Braai the beloved country



Not that any South African needs an excuse to have a braai; but what better day to light the coals lit than on National Braai Day on 24 September? Here are some great ideas to ensure your butchery ready to provide everything your customers need to make this National Braai Day perfect.



September 24 is both Heritage Day and National Braai Day, a day to celebrate our unique culture and South Africa’s favourite pastime: the braai. Find out how it all started and get some great ideas to ensure your butchery ready to provide everything your customers need to make this National Braai Day perfect.

Originally, the 24th of September was known as Shaka Day in KwaZulu-Natal. When the Government of National Unity instituted the revised public holidays, it was included as Heritage Day for South Africans to celebrate their cultural heritage and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions.

With diversity being the most distinguishing feature of South African culture, what was required was an approach that could entice all South Africans to actively celebrate their common heritage – a cross-cutting approach to heritage, which would help to build and highlight social cohesion. And so the idea of National Braai Day became a reality – after all the braai stands out as one of our unique cultural heritage gems, it is a deep-rooted tradition in South Africa that cuts across all demographic groups.

The event was initiated by the Mzansi Braai Institute in South Africa in 2005 and was later promoted under the Braai4Heritage banner. In 2007, Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu was appointed as patron of Braai4Heritage and the initiative also received the endorsement of South Africa’s National Heritage Council (NHC). Tutu’s involvement was widely publicised locally and overseas – and pictures of him wearing a braai apron and eating boerewors made the initiative a national phenomenon. “Tutu praises ‘unifying’ barbecues” (BBC News), “Tutu becomes Barbecue Day patron” (Washington Post), “Braai the beloved country” (Monsters and Critics) were just some of the headlines. At the time Tutu said that South Africa has 11 official languages but only one word for a braai in all those languages – signifying its ability to unite the Rainbow Nation.

National Braai Day promotes braaing on Heritage Day as a contemporary means of celebrating South African-ness, especially considering that braaing is a positive feature in most South Africans’ lives – being the fun-loving, social and hospitable nation that we are. While cooking food on an open fire is an international phenomenon, braaing is a truly unique South African pastime that transcends racial, cultural, religious and social boundaries. Celebrating our heritage is important to preserve our national identity particularly among our youth. Countries with strong social cohesion become strong nations.

The ultimate objective is to create a national festival that ranks amongst all of the greatest celebrations in the world – with the same festivities and impact as St Patrick’s Day in Ireland or the 4th of July in America – and to promote excitement throughout South Africa via innovation, creativity, grassroots involvement, and marketing activity to ensure on 24 September, every year, all South Africans will be sitting around the same fire.

All that is required in order to participate is to braai with family and friends, and, to consider while enjoying the braai, our diverse heritage that makes us a truly unified South Africa.

For marketers and companies in South Africa, including your butchery, it is the ideal platform to engage consumers – September is at the start of summer and there is no other national marketing drive such as Easter, Valentine’s or Christmas at this time.

The question then is whether your butchery is ready to support National Braai Day and to provide your customers with everything they need, and a little more than expected, for this important cultural phenomenon.

Millions of South Africans, in cities and in small towns, will need very little prompting to indulge in their favourite pastime. But what they will need are the bare essentials for a braai: a grill, wood or charcoal and some meat. But butchers can offer their customers so much more than just the essentials.

On the meat side, your butchery should offer a wide range of meat cuts perfect for braaing. Since the meat is the main event, offer your customers the best quality meat for their braais and ensure it is aged before it is sold. Ageing the meat not only tenderises it, but also greatly enhances its flavour. Beef should be ripened in the fridge for one week prior to braaing, and lamb for five days. This means you will have to start ordering the right quantities now to ensure you can meet the demand and offer your customers perfectly aged meat they can braai immediately. For the best results, marinated meat should be left in the marinade at least overnight to allow the meat to be infused with the marinade flavours.

Boerewors is absolutely essential, but is your boerewors the very best? Offer some braaiwors as a cost-effective alternative, or a range of wors options with interesting twists on the traditional boerewors concept, for example, thin lamb wors, chakalaka wors, chilli wors or sosatie wors.

