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A taste of South Africa in Somerset
2:00pm Monday 23rd September 2013 in News
YOU may remember seeing crazy character Texas Joe and his range of barbecue products and snacks on TV’s Dragons’ Den last month.
Not to forget his quirky song: ‘Put That Jerky In Your Mouth’.
Since the singing sensation hit our screens with his beef jerky, Somerset’s very own biltong and jerky business – albeit nothing to do with Texas Joe’s – has seen an increase in sales.
Simon Davey has been running his British Biltong Company in Monksilver for justoverayear.But what is biltong and how is it made?
Biltong is a cured and air-dried beef and the most widely known of air-cured meats.
Its origins date back over 300 years to the Dutch settlers in South Africa. Jerky is made in a similar way, but is only marinated for nine hours and has a sweeter taste than biltong.
Simon makes his to a traditional South African recipe using all South West ingredients.
A slice of silverside beef is marinated in spices for 24 hours and after this has been washed off, it is left to dry in an industrial-sized dryer for four days.
When Mr Davis started making his own biltong, it was only a hobby.
He said: “At first it was just for me and a handful of friends. “I dried it in a big old drinks machine but now we have a proper dryer from South Africa.
“The business really grew itself as more and more people wanted to try it.”
Now Mr Davey supplies pubs, food stores, butchers and markets throughout Somerset and Devon.
He added: “I think it’s something people are very apprehensive to try but it’s a really good product and its popularity keeps on growing.
“The biltong and my dried wors, which is like a sausage, go down a treat in the pubs.”
Simon, 47, trained as a chef at Islington Catering College before running delicatessens in London, including one near the South African Embassy, which was how Simon got involved in biltong after embassy staff urged him to stock it.
“It’s surprising how popular it is across the country. In the South West alone there are over 17,000 ex-pat South Africans living here and the more authentic the product the more customers you have,” he said.
Mr Davis moved back to the South West over ten years ago and has visited South Africa frequently since then, getting the best insight as to how to make his product.
And it’s not just Somerset customers who have been going mad for the taste of biltong with Simon picking up orders from as far as Sri Lanka.
He said: “I’ve had a lot of biltong and jerky sent over to Afghanistan by the family and friends of people serving out there. The furthest place I’ve had to send to however was Sri Lanka which was very random.”
Even rock stars are a fan of the product.
Mr Davis explained:“I had a famous customer in Exeter once but I can’t say who. He is from a very famous rock band though.”
Since ‘Texas Joe’ hit our television screens, Simon has seen increased interest in his product.
He said: “A lot of people have been coming up and asking was I him and then wanting to try the product so I suppose it’s good news for me really. I’m hoping it will help to expand the business.”
He has also been invited to take part in the Cullompton market every week.
So what does the future hold for biltong? Simon says: “I love to experiment in bringing new products to the market. I think people are now expecting more from pubs than just crisps and nuts.
“I’m a great believer in doing something yourself until you can justify calling in help.”
Look out for Simon every Thursday at Taunton Farmers Market or visit his website for more information: www.british-biltong.co.uk
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