This was my first adventure into curing meat. I am dog-sitting for my parents have have free reign of their ample counter and refrigerator space. I planned and executed several projects this the week but I directed most of my efforts to the curing, smoking, and enjoying of this magnificent beef brisket.
Toast your Peppercorns, Mustard and Coriander seeds on medium heat until they are fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. If they start to pop like popcorn, you've gone too far. Once they are ready, let them cool a bit, crack them and add them to the rest of the spice mixture.
In a large stock pot combine:
1 gallon of water
1-1/2 cups kosher salt
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons pink salt (sodium nitrate)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Bring the brine to a simmer, then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
The Waiting Game
Once the brine has cooled, put the brine in a container large enough to hold your brisket fully submerged. Add the brisket and refrigerate. Put a plate on top of the brisket to weight it down and wait 5 days, turning the brisket daily. At the end of the 5th day, remove the brisket (save the brine) and rinse thoroughly. Place covered in the refrigerator over night: this allows the cure to equalize.
After a long week, joyous smoking day is at hand!
Place the brisket in water for 3 hours replacing the water every hour. The cure used here for the pastrami is a corned beef brine. Corned beef is of course boiled which pulls a the salt out of the meat. Because we are smoking, we need to soak some out here or we will end up with overly salty Pastrami.
After removing the brisket from it's bath, pat it dry and allow it time to warm up near room temperature. In the mean time, toast 2 tablespoons of coriander seeds and 2 tablespoons of peppercorns. Once toasted, grind them in a spice grinder. This will be your dry rub.
|Get in the smoker.|
Prep the smoker. I aimed for 210-220 with a steady diet of apple wood chips. I put my brine in the water pan for good measure. I'm not sure that this id anything to the flavor, but I figured it couldn't hurt.
I kept watch on the temperature with my handy remote digital thermometer and sat back and a had a refreshing beverage. After 5 hours on smoke I checked the internal temperature of the brisket. Finding that the brisket had reached 156 in its thickest parts I removed it from the smoker and brought it into the house to finish.
There is quite a wide range of opinions as to how a pastrami should be finished. I opted for a steam/roast conglomeration which is supposed to be more NYC Deli authentic.
I placed the brisket on cooling racks over a cooking sheet with 2 cups of water and placed in the oven at 225 with some foil tented over the brisket. I am not sold on this method yet, but necessity is the mother of invention.
Then I let it cook until the internal temperature reach 165. I read a few different opinions as to optimal internal temperature (165 for deli style- 190 for pulled pastrami), but I was getting hungry so I went with 165. Getting the temp above 180 will liquefy the connective tissues and make the meat very tender, but a thin cut pastrami cut against the grain will not be tough at all.
I let it rest wrapped in foil for 30 minutes.
Pastrami, it turns out is simply
|Tochter aus Elysium,|
|Freude, schoener Goetterfunken,|
|Himmlische, dein Heiligtum.|
|Wir betreten feuertrunken,|
This started out as a 6 lb brisket. I did not measure the weight after cooking, but I do know from looking that I have a lot of meat and a lot of options for how to enjoy this pastrami. For the first meal, we kept it simple.
Thin-Sliced Hot Pastrami on Caraway Rye with White Wine Dijon Mustard (and Bleu Cheese Fries)
|The most sensual of all the salted, cured meats|
The process to reheat the pastrami is to thinly slice and steam in the oven. This morning I did a little breakfast sandwich and I pan seared it like a ham steak- this was also excellent (with horseradish and honey mustard, swiss cheese and an egg). The next lunch sandwich I make I will try the steaming, but honestly this meat is so good, as long as you slice against the grain it is going to be delicious.