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Biltong

Biltong and dry wors

drying methods and equipment

There are varied means of removing moisture from biltong and dry wors, but the difference between dry and dull is determined by hanging methods and drying temperature and time.

When raw strips of meat come in contact with heat the water in the centre of the product moves to the surface and the moisture on the surface evaporates, causing the product to dry.The total moisture of the product is controlled by heat until the meat product reaches the desired amount of dryness.
     The thicker the meat is sliced, the more weight, but it will take longer for the meat to dry and there 
is a greater risk of contamination.The recommended thickness of meat pieces is between 1.5 cm and 2.5 cm.
     Some biltong and dry worsmakers elect to use a higher temperature to dry the product faster and reduce the possibility of spoilage; others choose a lower temperature to contribute to a uniform product. But the main factor establishing the drying time for biltong is what style of biltong is being produced. 
     Raw biltong will become wet biltong after 24 to 36 hours and will have lost 40% to 50% of its raw weight; in-between wet and dry will be ready in 36 to 48 hours and will have lost 50% to 60% of its raw weight; dry biltong will be ready in 48 to 56 hours and will have lost 60% to 70% of its raw weight. 
     Before hanging biltong the plastic or metal hooks, which are often passed over during cleaning, must be properly washed with soap and water and wiped down with a cloth soaked in vinegar. Dirty hooks are one of the key sources of contamination in biltong manufacture and can transfer spoilage organisms to meat very quickly.
     The biggest problem in making biltong is keeping mould at bay. Before the marinated, spiced meat is hung or put in a dryer it is important to pour off any excess liquid from the meat and then leave it for a few hours or refrigerate overnight.
     High temperatures will cause theproduct surface to dry out very quickly, become hard and have a wet centre. This is due to the fact that water moving from the core of the product does not have a chance to reach the surface in the short time it is given to dry. During storage after drying the moisture in the product will cause the surface of the product to once again become moist, which is an ideal conditionfor mould growth.
     If the cabinet or room temperature is set too low and there is no UV light present during the drying phase, mould will also grow on the product. The longer drying times will in the end leave the product dry and brittle.
     Mould is more likely to occur during hot and humid summer periods, especially at coastal areas, unless the biltong maker is kept in an air-conditioned, dry room. 
     Mould will occur if strips of meat touch each other during the hanging period. If mould starts up, it rapidly spreads to the rest of the batch, so when drying biltong or dry wors it is important to make sure the pieces of meat do not touch one another, which will also delay the drying time. There should be enough space between the meat pieces to allow air to flow through all of the meat on the drying rails. 
     Overloading of the cabinet/drying room will reduce the amount of airflow around the strips of meat and increase the time required to dry the product. This prolonged drying time will lead to a greater chance of spoilage since it will take longer to extract adequate moisture from the product to prevent mould growth.
     When mould does start forming, the batch can be saved by wiping off all traces of mould with a cloth which has been dipped in vinegar, thus killing the mould spores. 
     The ideal temperature and drying time for biltong are 22°C to 24°C for the first 24 hours and thereafter at 30°C to 33°C for two days. 
     Most butchers make use of air drying methods on rails. The area must be kept at below 23ºC as lipids in fat turn rancid above 25ºC.While having good airflow, the area should, however, not be air-conditioned, as the artificial ventilation can promote mould growth.
     Rack drying is usually used for smaller biltong pieces such as biltong chunks, sticks or chips, which are usually dried to approximately 70% to 80%.The drying rack looks like shelving and has a perforated stainless steel shelf or wire mesh shelf that allows air to flow through. 
     Wholesalers often make use of a dedicated biltong drying room with built-in fans, lighting and heaters. The biltong room is typically made from the same materials as a butcher’s walk-in fridge. The biltong is loaded onto drying rack trolleys and then wheeled into the drying room. 
     The dry winter climate of the Highveld are the best environment for biltong and dry wors making, but with these dry meats being in demand countrywide throughout the year, biltong dryers provide the perfect solution for cooler or more humid areas. 
     These cabinets are made from stainless steel or galvanised steel and have built-in fans and heaters to assist in the biltong and dry wors drying process.
     Keeping the relative humidity (RH) of the drying chamber at 50%RH or lower results in a consistent RH being maintained in the chamber and therefore producing a consistently high quality product.