When Rabbi Zally Lazarus moved to Houston, Texas, to teach and run Friendship Circle, he never imagined he would one day be bringing a new type of kosher meat from South Africa to the USA.
By Anash.org reporter
When Rabbi Zally Lazarus moved to Houston, Texas, to teach and run Friendship Circle, he never imagined he would one day be bringing a new type of kosher meat from South Africa to the USA. Today, besides his work on shlichus, he is bringing Biltong to kosher consumers in America. And it’s at the highest standards of kashrus.
If you haven’t heard of Biltong before, you’re not alone. This Southern African meat snack is typically beef, but can also be made from other types of meat. The meat is marinated with a vinegar-based mix, then sprinkled with a dry spice mix of salt, coriander, black pepper and other flavorings, and then air-dried for the finishing touch. What’s left is a tender and flavorful treat, that is simply put…..delicious!
Biltong originates in Southern Africa, and has been a popular snack there for centuries. In recent years its popularity has grown outside of Africa, and for a variety of reasons. A healthier alternative to traditional and meat snacks, as it is high in protein, low in fat and almost zero carbs!
Haven’t heard of it? Well to start, you’re not alone. But don’t let that stop you. The dried meat snack market is a multi-billion (yes with a b) dollar market in the US, and is expected to double in the next 5 years. The Kosher Biltong is currently just a tiny slice of that, but also growing very very fast.
The story of Zbiltong, the company founded by Zally and his wife Esti Lazarus, is in some ways a typical Biltong story. Zally and Esti enjoyed plentiful amounts while in South Africa, but while home in Houston, Texas, it was missed. Between teaching in Torah Day School of Houston, and running the Friendship Circle of Houston’s Youth Division together with Esti, any biltong was consumed by pretty much just family without much time for anymore, and biltong maker was definitely not in the plans. But, as with everything in our lives, it’s all about hashgacha pratis.
When covid lockdowns in early 2020 meant more downtime at home, and with lots of encouragement from family, Zbiltong was born. After making more and more, and everything being enjoyed by family and friends, the need for quality Kosher Certified Biltong was proven to be there, and it’s been an exciting journey since.
Biltong is a delicate product to make, which has its challenges. Kosher adds a few more to the mix, but with more challenges comes more opportunities. In addition to Zbiltong being Kosher Certified through MKT and HKA in Houston, all meat used is CHK.
Zally has become a passionate advocate for biltong, and loves to talk and educate others about it. He’s been to Chabad Houses and Men’s Groups across the country, talking about the virtues of biltongs, and offering tasters to all who attend. It serves as a valuable lesson about kashrus for the crowds as well, showing them how the smallest details can make the biggest difference.
“The responses have been incredible. We not only give a live demo on how it’s made, but they see and learn firsthand why it’s so unique, how the taste and flavor is created, and how the Kosher aspect is a front and center feature,” he told Anash.org.
Although biltong is a specific food, the concept of air-dried meat with these varieties of spices has made way for a biltong family of products. Zbiltong currently has 11 different products, which range in taste, style, heat, and even originality with some Zbiltong inventions.
“While Kosher Certified meat products usually means greater cost, the ability to offer a great tasting Kosher option is rewarding in its own way,” Zally said.
He says his hope is that offering Kosher Biltong in the USA, something which was mostly unheard of until now, will help more people take the leap to keep Kosher. And for those already keeping Kosher, “It’s another healthy delicious product to add to their repertoire,” he says.
To make your order of Biltong, visit Zbiltong.com.
All meat is CHK, and the Biltong is certified by the Mehadrin Kashrus of Texas and Houston Kashrus Association Kashrus agencies in Houston