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How to make pastrami

How to make pastrami

Pastrami, like many other preparations of meat and fish, was born out of necessity. Before the days of refrigeration, meat needed to be salted in order to preserve it. Luckily, the meat also takes on fantastic flavours from the combination of brining, smoking and steaming over a long period of time with a mixture of herbs and spices.

Pastrami is very popular in the US, particularly New York, as Jewish immigrants brought the technique over with them in the late 19th century and it was quickly adopted as part of the city’s culture. In Jewish delis all over New York you will find pastrami being served on fresh rye bread, slathered with mustard and served with the obligatory pickles.

1
Place all of the brine ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool completely
2
Once the brine is cool, transfer to a large container, submerge the brisket in the brine and leave to brine in the fridge for 5 days
3
After this time, remove the brisket from the brine and wash well under cold water. Leave to come to room temperature
4
Preheat the oven to 120°C/gas mark 1/2
5
To smoke the brisket, set up a large baking tray with a couple of handfuls of wood chips and a rack over the top
6
Place the beef on the rack and cover with foil, ensuring there is space enough between the meat and the foil to allow the smoke to circulate
7
Place the tray over the hob and heat until it just begins to smoke. Transfer to the oven and cook for 3–4 hours, until the meat reaches 60°C in the centre on a thermometer
8
Next you will need to steam the pastrami. Pour boiling water into a deep baking tray to a height of 2cm. Add the beef, cover tightly with tin foil and return to the oven for a further 3 hours until the meat is completely tender and easily pulls apart
9
Leave to rest for 30 minutes before carving against the grain to serve

Variations

You can vary the herbs and spices in both the brine and the dry rub according to your personal preference. If you don’t have wood chips you could add smoked paprika to the rub for a smoky flavour or even try doing the smoking part of the recipe on a charcoal barbecue.

Serving suggestions

Pastrami is a classic sandwich meat. As mentioned before, you should stock up on a variety of pickles to serve this - pickled red cabbage, gherkins or even some sauerkraut would all work quite nicely. Add a dollop of classic Russian dressing to your sandwich, or simply drizzle over some homemade mayonnaise and a squeeze of mustard.

 
 
 
 

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