Thursday, January 23, 2014

Biltong cabinet

A few days after Christmas I noticed silverside beef going for R50/kg at Pick n Pay, so I bought some, figuring that I'd make biltong out of it. Only one problem: I didn't have a biltong cabinet! What I do have is wood and tools with which to work it. So off to the garage I went and found two scraps that seemed just right to become the frame of my biltong cabinet-to-be. What became the top and bottom was an oak plank I bought for R10, and the side pillars came from a random piece of oak I think I found in my garage when I moved into my house. The random piece from the garage has come full circle; here I'm gluing it onto the cabinet top and bottom with some dowels for a better joint:

Gluing the biltong cabinet frame together

Gluing it up was a bit tricky at first, because the frame was so wobbly at first. But once the first pillar was glued and set, the others followed more easily. I use a loop of webbing tied loosely around the article I'm gluing, and then twist the loop with a stick to tighten it, finally locking the stick with another random piece of wood so the webbing doesn't untwist.

Because I was in a rush, I simply lined the inside of the frame with one contiguous piece of fabric. I want to redo the lining, and install a door in one of the side panels. The current access (through a hole sawn in the top, which also holds the ATX PSU fan) is very inconvenient. Also, the holes I drilled for installing the skewers from which the meat hangs are perpendicular to the pillar's face. Because the plan of the cabinet is not square, these skewer holes aren't collinear, which makes it difficult to impossible to install the loaded skewers into the cabinet. (I ended up poking holes through the fabric just to be able to install the skewers.)

Still, the cabinet does its job: it keeps insects out while allowing air movement past the drying meat, and despite several days of rain, my strips of silverside dried quite nicely. It took about a week for the meat to become recognizably biltong-ish.

A cross-eyed stereogram of the cabinet in operation
I ran the fan when I remembered to put the PV panel in the Sun; the panel is a bit too big for the little fan; its maximum-power output voltage is 15V (at 0.46A) while the fan only wants to draw 0.2A at 12V, to the fan gets overdriven somewhat. So far it has survived the abuse.