David Libesman, a South African Expatriate living in Merion Station was busy running a software business called the Satori Group while also serving as a soccer coach at the Klein JCC and board member of the Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia when he suddenly got a hankering for a staple from his homeland. After visiting South Africa on a recent trip, he started making the food himself and is now offering it to the public.
The company, initially called Joburg Jerky and now renamed Joburg Kosher Foods, LLC, now produces two different types of South African meat staples: Biltong and Boerewors. The two staples, which are found everywhere in South Africa, come from the original Dutch settlers’ need to keep meat fresh for the duration of the lengthy trip between the Netherlands and South Africa.
Libesman, up until recently, would bring the meat back with him from South Africa through US Customs. However, on his latest trip he claimed that he could not find kosher boerewors and biltong that met his standards. As a result, Liebesman bought a meat drier. Upon his return, Libesman started making homemade borewors in his house at night since “I doesn’t sleep that much”.
Eventually, Libesman started sharing his biltong and boerewors with friends and colleagues, who asked him, “Why don’t you sell this?” With this encouragement, He started selling the meat from his home. When Libesman’s business outgrew his home, he made a deal with Elkin Park’s Max and David’s restaurant to make the sausages in their kitchen for nine months, until he could find a manufacturer with more room and thereby comply with USDA requirements for mass-production of meat.
Sometime later, Libesman outsourced the production to well-known meat manufacturers Abeles & Heymann in Hillside, NJ. There are now three types of biltong – traditional, black pepper and a chili pepper version called peri-peri as well as three types of boerewors – traditional, garlic and peri-peri.
Currently, the operation has added Barry Gesserman of Campbell’s Soup Co to its team and is offering boerewors and biltong in New York, Chicago, Boston, Denver and in Northeast Phildephia at Holy Land Grill under UDSA supervision. According to Libesman, “The meat is a great gift and is perfect for Jewish Holidays, such as Purim and Passover.”