My teaching assistant, Steven Bookbinder, decided to make some pastrami a few weeks ago. The process is a simple one but it requires patience and a feel for slow cooking. A good quality pastrami starts with a quality cut. My father often makes it from the plate section but it tends to be very fatty. Most places, such as Katz's Deli in NYC or Schwartz's Smoked Meats in Montreal, use the brisket. At the CIA we got in a case of Prime grade briskets so Steven was in luck!
I had confidence that Steven would make a quality product but I was pleasantly surprised when it was finished. It was one of the best pastrami I've tasted. So what went right? Well first, the Prime brisket was a great start, then a quality recipe supplied by Chef Dave Kamen was valuable. The recipe was varied slightly by Steven to test out a couple things. One was that he did not trim the brisket much, another was the fact that Steven let the briskets dry out for a day after the brining. The spice mix was applied during this time which really got the seasoning deep into the meat. Another variation was the smoking time. The brisket was cold smoked overnight like bacon rather than a hot smoke. Then the last variation was that he steamed it in an intense pressure steamer for about 30 min, until the brisket was super tender! This was no quick process and the key to all of it was patience and allowing for flavors to develop correctly.
Upon finishing it we got a loaf of fresh rye bread from our bakeshop and some Gulden's Spicy Brown mustard. I ate two large sandwiches before I realized that I was ready to explode! As you can see in the photos it was carnage in the meat room as we all enjoyed this treat.
Pastrami is not a fancy food but its hard to find a real one. Thanks to Steven for the treat!
Here's the basic recipe for 2 large briskets....
Water 3 gal.
Salt 2 lbs
Dextrose 10 oz.
TCM 7 oz. ( I've reduced it to 5 oz. before)
Garlic cloves 6 smashed
Pickling Spice 2 Tbsp.
Prime beef Briskets 2 pc.
Coriander( cracked) 4 oz.
Black Pepper ( coarse cracked) 4 oz.
Mix the brine making sure all solids are dissolved. Steven used a large, clean plastic bucket. You can pump the brisket with a few oz of brine and then place the briskets in the brine for about a week under refrigeration until thoroughly cured.
Rinse off the brisket and rub the spice mix all over the outside, deep into the fat and meat. Let stand on a rack for about two days, allowing to dry.
Cold smoke slowly for about 8 hrs, until golden brown. Cook in steamer for about 30 min until fork tender and gelatinous.