Saturday, 17 August 2013

Homemade Biltong Box

I first found out what a biltong box was only a few months ago from a friend who was building himself a second one. When he explained what it was all I could think was I can build one this weekend and start making biltong. It ended up being a few weeks before I got around to building one but I’ll back up first and explain what a biltong box is.

Biltong is a type of dried meat which originated in South Africa. It is made by cutting raw meat following the gain, which is cured in vinegar, salt and spices before drying. The drying box is simply a box with a light (for heat) and a fan for air flow. That’s the basics of it.

I did a bunch of Google searches to see how other people had built their biltong boxes and many of them followed my friend’s design and the one I eventually went with. Others were made from ply wood, and some were old tv boxes. The design I have used is build using plastic storage boxes.

The total cost of building the box was about $80, $35 of that being the fan. I chose to go with the more expensive 240v fan so that I could have the fan and light wired together instead of using a cheap 24v computer fan wired separately. Note: the light is a 60 watt bulb.

The Build

I borrowed a set of hole saws to drill out all of the holes, I set up 6 vent holes (someone suggested this might be too much air, I haven’t had a problem yet but I could experiment with closing two up). I also drilled out a hole for the light to be wired in and the fan to be mounted. Note: I set the light up very low to start with and my electrician later lifted the light higher (it’s now about 50mm off the bottom of the box) to prevent it from heating up the plastic too much, this has not been an issue at all. I also made some plywood brackets for the light and fan to mount against. They could have been mounted to the plastic box directly, but I had the ply and thought it would be stronger and neater. The only other holes needed were for the wooden rods to hang the meat. The vent holes were covered in an insect mesh which is taped on, I got the mesh from work but it is super cheap at any home store. Note the ply wood bracket for the fan is also covered in mesh. I have also taped around the wood doles to keep out any bugs. I’m not worries about nasty chemicals coming off the plastic, the box doesn’t keep hot and the meat doesn’t touch any off the plastic.

My electrician did an excellent job wiring it all up. I could have done it myself but didn’t want to risk electrocution or burning the house down. The build is really simple and took 1-2 hours total.

Following this I looked around for some recipes and went with the most simple I could find. I had my butcher cut me 1kg of silverside (NOT CORNED) approximately 3cm thick (this will seem very thick but its good) this gave me 4 slices. This was dipped in apple cider vinegar then spiced with rock salt, pepper corns and coriander (see photos for thickness of spice). This was dried for 4 days (its winter here and somewhat cold), the meat came out very slightly pink in the centre, I liked this, others said it needed to be drier, and some said perfect, so it’s really a matter of taste.

First batch before and after drying

The second batch I ran was 2.5kg sliced about 1cm thick, I also ran out of spice. This batch taught me a few things:

  • The max capacity of the dryer is about 20 pieces.
  • The thinner meat needs less spice or it’s too intense.
  • When I ran out of pepper and coriander I used paprika since it was within reach, this turned out okay but I’m not a big fan.
  • And obviously the thinner meat dried faster (3 days)
Second batch all loaded up ready to dry

All done, I’m really happy with my biltong box, when I’ve finished this next batch I’ll start trying some different spices and maybe in future post some recipes.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Small rock-climbing wall/ massive hang board

This post is on my home rock climbing wall/massive hang board which is still an ongoing project. Clearly it’s not a full rock climbing wall (I wish it was), but it’s a hell of a lot bigger than most hang boards. My original idea was to put up just a small hang board much like the blank slate boards, maybe a meter long to set up a few holds to work on my grip strength. The only problem was no one sells such small pieces of plywood. So I scaled up and decided use a full sheet of ply (18mm, $80 NZ) which would span the garage and leave me enough wood for a small campus board on the back side. Since I’m back at Uni I couldn’t afford the ply until my Mum offered to buy me a sheet for my birthday. When she suggested two sheets I jumped at the opportunity and the plan grew again. Now the plan includes a hanging section and a peg board, both of which only need time to finish. So this is what I’ve got finished do far, a four meter long section of wall to climb on and half the campus board.

Holds from Uprising
The rock holds, t-nuts and bolts were all bought from Uprising holds; the total cost was about $200 NZ including all the extra t-nuts. The beauty of it is that I can easily take the whole this down and set it up in another garage.

The first thing I did was measured up for the wall. I measured down from the rafters 400mm and found I would be able to walk underneath without needing to duck, this would give me two cuts and three strips of plywood from each large sheet. These strips would be 400mm by 2400mm.

After cutting the sheets I drilled out the first board for the t-nuts, these were spaced 200mm apart horizontally and 100mm from the top and bottom of each sheet. I used a 10mm auger bit to give a nice clean hole (Tip: drill from the clean side through to the back, it’s ok if the back looks a bit rough). Once these were all drilled for the first sheet I hammered the t-nuts in from the back and the board was ready to go. At this point I realised that the bolts for the holds would stick out the back from the t-nut when tightened up so I was going to need to block the ply out from the wall to allow the bolts to stick out. I picked up some off cuts from work; these were 20mm thick and 50mm wide. I used these to line the rafters in positions that would not block the bolts from sticking out the back of the t-nut (I hope that makes sense since I don’t have a picture of it). These were screwed in with small gauge screws.

Woods to pack out the ply and the large gauge screws.

Once the first sheet of ply was up I could measure and cut the next sheet to fit. This was then drilled and the t-nuts hammered in. Both of the sheets were screwed in with large gauge screws that go all the way into the rafters. I think I have spent about $30 in screws to get the climbing wall and campus board up.

Once the climbing wall was up I could set up holds, originally I put the holds randomly but I have since moved them to be spaced in several different positions for doing pull ups.

The wall, note the possible pull up positions.

The wall stayed like this for several weeks until I got around to buying some framing timber ($20 length) to run up the back of the two sheets. I then added the sheet which would be my campus board. I used more 20mm by 50mm off cuts from work. These were cut into 400mm and 800mm strips. The 400mm strips were doubled up then wood glued and screwed onto the ply. These are on super tight and aren’t going anywhere. The plan was to have some more single strips on an angle going up and down the sheet but the horizontal section is so hard I can only manage a few seconds of hang. So the second half of the campus board is on hold for now, either until I get stronger or until I decide how I will fill the other side.
Views of the campus board
 I am still working on the hanging section of the wall and the peg board (a lot of work has gone into this, should be a lot of fun when it’s done).

Note: I now have a post up about my training with the hangboard

Pull ups and a one arm hang