Jean-Charles Gares is Marrickville’s biltong man. He’s the owner and chef of Lekker Tucker, Sydney’s newest biltong producer. Like Griffin Jerky and Darling Jerky before him, Gares is part of a new wave of local producers changing the image of dried meats away from the convenience-store, trucker-snack stereotype. “Implementing a business with biltong for me was about genuine quality farming and food,” says Gares.
Biltong is a little different from regular jerky. “Beef jerky is usually smoked. Biltong is only cured, marinated and air-dried for six days. It's essentially an air-flow process,” says Gares. Instead of being thin, leathery and dry, biltong slices are thicker, more moist and less intense for your jaw muscles.
Gares says a lot of the biltong we get in Australia is produced on a mass scale, with no thought to the quality or ethics of the meat. “I'm sourcing my meat from Wootton family farm. I met them here,” he says, pointing down the alley of stalls at the Marrickville Markets to where he met Jim Ballantine and the Wootton Valley family. “They've got amazing practices. They're ethical, organic and they have their own butchery. That traceability is really important for me.”
Although Gares is a Frenchman making traditional South African cured meat, he’s still keen for Lekker Tucker to represent the origins of his beef and his new home. Along with more traditional flavours usually associated with dried meats – chilli and fennel – Gares is also experimenting with Australian spices. “The bush-spices flavour is a bit of a secret. I'm using many native-Australian spices. One I've been really successful with is lemon myrtle, people are very receptive to it,” he says.
That’s not to say his other flavours are standard. Lekker Tucker’s chilli is particularly powerful, not in punch, but in flavour. It’s layered in a crumbling of crushed spices that’s textural and zesty from a high ratio of coriander seeds.
Lekker Tucker can be found at Marrickville Markets every Sunday, over the counter at Lazy Bones Lounge or via Oooby. For other market times check Facebook.