Thursday, November 25, 2010
Dried Meat, Food to Last
Mongolian food is rather simple and nourishing. Encounters with different cultures in the course of centuries long wandering across Europe and Asia did not affect the basic diet of nomads, comprising mainly of various combinations of meat and flour.
Life in a saddle, frequent moves in search of better pastures tending their herds prevented Mongols from developing a sophisticated cuisine.
But while Mongols failed to come up with a wide variety of dishes, they mastered what was available to perfection, especially when it comes to meat. There are dozens ways of cooking it: boiling, frying, drying, steaming or smoking.
Here we give a description of how borts (bour- tsi), or dried meat is made-- an ancient way of preserving meat through long harsh winters or marches across continents
As soon as the first cold winter days settle in early December, most Mongolian families set out to store meat reserve.
As a rule, one cow and up to seven to eight sheep are sufficient for a family of five to last through long and harsh winter, until diary products become more available during spring livestock breeding season.
Beef is the meat of choice, but each region has its own specifics. Herders in the Gobi Desert store mostly camel meat, while mountain tribes prefer to slaughter a yak or goats.
First, fresh meat is cut into long, 2- 3 cm thick and 5-7 cm wide strips, then hanged on a rope inside a gher, just under the ceiling where air circulates freely.
Within a month, the meat dries up. Once all the moisture evaporates, meat strips turn into hard, wood-like sticks of a slightly brownish color. The stripped and dried meat of one cow shrinks enough to be easily fit into the animal's stomach.
When the borts is ready, it is taken down and either broken into small pieces, 5-7cm long or minced. The borts is put into a bag made of canvas that allows airflow in and out. Borts can be kept in such bags for months and even years without losing the qualities of meat.
Dried meat is an ideal food for travelers. On long marches, Mongols simply take out a stick of dried meat, powder it and add to boiling water to make a cup of fresh and nourishing bouillon. Even nowadays, many Mongols take a small bag of borts when traveling to faraway places for study or to live.
"I survived the wet and cold winter only by making a cup of borts soup once in a while," says a Mongolian journalist, after spending six months on the Atlantic shore of England.
page 90 Wilderness Cookery by Bradford Angier
Meat is the one complete food. Plump fresh meat is the single food known to mankind that contains every nutritional ingredient necessary for good health. It is entirely possible for man to live on meat alone. No particular parts need be eaten. Fat juicy sirloins, if you prefer, will supply you with all the food necessary for top robustness even if you eat nothing else for a week, a month or a decade.
Every animal in the far and near reaches of this continent, every fish that swims in our lakes and rivers and streams is good to eat. Nearly every part of North American animals is edible, even the somewhat bland antlers that are not bad roasted when in velvet, to the bitterish gall that has an occasional use as seasoning. The single exception is the liver of the polar bear, and of the ringed and bearded seal, which at certain times become so rich in Vitamin A that it is well avoided. Juicy fricasseess, succulent stews and sizzling roasts are fine fare.
If anything, most of us would be happy eating more of this ideal grub which contains all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients necessary for full vigor. One way to acomplish this? By not passing up the birds and small game which are freely available to many of us thoughout the entire year and which if not eaten will only be wasted.
from Wilderness Cookery by Bradford Angier
Drying is the simplest way to preserve meat. Cut with the grain. Cut lean deer, moose,elk, caribou, beef and similar red meat in long strips 1/2 inch thick. Hang strips not touching on bushes, etc. Lay on sunwarmed rocks. Turn every hour os so. Smoke from a small fire of non-resinous wood keeps flies away. Season to taste with salt, pepper, thyme. oregano etc. Dry meat until hard, blackish., leathery. Jerky keeps indefinitely if kept dry and away from insects. Trim visible fat for long storage. Jerky alone lacks sufficient necessary fat for the long-term. Supplement it with fats.
from Arctic Manual by Vilhjalmuir Steffansson
On a diet of straight meat (and fish), cut fat and lean into inch cubes. Eat one fat, one lean. When fat no longer tastes good, eat just lean until you are full. If fat makes you nauseous you are eating too much of it. The Eskimos he saw were a strong, healthy race and they subsisted on a diet which consisted largely of meat and animal and marine fat. The fat included large quantities of whale blubber. Yes the Eskimo did not suffer from obesity. If meat needs carbohydrate and other vegetable additions to make it wholesome then the poor Eskimo were not eating healthfully .. they should have been in a wretched sate. On the contrary, they seems to me the healthiest people I had lived with."
Farming for Self-Sufficiency John & Sally Seymour page 117
Biltong is salted and dried strips of buck meat or beef and it is almost worshipped by South Afrikans. Living in the back-veld of South West Afrika, as I used to do, biltong formed an important part of my diet. If I shot a gemsbok or a kudu I would turn a very large part of it into biltong. I have made it in Wales since then, in fact I made some last year, out of beef,
and it has been perfectly successful. The only drawback is you need prime cuts really; biltong made from odd bits of scrag end is not really much good.
But this is the way you do it. Cut lean meat up in strips, say an inch square but the longer the better, along the grain or fibre, of the meat. This is most important: do not cut it across the grain. Lay it in dry salt for six hours. Wash the salt off it and hang it - if in southern Afrika in the dry season - in the shade but in the breeze - if in the British Isles in the chimney. I leave mine in the chimney, in light smoke, for say three days, take it down, hang it up in the kitchen, and it is perfect biltong. It is as hard as hickory. To eat it you just pare or shred little shavings off the end of it across the grain with your Joseph Roger 'Lambsfoot' knife (old back-velders will know what I mean), put it on bread and butter, and it is delicious.