Ever since I’ve eaten beef Pastrami for the first time a few years ago, I’ve been having a love affair and an ever-growing obsession with this delicious and unique type of cured meat. Widely consumed in the US, and particularly in New-York City, it actually finds its origins in Eastern Europe where the curing technique was used to preserve the meat when refrigerators didn’t exist yet. It’s been brought to America back in the XIXth century by Jewish immigrants who mostly settled in New-York at that time. Nowadays, beef pastrami is mainly served on Bagels or in Rye-Bread sandwiches. People don’t really cook it at home because it’s time-consuming, and actually so easy to find in most Deli’s.
I have been searching all over Nice (France) for beef pastrami, so much that it actually became a Quest. Yes, my friends, a quest, and one that was led in vain (oh poor thing –> talking to myself). Turkey pastrami slices can be found “sous-vide” in kosher sections of some regular supermarkets, and of course in kosher stores by extension. But beef pastrami was nowhere to be found in town. I have read about an online store in Poland that delivers to Europe, but that option would make the final cost too expensive for me to have it sent over here.
So…! Desperate situations call for desperate measures. I am, this week, diving into the process of making my own Homemade Pastrami. Trust me, I’ve put myself through looooots of cooking challenges this year, but this particular one is quite an adventure. The overall process usually takes around 12 days. Yep, days!
Of course it’s not like you need to act on your pastrami-in-the-making every single day for hours. Let’s say that 3 specific days require your full attention for one to several hours (for making the brine, the spice rub, and the roasting/smoking/steaming) , and the other 9 days only require a few minutes of your time, everyday though. I also found a short-cut version that reduces the process down to 5 days at the condition that you cut down the dry-rub marinating process, and that’s the one I’ve decided to go for, for my first trial at least. I have to warn you, the usual pink-red color of the pastrami comes from the mandatory use of some specific type of pink curing salt used in the marinade, but I could not find it around here, thus the light brown color of my meat in the end. I will have to find it for my next try, and I promise I’ll post updated pictures. Ladies and Gents, for my WFC (World Food Challenge), New-York City, USA, here is my Pastrami, Homemade with Love!
INGREDIENTS (for 2 sandwiches only)
For the Brine
10 cups of cold water
- 1/2 cups of sea salt
- 2 tsp of pink curing salt (it is also known as Prague Mix #1 or Instacure #1 or Curing Salt #1; do not use curing Salt #2)
- 1/3 cp of granulated sugar
- 1/8 cup of firmly packed dark or light brown sugar
- 4 tbsp of honey
- 2 tablespoons of Pickling Spices Mix: ground coriander, crushed black peppercorns, crushed red pepper flakes, cinnamon, ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon of whole coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon of whole yellow mustard seeds
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 pound / 500 grams of beef brisket (for only 2 sandwiches)
- 4 cups cold water, for humidifying the oven
For the Dry Spice Rub
- 2 tbsp of smoked Paprika
- 2 tbsp of crushed black and pink peppercorns
- 4 tbsp of ground coriander
- 1 tsp of ground garlic
For the Brine
- Fill a large saucepan or stockpot with water. Add the sea salt and pink curing salt, taking care of according the quantities to the instructions mentioned in the list of ingredients.
- Add the white and brown sugars, honey, pickling spices, coriander, mustard seeds and garlic.
- Bring to a boil. Stir often and make sure the salts and sugars dissolve completely.
- Prepare lots of ice cubes in a large container that will fit in your fridge. You must use a non-reactive container when brining the beef. Do not use aluminum, copper or cast-iron. These materials all react with the salt, and give the meat an undesirable flavor. I have used a large ceramic salad bowl. Immediately pour the brine into that container of your choice over the ice cubes, and place the raw beef brisket in. You need to make sure it’s entirely immersed (use a weight or a heavy spoon to help).
- Keep in the fridge, uncovered, for 5 days. Everyday around the same time, go and flip the beef brisket upside down. Stir in the brine carefully. All sides must be exposed to the brine.
For the “Pastrami-zation” Process
- Make the spice rub by grounding and mixing the spices together in a mortar.
- Take the beef out of the brine and pat it dry with kitchen paper. It’s only when totally dry that the beef will allow the spice rub to adhere best.
- Let it come to room temperature, then rub the spice with bare hands all over.
- Preheat the oven at 150 degrees C.
- Pour 3 cups of water in a roasting pan. Place a rack in the pan if you can, otherwise use the rack of the oven and place it just above the pan. Place the beef brisket fatty side up over the rack.
- Place a double layer aluminum foil around the pan and the beef altogether, and try your best to form a tent by tightly assembling the foil.
- Bake the brisket until it reaches an internal temperature of 90 degrees Celsius (around 200 degrees F). Take it out of the oven. It took about an hour and a half for mine.
- Slice the beef as thinly as you like your pastrami with a sharp knife.
- When time comes to eat your pastrami, do not re-heat it in the micro-wave oven or regular oven. You need to steam it for about 10 to 15 minutes. it will give the final touch to your pastrami and prevent it from drying. I’ve come up with a set-up of my own by placing a small saucepan inside a bigger one (see pictures of the orange pot above). I’ve put boiling water in the bigger pot while my pastrami was placed in the smaller saucepan over a layer of aluminum foil, that I had arranged beforehand. The lid of my bigger pot had holes in it, which was very convenient for steaming.
- I’ve made oven grilled sandwiches with this pastrami, the recipe is just a few lines down. Happy Happy!!
Wanna read about my last trip to NYC where I had pastrami more than once and took nice pictures of my sandwiches? Visit the page of my last post here.
Wanna make Bagels and need a fail-proof dough recipe? Click here!
If you want to keep it simple and have a regular sandwich, Sophie’s way, with my homemade version of Pastrami, insert several layers of meat in between slices of wholewheat bread, add Cheddar cheese slices, a bit of Trader Joe’s Spicy Brown Mustard, and a spread of Confit Figs and Raisins (the one used to eat Foie Gras). Grill in the oven on both sides, and eat along with baked French fries. Bon appétit les amis!
And before you leave this page, I’d be happy that you check out the page dedicated to my Cookbook.
Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi, © 2016 All Rights Reserved.