Lamb chops are also an absolute must, although pork chops are also perfect for the braai. Steaks are excellent for the braai, whether rump, sirloin or T-bone. Add value by cutting the steaks into ready-to-eat portions, marinating the steaks in a range of marinade flavours, or seasoning the meat so it’s ready to braai.

Sosaties are also ideal for braaing and butchers can prepare beef, pork, lamb and chicken sosaties. By marinating these in an array of marinade flavours, your butchery can offer braai fanatics a wide choice to cater for every taste. You could even make veggie sosaties for the vegetarians joining the festivities.

Spareribs are a popular choice, particularly if marinated in a finger-licking delicious marinade. Add a little extra oil to the marinade to prevent burning on the open fire. Another favourite is chicken pieces, seasoned or marinated.

A great way to add value to your customers is to create braai packs in various sizes and configurations. So, for example, you could have braai packs for one, two or 10 people, and different variants with say steak and chops, or boerewors and sosaties, or a chicken and wors combination. These are ideal for picnics and for bring-and-braai parties.

And since it is much easier for a butcher to judge quantities than for the braaier, you could add great value to your customers by allowing them to order by the number of people rather than by kilo, selecting a certain combination of meats, and pricing this by person rather than by kilo. So a braai pack of sosaties, boerewors and chicken pieces will cost say R50 per person, or R500 for a party of 10.

Since making the fire is part of the fun, and not many braais are made on gas fires, your customers will also need charcoal or wood, as well as firelighters, and it certainly is a great value add if they can pick it up along with the meat. The wood should never be from an endangered tree or any indigenous tree. However, burning alien vegetation like Bluegum and Black Wattle is encouraged. Not just any wood should be used as some woods could be toxic. Charcoal and briquettes are easy to use and could be the more effective option, as well as safer.

And of course, braaiers will need a braai and many butcheries have seen the value in making these available on the premises. The disposable braais are super convenient and easy to use – especially for picnics, braais on the beach or in the park, or simply for those who don’t want to clean their grills before getting into the festivities. While you are adding value in this way, why not stock some tongs, aprons, seasonings and spices, marinades – especially the convenient spray bottle marinades, prepacked braai breads, some instant pap and perhaps a few bottles or cans of tomato and onion sauce, monkeygland sauce or the more spicy chakalaka to go with the pap. Add some sliced and packed biltong and droewors to snack on while waiting for the fire and your butchery could become the one-stop shop on National Braai Day.

You could add even more value by providing some excellent advice regarding the braaing of your tasty meat cuts. Print these on A5 sheets (don’t forget your logo and contact details) and pop it into the bags before your customers leave. You could even print your weekly specials at the back for some excellent marketing and branding.

Top tips for best braais

  • Never use petrol to start your fire! Use firelighters (available at the till)
  • The fire is ready once the flames have died away, the coals are white-hot, and you can hold your hand above the coals comfortably for about 5 seconds. The grill should be 10cm above the coals.
  • If frozen, thaw the meat in the fridge overnight before cooking. Remove the meat from the fridge a half hour before braaing.
  • If you are marinating your meat, leave it in the marinade for as long as possible, but preferable overnight. Leave the meat in the fridge while marinating.
  • Cook chicken in the microwave or boil before braaing.
  • Brush the meat or the grill with oil to prevent sticking.
  • Cook the chicken first since it takes longer. Sausages can be kept warm, so cook them before the steaks which should be grilled last since they dry out if not served immediately.
  • Braai steaks as quickly as possible without burning. Sosaties and sausages should be grilled slowly.
  • Don’t add salt to the meat before or while cooking, since it dries out the meat. Season just before you take it off the coals.
  • Use tongs to turn the meat – a fork will drain juices from the meat.
  • Don’t turn the meat too often. Seal quickly on both sides, then allow one side to cook before turning over.
  • After braaing, while the grail is still hot, rub it with half a lemon or onion to make cleaning much easier.

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