David Libesman was born in South Africa, but his family didn’t stay there. His father, who used to be a butcher, decided to take some tradition with them when they left. He began making for his family the traditional South African gourmet sausage called boerewors, and biltong, which is sort of a South African version of beef jerky. Fifteen years ago, when David settled in Pennsylvania, he couldn’t find any kosher versions of these traditional delicacies. So he decided to make them himself.
“I started making boerewors and biltong at home. All my friends liked it,” Mr. Libesman explains. “So then I ended up making it in a kosher restaurant here in Philadelphia. But that wasn’t good enough for getting it into the stores and taking it national, so I moved to make it in a USDA plant here. Today we are under the OU and the CRC, and our products are available in stores throughout the US.”
They have three product lines. Boerewors, the gourmet sausage, is made with an edible collagen casing and an African spice recipe. It’s not precooked and it doesn’t have any nitrates or nitrites, so you can find it in the freezer section. It comes in three flavors: Traditional, Garlic, and Spicy Peri-Peri. They also have a line of cooked gourmet sausage, which you can find in the refrigerated section. That comes in three flavors: Traditional, Moroccan, and Extra Hot & Spicy. Finally, they have a line of biltong, which is cured and dried all the way through. The biltong also comes in three flavors: Traditional, Black Pepper, and Peri-Peri (Spicy).They have some new products in the works, including a line of dried sausages as well as new flavors for their existing lines. For now, the exciting news is that the biltong and boerewors will be kosher for Passover. “The flavor profile is the same,” says Mr. Libesman. “Being able to get good product in the Pesach period – I’m excited about it, personally.”
Are Americans as excited about these products as South Africans? It seems so. “My kids have got friends – American kids – and their parents complain to me that they’re eating it faster than candy,” says Mr. Libesman. “In fact, a friend of mine bought a case of biltong, and they actually hide it away because the kids will literally eat all 12 bags within a couple of hours.” And considering that their products are being sold in 100 stores throughout the US, it seems Americans outside of his neighborhood have taken to them too.
Which is no bad thing. They use only high quality meat – “In this kind of product you can’t hide the quality of the meat,” says Mr. Libesman – and they keep the salt content low. “Kosher meat has salt as it is, so you don’t want to be adding it. Biltong is very low in salt and high in flavor.” The flavor comes from the spices and the marinating process. So what you end up with is a food that is high in protein, low in salt, made with no nitrates no nitrite, and very flavorful. “People are health-conscious, and it fits nicely into that area. It’s great for travelling, for putting in salads, for camping; it’s great as a snack.”
While the business has been around for three years, they just recently launched a charity campaign as well. “My daughter was in Israel and Orly Ohayon was a roommate of hers.” Tragically, while walking to shul this past Yom Kippur Orly and her mother were struck by a car. The accident killed her mother and left Orly orphaned and recovering from severe injuries. “My daughter kept asking me, ‘Can we do something?’ I decided that here was a great way to raise money and get an awareness out there. So we started a campaign.” For the past 12 months, a portion of every product purchased, whether through the wesbsite or through the stores, will be donated to Orly. The goal is $10,000, and they’ve raised $1,500 already. “It’s just giving back something, doing some good. At the end of the day we’ve all got to help each other.”
Joburg Kosher Foods products are now available in 13 locations in California. If you are interested in finding a store that carries these products, catering, or getting products in your store, you can visit Joburgkosher.com.