Pastrami – Origin, History & Pastrami Recipes
by Adventurefood @ flickr
- What is Pastrami and how it came to be
- Pastrami can be made from different meats and cuts.
- The process of making pastrami
- Distinguishing between corned beef and pastrami
- What is pastrami, compared to salami?
- Homemade: Learn how to make pastrami from scratch
What is Pastrami and how it came to be
It might come as a surprise to you that many have no clue about what is pastrami or have never tried pastrami, one of the most famous cold meats out there.
Very popular in the United States is a cold cut or deli meat made of beef. Simply put, the pastrami is just like ham but with some specialness to it. Soft, spicy, and fragrant, it is a classic meat cut that melts in your mouth.
Although pastrami can be said to be an American invention, this classic New York deli pastrami originated in Romania in Eastern Europe. It was introduced to the United States with the wave of Jewish immigration from Bessarabia and Romania after 1872.
The word ‘pastrami’ itself comes from the Romanian ‘pastrami,’ which means, “to preserve food for a long time.” As its name suggests, it is processed meat preserved by salting, curing then smoking.
In America, Eastern European Jews began to prepare it with beef, and thus the “pastrami sandwich” as we know it today was born. The history of pastrami then continued in New York City, where it became a staple, where the tastiest is ‘Katz pastrami.’ Katz Deli uses a special recipe to make their famous Pastrami on Rye using what is now known as Katz pastrami.
Pastrami can be made from different meats and cuts.
While pastrami is typically made with beef, you can use pork, lamb, or poultry as well.
For beef, pastrami, with its trademark blend of peppery spices, can be prepared from various cuts. The most common is the plate cut, which is the navel end of the beef brisket known for its juiciness. Nevertheless, it can also be prepared from the deckle cut, a lean, wide, and firm shoulder cut, or from the round and short rib of a cow.
The process of making pastrami
Preparing pastrami is a lengthy process consisting of brining, dry-curing, seasoning, smoking, and finally steaming or boiling.
Before cooking, the pastrami is first brined, by either rubbing the meat with salt, garlic, sugar as well as different spices (dill, bay leaves, cloves, coriander, and juniper berries) and preservatives (sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite) or by submerging it in a solution of these ingredients to infuse the meat with more flavor and moisture.
This step is then followed by a short dry-curing process, after which it is coated in spices that give it its blackened appearance. The pastrami recipe of spice coating can include several spices like paprika, mustard seeds, coriander, fennel seeds, and even garlic.
Covered in a fragrant mixture of spices, the pastrami is then smoked for many hours. Smoked pastrami is prepared over hardwood, then cooled and steamed before it is served.
Steaming pastrami is a final crucial step that makes the meat practically melt in your mouth since it is done to break down the connective tissues of the meat.
Distinguishing between corned beef and pastrami
Although many tend to confuse the two, corned beef is different from pastrami.
To start, corned beef is an Irish delicacy is originally from Romania.
The second main difference lies in the cut used and the meat’s cooking process. Corned beef is mainly made from brisket, located in the lower chest of the cow, while, most of the time, the cow’s fatty navel area is used to make it.
Notably, pastrami is recently being made from brisket. In this case, the major distinction is almost solely the cooking process.
Indeed, preparation differs. Although both are cured in a salt brine, the major difference is related to the spices used. Pastrami is known for its spice mix coating, while corned beef remains naked after the brining step is done. Besides, the latter is often boiled, but pastrami gets to be smoked.
Finally, on nutritional aspects, the pastrami is known to have less sodium than corned beef and higher cholesterol compared to it.
What is pastrami, compared to salami?
Salami and pastrami, although rhyming, should never be confused. Unlike second, salami is believed to have Italian origins.
Besides, to make salami, the process takes a different approach than that of pastrami. There is no coating with spices and no smoking for salami; instead, the mixture (the chosen meat mixed with salt, white pepper, garlic, minced fat, vinegar, nitrate, and herbs) is stuffed in a casing then, fermented (with both nitrate and nitrite). Next, the meat is cured in a cool, airy space and air-dried.
Homemade: Learn how to make pastrami from scratch
Dreaming of it but can’t visit your favorite deli? We are here to teach you how to make it from scratch at home.
If made correctly, homemade pastrami can taste even better than store-bought and is sure an impressive dish to make.
However, it is a labor of love since making it at home takes time.
But, with our step-by-step low-effort homemade pastrami recipe, it sure will be worth your while.
1. Emulating Manhattan’s Katz pastrami
When learning how to make it, Katz’s way (Katz’s deli, a legendary deli in New York City, offering the tastiest pastrami you can buy) is the one to strive for.
The Katz pastrami recipe we have in-store is a home-friendly method that serves 20 and will result in luscious similar to Katz pastrami that is salty, smoky, and heavily spiced. Although our Katz pastrami recipe is great if you want to use the leaner flat half of the brisket, we suggest using the whole thing to simply be able to more choices of cuts.
To learn recipe, you will first need:
- A 12 to 15-pound brisket.
For the brine:
- 1 cup of pink curing salt.
- 2 cup packed light brown sugar.
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds.
- 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper 6 crushed garlic cloves.
- 3 quarts of ice.
For the rub:
- ½ cup freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup coriander seeds cracked 4 cup yellow mustard seeds, cracked
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
To serve (optional):
- Cleveland BBQ Sauce
- To start, prepare your brisket by trimming the fat cap to create a fatty side and a lean side.
- Remove all but about s inch of fat on the “flat,” or thinner half, of the brisket, and about half an inch on the “point,” or thicker side.
- Turn your brisket over and remove any sinew or silver skin from the meat side. It is expected to trim and discard as much as 2 pounds of fat and silver skin.
- To make it brine: In a large stockpot, combine 8 cups of water, curing salt, brown sugar, coriander, black pepper, and garlic.
- Bring the mixture to a gentle boil over high heat while occasionally stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.
- Remove the pot from the heat, add ice, and then let the brine cool completely.
- Lower into the brine, keeping it submerged below the surface with a plate weighed down with a heavy can.
- Finally, let the meat refrigerate for 4 days straight.
- When the 4 days are up, resume your pastrami preparation process by preparing and preheating your smoker to 225°F.
- Meanwhile, begin making the rub by mixing black pepper, coriander, mustard seeds, salt, and red pepper flakes in a medium bowl.
- Remove from the brine and discard it.
- Pat dry using paper towels and season it freely with the rub on all sides.
- When the smoker temperature reaches 225°F, and you see that the smoke is running clear, add in it, fat-side up.
- Smoked pastrami should be cook for 12 to 15 hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 195°F. For the best results, use a probe thermometer on your smoked pastrami to continually monitor its temperature.
- Your smoked pastrami is now ready! Slice the flat portion against the grain into ¼-inch pieces until you reach the thick ribbon of fat that separates it from the point. Then, to be able to continue slicing the meat against the grain, turn the point portion 90 degrees.
- You can serve your homemade immediately: naked or drizzled with some sauce if you like.