Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Corning Beef for Pastrami

Once again a post has come about by the graces of a little free-time, a great source for local and natural meats and some nudging from that large group of fellow Charcutepalooza participants. And by a happy coincidence I was able to use a fresh beef brisket I had ordered from Slagel Farms for the third challenge of the Year of Meat. March’s challenge was to corn some beef. The verb to corn simply means to preserve with salt. It comes from the fact that the best salt to do this with in the past was a course grained salt that at some point actually looked a bit like corn.

I’ve been doing my own corned beef for some years now, including the version I did last year for St. Patrick’s Day here, so I wanted to try something new: Pastrami. I’ve mentioned my fair skin and red hair before, so you can be sure corned beef is on my menu this time each year. My brisket order came in at 9.5 lb, which was enough for my beloved corned beef, with plenty leftover for me to try something new. The pastrami recipe varies from the corned beef in three places:
- the brine
- the spice mixture on the pastrami
- the smoking of the pastrami versus braising of the corned beef
The pastrami recipe adds brown sugar but the length of brine is shortened by 2 days. It is rubbed down at the end of the brine, after being rinsed, with a 1:1 mixture of black pepper and coriander. And finally the meat is cold smoked then slow roasted in the oven to cook it through.

As I like to do the first time I make something I stuck completely to the Charcuterie recipes for this project. I did however make only ¼ of the brine recipe because I intended to brine in a large bag as opposed to a huge container. Doing so is simply cost and space effective. I was a little weary of the amount of coriander in the rub, but stuck with the original plan. And to be honest, it was perfect. I roughly chopped the two ingredients in my spice mill, though I would go finer next time so that it adhered better to the brisket. Once the brisket came out of the brine it was rinsed, patted dry then immediately rubbed. I then let it sit uncovered overnight in the fridge to form a pellicle for better smoking results.
The next day I fired up the cold smoker and smoked it for 3 hours with moderate applewood application. In the end, I think more smoke would have been nicer. From the smoker it went directly into the oven at 175˚ F until the internal temp reached 150˚ F. Since this was all done with the flat end of the brisket, no pressing was required for a solid sliceable piece.

While I could have come up with something more off-the-wall, I like deli meats for what they are, but Rebecca isn’t so keen on mounded sandwiches. So we decided to do a flatbread based on a more traditional sandwich idea. I created a rye flatbread recipe lightly scattered with toasted caraway and rolled them into a simple pizza shaped dough and fully baked them. While that was going on I made a rather cheesy mornay with smoked gruyere and whole grain mustard which became our sauce and spread perfectly over the flatbread. We then covered it generously with the thinly sliced pastrami and topped it all off with some homemade sauerkraut that was started when we originally ordered the brisket. It all went back into the oven to knock the chill off. We then washed it all down with some tasty cold altbier as we watched a movie!

Rye Flatbread
1 ¼  C A/P Flour
¾ C Rye Flour
1 lg. Egg, whisked
4 t Caraway Seed, toasted and chopped
2 T Oil, neutral
2 t Salt
½ C Water
Combine all ingredients but water in food processor and pulse until it looks mealy. Slowly add in water while pulsing until it begins to come together, without over mixing it. Remove from processor and make it into a ball. Divide it into 3 pieces and form small discs. Wrap them in plastic and cool at least an hour in the fridge. When ready to use, lightly dust work surface with flour and roll out into desired shape and size, not less than ⅛” thick. Put it on a floured pan at 350˚ 8-18 minutes until done.
Mustard Mornay
2 T Butter
3 T A/P Flour
¾ C Milk
8 oz. Cheese, grated (I prefer Cheddar, swiss would be good too)
2 T Whole Grain Mustard
½ t Salt
Make a roux by melting butter in a small sauce pan and whisking in flour. Continue to stir over medium-low heat for 3 minutes until flour is cooked. Add in ½ cup milk and stir until it thickens, being sure to work out any clumps. Add in cheese and stir often until it melts into a thick but spreadable consistency. Use remaining milk if needed to thin. Stir in mustard and season to taste with salt.
2 heads Cabbage
2 T Salt
2 t Caraway Seed, toasted
6 pc. Juniper Berry
Core and slice cabbage as thin as you can get it. I prefer a mandolin for this. Toss well with salt and spices and put into a tall food-safe plastic or ceramic container. Stir every hour for about 3-4 hours until enough liquid is released to cover cabbage. Cover the cabbage and its liquid with a flat object like a plate that is just smaller than the container. Place a plastic wrapped heavy container on top of the plate to press the cabbage and keep it submerged. I simply use an old 2-liter bottle filled with water. Check every couple days and remove any scum that forms on top of water/plate. Taste the cabbage every week to note its progression and decide when it is right for you. Some prefer it more sour than others. Ours went just over 3 three weeks.


  1. Speaking from personal experience, yum!!! Thanks again for coming over to feed a helpless newborn and his only slightly less helpless parents!

  2. Came for the flatbread and stayed for the mustard mornay! Would it be blasphemy to inquire about the possibility of turkey pastrami? Yeah, I thought so.

  3. Thanks for stopping by TBT!I think it would work fine with turkey. I'd just omit any curing salt and reduce brine time depending on the size of your breast. C'mon now, keep it clean! Otherwise it wouldn't be very different from a peppery smoked turkey breast, just a lot better with a flavorful brine and the addition of the coriander seed. Let me know how it turns out!

  4. Hi, as I live in an apartment in NYC, can't cold smoker. What's you advise on cooking in the oven for the entire cooking time? Should I still have the oven at 175F? And should I cover or cook uncovered? Thanks, it looks amazing.

  5. Hey Dijon. I think this would work well without smoking if you must! I would up the heat to 250F and let it slow-cook, covered for 4-6 hours. I would leave it uncovered for the FIRST and LAST 45 minutes but cover it between. The longer the cook-time the more tender the meat should be, but go too long and it could dry out, even after the brine. Stop back by and let us know how it worked for you.


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