process also enhances the flavor. Unoxidized “green” rooibos is also distributed, but because the production process is much more labor-intensive green rooibos is more costly than the traditional. The flavor varies from traditional rooibos in that it is a bit more malty and has a grassy hint to it. Although rooibos tea has been popular in South Africa for years, it is getting much wider distribution now, and is popular all over the world…but there’s nothing quite like getting tea delivered straight from South Africa.