WHEN 24-year-old chartered accountant Jan Scannell hatched a plan to highlight the beauty of South Africa while uniting men and women around a fire, he never anticipated the amount of traction his campaign would achieve.
Twelve years on, with books and a popular kykNET TV show to his name, Scannell – who is better known to the TV-viewing and recipe book-loving public as for Jan Braai – ascribes the success of the National Braai Tour to South Africans’ love of uniting around a barbeque, braai or shisa nyama.
As the country’s braai master-in-chief stopped off in Port Elizabeth recently, winding up the final leg of this year’s tour with 40 teams comprising about 200 participants in tow, he reflected on the past 12 years.
THE BRAAI ‘ELECTION’:
“For me, this is similar to what politicians do before an election. For me, the election is September 24 every year,” he said. “When you vote for what I stand for, it means you’re making a fire and you’re getting together around that fire with friends and family on September 24 every year.
“I always wanted to tour the country, make some noise and get a bit of gees (spirit) going before Braai Day.”
With no plans to end the tour run, Scannell said he planned to keep entries at a “manageable” 40 teams.
“For me, it’s not about the physical size. Last year we had 60 teams, but logistically, visiting heritage sites and museums – you just can’t fit 80 vehicles into a small parking lot. So we brought it back to 40 teams this year.”
Scannell, who hails from Sea Point and obtained his honours degree in accounting from the University of Stellenbosch, said the Braai Tour teams were goodwill “disciples”.
“The point of the Braai Tour is to create disciples for this message [of uniting around a fire and celebrating South Africa]. We have 200 people from all walks of life from all around South Africa on this tour, and they will head home to spread this message.”
BRAAIING – A QUINTESSENTIALLY SOUTH AFRICAN PASTIME:
Adding flavour to the National Braai Tour is Port Elizabeth-based seasoning sponsor Cerebos. Cerebos currently dominates the South Africa salt market, with a 70% market share in the retail space with its various brands. More than 30 000 tons of high-quality salt are produced annually at its Coega refinery outside Port Elizabeth.
According to Cerebos head of marketing, Nico Basson, braaiing is a quintessentially South African pastime shared across all cultures, which is why Cerebos saw value in sponsoring the salt, pepper and seasoning for the annual event.
A Lite Salt range had been launched just in time for this year’s Heritage Day, he said, adding that the brand’s biggest competitive advantage was the purity and free-running nature of its salt.
“We have also recently launched our artisanal range to meet the needs of the insatiable foodie culture in South Africa and a healthier Lite Salt range in line with the Be Salt Wise campaign,” said Basson.
HERITAGE DAY SEASONING ADVICE FROM THE BRAAI MASTER:
Speaking to the importance of seasoning your meat just right for the braai, Scannell added his tips.
“In specific instances, when it comes to seasoning your meat before or after adding it to the braai, there are certain preferences from my side,” he said.
“When using normal salt, such as Cerebos, it really doesn’t matter. Salt like that cannot burn. I prefer to pre-salt about an hour before the braai so that the meat draws out the moisture, and through reverse osmosis, that salt water is drawn back into the meat.
“With braai spice, I don’t like to pre-spice the meat because spices burn quite quickly. Spices only need a minute or two to toast, to unleash the flavours. So wait until the meat is almost done, and then start adding a generous amount of spices so that the spices can toast.”
For sauces, Scannell advised: “For sauces or basting, do it after the braai because such sauces tend to be sweet and full of starch and burn easily.
“I don’t like to marinate. I like to pre-salt, spice while the meat is on the braai, and I like to baste right at the end of the braai.”