Sunday, March 8, 2015

Megillah of Pastrami

Pastrami, Pastrami how do I love thee. Evidently a lot!!! I have been making different versions for a while now and although they all have turned out pretty darn good I keep tweaking the recipe. I want pastrami nirvana!! Here is a listing of my Charcuterie which includes of course my Pastrami's. Personally I think the best pastrami comes from the Navel or the point of the brisket. What you will find in most supermarkets is pastrami from the flat. It's OK but there's not enough fat to be heavenly. I know when I have eaten good pastrami sandwich by the way it feels in my mouth. When the culinary angels start singing in mouth and I am smiling from cheek to cheek I know I have the real thing. Its been my experience that Navels and points are hard to come by so you make the next best thing which is the flat. What you could settle for is a packer brisket but they are hard to find too. 

Don't even think about buying a Navel without a special order. Sometimes the special order will come frozen with all the bones too. The whole thing will probably weigh in at 40 plus pounds. I need to investigate this more.

The world greatest pastrami sandwich can be found here at Katz's Deli in NYC. Take a look inside using this link....HERE

How do I know you ask? After 125 years the world knows that's how. 

My Yiddish speaking grandmother lived across the street from this landmark (HERE). I can't tell you how many times I have eaten here. As a young Jewish boy I did not know any different. I thought this was the norm. A deli on every street corner was typical for for me growing up in the 60 and 70'S in NYC. 

I ate traditional deli food all my life until I went into the Navy. My mother use to send me Salami's from Katz's when I was in the Navy too. In my day this was normal. Sending care packages abroad was typical. And if you're Jewish your Moms sent salamis? Thanks Mom that was awesome. After a very short time it became quite obvious that my times of real Deli food was a thing of the past. To recapture some of that food nostalgia I would mail order their meats but that became cost prohibitive especially on a sailors budget. Just check out their prices online, very expensive. Have you ever eaten Knoblewurst? It's a Jewish heavily garlicky sausage. It's to die for. My father and I would go to Katz and he would order the Knoblewurst and I would get the pastrami, or a frank and a knish. Needless to say I am addicted to good Jewish deli. The search or need for the perfect Pastrami is in my genes. I cannot be denied, I will not be denied!!! 

Here are a couple of articles that you must read if you want to learn more about Pastrami. They're top notch articles. "How Katz's Deli Makes Their Perfect Pastrami", "What's the Difference Between Pastrami and Montreal Smoked Meat?" and "Sorry, New York; Why Los Angeles is the Best Pastrami City in America" 
First off let me say that Brisket and for that matter the point is not my ideal Pastrami cut. I need to hunt down the Navel cut!!!!! Pastrami needs fat to taste good. So maybe my next post will be about Navel Pastrami Nirvana. 
This is a slightly altered recipe from. My perfect rub which is listed under the Prime Tri-Tip Pastrami.  The actual ingredients are the same and so are the percentages.

The only difference was the subtraction of 25% from every ingredient because I was producing too much Rub/Cure. I need to cut back on the overall volume I was producing. Trying to fine tune the rub to prevent loss!!!

Meat trimmed lightly. I remove thick outer fat layer. It was trimmed down   to about 1/4 inch. I mixed together the salt and Cure # 1 and rub into the brisket making sure I got it into every nook and cranny. 

To bring out more flavor I heated all the whole spices in skillet briefly then ground them in my spice mill to a med grind. I liberally applied rub all over the meat. The meat is all vacuumed sealed up and will be flipped daily for 14-21 days. 

I used equilibrium curing instead of excess salt curing. Excess salt curing is a technique where you cover the meat entirely in salt. Equilibrium curing is using exact amounts needed for the cure. "This method would be the Sous-Vide cooking of the curing world"Jason 


All Vacuumed Sealed up and will be flipped every day for 14-21 days. After curing I will rinse the corned beef and apply rub. The Pastrami will be cold smoked for 10 hours, then SV'd. I will Sous-Vide the Pastrami for 48 hours at a 149 degree water temp. After the Sous-Vide I will refrigerate over night (optional) and apply a light rub and Hot smoke again to form a better bark. When I say hot smoke I am talking about 200 degrees or below. 

All done!! 21 days cured. Since I used equilibrium curing technique you cannot over cure. Rinsed and ready for the dry rub.

Dry-Rub Applied.

Cold smoking using the A-Maze-N Smoker

The ambient temps outside were about 48-52 degrees. Had the temps been much higher I would have have filled my smoker with a tray of ice to cool it down. I cold smoked the meat for 10 hours. 

Now for the long thermal bath. Gonna cook it (Sous-Vide) for 48-50 hours at 149.0 degrees. I am using the Polyscience Chef series SV unit and their polycarbonate container with lid. A great combo to cook large pieces of meat.
After the SV'd I plunged the Pastrami in an ICE bath to cool it off rapidly. The pastrami was refrigerated over night to await the next step. The next step is easy and optional. I coated the Pastrami once again with a rub but this time it was only course black pepper. I took the very cold pastrami and hot smoked it at 200 degrees for 2 hours. If its a warm day I add ice to the smoker insure it does not raise above 200 degrees. 

This not only creates a great bark but brings it up to a proper temperature for slicing. An option is to skip the hot smoke and just steam. In fact if I was to take it out of the refrigerator I would steam it until nice and tender then slice. 

Gratuitous photographs and Review below.

Overall it came out great. I feel as though it was too flaky. 48 hours at 149 degree might be to long. I will try 36 hours next time and will keep lowering it until I find the magic number. 

Update 05/09/2017- After trials and misgivings about time and temps I think I have finally nailed down the temps and times. That being said I think I have made well over 250 lbs of Pastrami to reach these new numbers (explains waist line too). Drum roll please... 142 f for 40-44 hours. Ta-da..... The lower temp ( 148 vs 142 f) and the lower time (48 vs max 40-44 hrs) produces a moister better textured Pastrami. Update Cure and Rub HERE and Latest Pastrami HERE.