Food For Thought: Homemade Pastrami

Sep 20, 2017

What kind of madcap optimist attempts homemade pastrami?  Well, uh — me.

When I told Nancy Leson about the breakthrough recipe I found at Mandy Lee's utterly swell Lady And Pups blog, she had to try it too.

I've seen lots of pastrami recipes over the years, but they’ve all had the same hitch: Long, temperature-controlled smoking.  I don't have the equipment, skill or patience for that. 

But Lee, a Taiwanese-Canadian living in Beijing had the fix, though she calls it "Faux Montreal Smoked Meat.”

Instead of smoking, Lee uses smoked salt in the brine and the spice crust.  Authentic?  Who cares?  Ours both came out with the look, smell, taste, and mouth-feel of the real deal.

And it's not even a whole lot of work.  True, the process takes 5 days or more; but actual hands-on time probably comes to less than an hour.

You can get all the details at the link above but here's the short version.

Step 1: Brine a Brisket

3-5 pounds for 3 or 4 days, rinse and pat dry. Ingredients for the brine: Kosher salt, hickory smoked salt, DQ pink curing salt, white sugar, brown sugar, honey, pickling spices, garlic.

Credit Dick Stein

Step 2: Bake In Foil

Keep it tightly wrapped for 12 hours at 220 degrees.

Credit Dick Stein

Step 3: Steam For One Hour

For this step, Nancy used her bamboo Chinese steamer in a wok. After all, the recipe did come from a lady in Beijing.

Credit Nancy Leson

Step 4: Slice and Gorge

You want it – you KNOW you want it!

Credit Nancy Leson

True, the stuff is not exactly health food, but it's the first I've had in years and it'll probably be at least another year before I try it again. 

Want the meat without the motion?  Get a jaw-stretching pastrami on rye at Roxy's Diner in Fremont and further north at Barney's Pastrami in Everett. 

For pastrami in history read “Stuffed" by Patricia Volk, whose great-grandfather is said to be the guy who brought pastrami to the New World.

And just like Thanksgiving dinner, the leftovers can be better than the main event. 

"Would you put a pastrami in your mouth if you didn't want to eat it?” – Jackie Mason

Originally aired October 28, 2015