One of the great hidden secrets of Turriff, a secret that I’m going to tell to as many people as I can, is Big Beefys Biltong.
Yes, South African Biltong made with prime Scottish silverside beef right in the heart of Turriff. This is a story that spans two continents and ends up in Turriff, via Aberdeen.
Working from his small office and kitchen on Rae Street in Turriff, Colin Thain, the man behind Big Beefy turns up to 50kilos of beef in to Biltong every couple of weeks. I interviewed Colin as we sat in his office sampling his different flavours.
So what is Biltong?
Biltong is air dried beef, its origins are from South Africa. When the Dutch settlers arrived they needed to find a way to preserve their meat. They found that seasoning it with salt and leaving it to dry was ideal. This also meant that it didn’t need cooking. You could cut strip of Biltong and just eat it.
and how did you get in to it?
I was visiting a friend in America about eight years ago, he had some Biltong I tried it and was hooked! There is more of a story behind how my friend got it.
My friends father had worked in South Africa for years, that is where he started to eat Biltong. When he moved to Canada he found that he couldn’t get Biltong and the American equivalent, Jerky, wasn’t cutting it for him. So he got a small Biltong drier and started to make his own. He used to send supplies to his son which is where I first tried it.
When I came home to Scotland I tried to find good Biltong, but nothing I tried was as good as that made by my friends dad. So there was only one thing to do, the same as my friends dad, make my own.
How did you do that?
My friends sister was still living in South Africa so I got her to send a small Biltong drier to me and I started to make my own Biltong. Really small batches, just for me. I’m a chef, so I started to experiment with the flavours. Some of my friends tried it and wanted me to make some for them as well.
I got myself another small drier so I could make more to keep up with demand.
Word got out and some of the pubs local to me in Aberdeen wanted me to supply them as well.
You need to take those samples away, I’ll eat them all.
It’s OK I have more….
So how did you keep up with demand then?
I started to make my own Biltong driers so I could dry more beef. I only had a small kitchen in my flat and it was full of Biltong driers. I still have them in the garage. Things have moved on a bit now though.
Well I got the opportunity to buy my brothers house here in Turriff. I sold my flat in Aberdeen and moved here. I have more space now.
So I got myself a bigger Biltong drier. Rather than doing a few pounds of beef I can now do up to 50 kilos in one go. Do you want to see it?
It is an actual Biltong drier from South Africa. I can get 50 kilos of beef in there, it takes 4 days for the beef to air dry and become Biltong. All I need to do is weigh it out and vacuum pack it.
What flavours do you do?
I do Original, Chili, Honey Mustard and Piri Piri flavours. I have experimented with other flavours from time to time but these are to standard ones. You can get it in 100g sticks to cut yourself or I do pre sliced individual bags that you can just eat.
What does the future hold for Big Beefys Biltong?
I’m working towards making Biltong full time by the end of the year. I’m still working offshore at the moment but all being well, I’ll just be making Biltong from the end of the year. I want to look at expanding and maybe being able to employ someone so I can increase the amount of Biltong I make each month.
Well thanks for showing me around and thanks for the Biltong!
One more thing, why is it called Big Beefys Biltong?
That’s another story…..