There is a saying in Southern Africa among stock farmers and it goes something like this: “We eat our vegetables, we just feed them to the chicken and the pig first!”. One finds out quickly when arriving in this part of the world that meats of many kinds are on the menu every day. Lamb and venison are top of the list because this is what they raise primarily and what they love to cook and eat. Beef is next in popularity and pork and chicken are last and then come the veggies.
Afrikaans people make a jerky style dried meat that they call biltong. It is typically made from venison which in Southern Africa can be from several different antelope species but most commonly Kudu and Gemsbok. It is cut into good sized long pieces and seasoned and marinated in apple cider vinegar overnight then hung to dry naturally in a clean screened in area. After it is completely dry it is chopped with a biltong chopper into bite sized pieces. Biltong is served most anytime of the day for a snack or can even make a light meal. Similarly they take lean venison and blend it with lamb fat and spices and fill natural sheep casings with it to make a dried sausage called droewors or dry sausage. These are very long and hang over a large horizontal pipe in the meat room that many farmers have in Africa. After the sausages are dry they are easily broken into smaller pieces for serving. Droewors are absolutely delicious despite the fact that to some they may not look so appetizing. These sausages vary in flavor based on the lamb and venison used to make them as well as the spices. Each person has their own way of preparing food as we all know so some personality goes into each batch. There are commercial spice blends available at virtually every store for both biltong and droewors because it is such a part of the culture. The main flavor that comes to mind is coriander which is one of the main ingredients in most spice blends. In my experience biltong and droewors are foundation on which their meat culture is based upon.
Lamb Chops! Oh my how good Dorper lamb chops are no matter whether you are here at home or on a trip to our Dorper’s homeland. The only difference is that here we likely are going to a custom packer and have all our cutting done there and in Africa you are likely going out to the walk in cooler to fetch a whole carcass and do the cutting yourself. Yes most farmers will have their own cooler and meat cutting room with all the tools necessary to do the job. What could be better than when supper time arrives you just go and cut the chops just the way you like them! One thing that I have found unique in Southern Africa is the wood fired grill they use to cook on. In Afrikaans braai means Bar-B-Que. There is a very popular and commercially made grill unit that has a special way of preparing the coals for your chops and steaks. There is a fire box inside the grill on the right hand side that small pieces of wood are placed into. As they burn the coals drop down and are raked under the meat from time to time. This keeps the bad smoke from the bark going up the chimney and just hot coals are under your meat doing the cooking. This is an absolutely brilliant way to grill and smoke meat in a short time frame. This is something I have to have at my ranch someday.
I recall a hunting trip in Namibia a couple years ago where we sitting down to a very nice noon meal and the owner Danene asked us if there was anything we could not eat. I mentioned a few vegetables that I unfortunately could not eat because of food allergies and she said not to worry “we mostly eat meat here”. I was so enjoying this place with wonderful food and atmosphere. It is stories like this that you will never forget when you go and experience the meat culture of Africa for yourself.