Homemade Pastrami
Homemade pastrami is a recipe that involves a lot of waiting, but the end result is delicious.

We have been cautiously returning to eating in restaurants over the past couple of weeks.

We’ve specifically been targeting local places who are clearly working keep their staff and customers safe and healthy.

It was during one of those meals that Joey said to me, “I think we could make this.”

“Oh, pastrami?” I replied, glancing at his sandwich. “Yeah. We probably could.”

He paused, a surprised smile on his face.

“No, I meant this Russian mustard, but yeah, let’s make pastrami!”

I’m always getting myself into things by assuming I know what Joey is talking about. So, instead of presenting you with what I can only imagine is a relatively easy condiment recipe, I’m going to share how Joey and I managed to make pastrami at home.

The recipe we used comes from the blog “The Hungry Hounds.” You can find their original post at http://www.thehungryhounds.com/blog/2014/11/16/homemade-pastrami. I increased a couple ingredients just slightly for the brine, but I mostly kept the ratios the same, since I had never attempted something like this before. I also changed up the cooking instructions a bit.

Pastrami

Homemade pastrami is a recipe that involves a lot of waiting, but the end result is delicious.
Course: Main Course
Keyword: brisket, cured meat, deli meat, pastrami, smoked meat

Ingredients

  • about 6 pounds beef brisket
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 2 ounces curing salt the stuff I found was called a “home meat cure”
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1/4 rounded cup garlic powder
  • 4 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 rounded tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
  • Around 2 to 3 tablespoons coarse ground pepper to finish

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl or pitcher (something you can pour from is a huge help), whisk the brine ingredients (everything on the ingredients list from the kosher salt to the cloves) until everything is well combined and the salt is dissolved.
  • Meanwhile, rinse the brisket and pat it dry with paper towels. With a sharp knife, slice off almost all of the fat layer that should be on one side of your brisket. You’ll only want to leave a thin layer—maybe a 1/8th inch.
  • Once the meat is trimmed, place it in a deep roasting pan. Take a meat injector and inject some brine every two to three inches along one side of the brisket, inserting the injector about halfway into the meat. (Be careful. I managed to squirt myself in the face during this step because I didn’t insert the injector far enough down.)
  • Pour the rest of the brine over the brisket and cover the top of the pan tightly with plastic wrap. Find a spot in your refrigerator and let the brisket sit for four to five days.
  • When you’re ready to cook your pastrami, remove the brisket from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Press the coarse black pepper all over the outside to help make a nice crust.
  • Now, either cook this low and slow on a wood smoker—Joey kept ours at around 250 degrees—or place it in the oven in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet at 250 degrees for about five hours.
  • (It might take longer, so don’t make any plans while you’re cooking pastrami.) The pastrami is done when the internal temperature reaches somewhere between 195 and 200 degrees.
  • Once the pastrami is done, let it cool down for a couple hours, wrapped in foil, and then you can slice it thinly or place it in the fridge for a bit to make it even easier to slice.
  • If you want something traditional, try this on rye bread with some brown mustard.

This was honestly a whole new experience for me. I’ve never brined anything like this, so it was interesting to see the process. I will say that you want to stick to the timeframe on letting the pastrami brine. We pushed ours to seven days, and it was definitely on the saltier side when it was done. 

But the meat was still really good, and we had some big, thick sandwiches as our celebration for finally finishing a week-long recipe.

And what I’ve learned from this process is that it’s really cute when couples finish each other’s sentences in movies. In real life, when you try it, you’re likely to end up just giving yourself a project.

This piece first appeared in print on Oct. 8, 2020.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas and sponsored by Main Street Co. & Kitchen Corner in Newton, Kan. Visit their website at shopmainstco.com.