Stellenbosch Hills Shiraz excellent pairing with prize-winning Biltong!

Stellenbosch Hills awarded the first prize in its Biltong competition to Frik Crafford, for the best of 54 biltong entries received in its pairing with Stellenbosch Hills’ Shiraz, winning a cash prize of R15000 as well as product to an equivalent value, at a function held at 96 Winery Road yesterday.

We had attended the launch of the competition six months ago, but missed the visit to the Freddy Hirsch head office, where the art of biltong-making was explained to the bloggers and journalists attending.  The brief was to create a biltong best suited to be eaten with Stellenbosch Hills Shiraz 2010.  The wine brand was the first cellar to combine wine with the stalwart South African snack, Stellenbosch Hills winemaker and Manager PG Slabbert saying “The art of drying meat nowadays is as specialised as the art of winemaking. Our aim was to create a competition where two of South Africa’s most popular products – wine and biltong – could be combined”. It is the fourth year of the competition.

The judges evaluated the colour, the texture, the taste, smell, and the appearance of the biltong, as well as its performance when the Stellenbosch Hills Shiraz was drunk with it.  The judges included super-nice MasterChef SA Finalist Ilse Fourie, who I met for the first time yesterday (she told me that she and Sue-Ann Allen are starting an events company, and that they are working on a cookbook), Sue von Hirschberg and Herman Schultz from Freddy Hirsch, bubbly chef Jenny Morris, and PG and Philip Kriel from Stellenbosch Hills.

Each of the three finalists were soft-spoken, each seemed surprised to have done so well in the Biltong competition, and each was low key about what exactly had made the difference in their winning biltong recipes.  I spoke to Frik first, a policeman in the Child Protection Unit from Worcester, who loves making biltong and was surprised to win, being ‘uit die veld geslaan’ by the news. He has been making biltong for seven years already and buys his silverside or topside from his special butcher, or at Spar.  He ‘marinades’ his beef for 24 hours in a mixture of vinegar and Worcestershire Sauce, layered with the meat, adding coarse coriander and brown sugar to his Freddy Hirsch biltong spices.  Then he hangs his biltong. What makes Frik’s biltong so successful, is that he talks to his biltong, to make it taste better: ‘praat met jou vleis’, he advised!  Second place winner Schalk van Deventer from Somerset West used Stellenbosch Hills Shiraz in his marinade, with vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.  Adding too much red wine would give the biltong a purple colour, warned Schalk.  He had enjoyed the competition so much that he would start again, at creating the winning recipe. He said that there were so many opportunities to pair different wines with biltong.  Third place winner Jakes van der Merwe is a professional hunter in Midddelburg, so he makes a lot of game biltong, but used beef for the competition entry.  His ‘recipe for success’ was ‘getting one hands dirty’ in making the biltong.

Freddy Hirsch sells its 1kg spice mixes at nine Cash & Carries around the country, selling its products to mass biltong and dry wors producers.  The company makes 40 blends for boerewors spices alone, including the Kameelhout flavour, for example. The company founder Freddy Hirsch is now 87 years old, but is still at his factory every day.  The company also distributes into Africa.  Bloggers and writers were thanked for publicising the competition, leading to the quality entries received.

Our lunch at 96 Winery Road, which celebrated its 16th anniversary earlier this year, had some stalwart dishes too.  The Caramelised Pearl Onions with biltong, cheese straws and Padano shavings starter has been on the menu since 1999 already, Tweeted Karl Lambour this morning.  My main course choice was the well-known Hollandse  Pepper Fillet, which had been rolled in black pepper, and panfried in a brandy and cream sauce, which was flambeed at the table.  The pièce de résistance was the Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate flourless cake served with vanilla bean ice cream.

Disclosure: We received biltong and two Stellenbosch Hills wines with our media pack.

Stellenbosch Hills, Tel (021) 881-3828. www.stellenbosch-hills.co.za Twitter:@STBHills

Freddy Hirsch, corner 11th Avenue and Voortrekker Road, Maitland.  Tel (021) 507 4500. www.freddyhirsch.prezence.co.za

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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