Nobody was too thrilled at the arrival of the vuvuzela into popular culture last year. But kosher consumers will be a lot happier at the newest available South African import — kosher biltong and boerewors.
The two traditionally South African beef products are showing up in kosher restaurants and supermarkets this month, thanks to a bit of homesickness on the part of expat David Libesman.
Biltong is strips of cured beef (although non-kosher versions may be made from elephant or ostrich) that are marinated and seasoned before drying. But “it’s very different from beef jerky,” Libesman said.
“In South Africa, it’s something that you can buy at every corner store, every butcher,” said Libesman, who is the CEO of Satori, a business software group in suburban Philadelphia.
Boerewors, which is a traditionally spiced South African farmer’s sausage, is served “at any barbecue in South Africa, no question,” he said.
Growing up the son of a butcher in Johannesburg, Libesman was never far from these traditional treats, but since arriving in America 13 years ago, his once-a-year trips to his hometown were the only outlet for his craving.
So Libesman, 46, started preparing it at home for friends and family, and soon he was convinced by others to launch Joburg Kosher as a side venture. Now his fellow expats, along with other adventurous eaters, can buy the products on Joburg Kosher’s website or at a growing number of supermarkets and restaurants.
Both foods are available in plain and the “spicy peri peri” flavor, which is made from a spice — a relative of the chili pepper family — found in Mozambique. Biltong is also kosher-for-Passover and travels well, “which makes it great for a business guy like me,” Libesman said.
The boerewors is already making its way on to the menu of local kosher restaurants, like Holy Schnitzel in Staten Island, Dougie’s Barbecue in Teaneck and Deal, N.J., and even the Yeshiva University cafeteria.
Boerewors is often eaten on a roll like a hot dog, served with pasta and sauce or thrown into an omelet. But Libesman is hearing even more uses from his new customers. “We’ve had people say they put it in cholent,” he said. “Americans will try everything.”