06 March 2015

Yes, You Can MOO Pastrami!


If I am going to eat a deli meat, it has to be something better than chicken loaf, flavourless ham or greasy stras. I love pastrami and happily bought 100 grams every few weeks for years, until my local deli stopped stocking it - seems it's not as popular as I'd thought.

I went without for a while and then one of our wonderful members, KarenE, posted how her husband MOOed pastrami. I was in deli meat heaven! I've been MOOing pastrami ever since and it is so much better than anything I ever bought.

Over the years I've adjusted Karen's instructions a little and changed the way I cook the meat. Making pastrami takes time - a week in fact, but it's not hands-on time. All you you'll have less than half an hour of hands-on time, but the effort will be worth it.

MOO Pastrami

Ingredients:
1.5 - 2kg piece of corned beef - trimmed into two or three logs roughly the same size - don't trim the fat!

Brine:
2 litres (8 cups) of water
200g coarse sea salt
100g sugar or honey
2 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp or so of pickling spices

Smoking:
1 small jar whole grain mustard
1 small packet coriander seeds
1 small packet black peppercorns
To smoke your meat, you’ll need a kettle-style barbecue or a kettle smoker or something of the like, plus wood chips.

Step 1. Brining. I use corned beef, which is already brined, but I do it again. It intensifies the flavours and makes the meat much more tender.  Put all of the brine ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it cool completely. Place your meat in a large bowl with a leak-proof seal or double zip-lock bags.  Pour the brine into the bow or bag, press out the air and seal. Store in fridge for 5 days, turning daily.

Step 2. After five days, drain take the meat out of the brine and pat dry. Crush the coriander and mustard seeds (I put them through the coffee grinder, you could use a mortar and pestle or a small food processor) roughly. Spread the mustard over the meat, covering all of it.  Take a sheet of greaseproof paper and spread the crushed spices over it. Roll the meat in the crushed spices, covering as much of it as you can. Press the crushed spices into the meat with your hands if necessary - just make sure they stick.

Step 3. Heat your smoker according to the instructions. Smoke your pastrami for 2 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 70 degrees Celsius. The important thing here is to keep the heat low and slowly bring it up to temperature, for a more tender pastrami.

Step 4.  Just before the pastrami is ready to come out of the smoker, pre-heat your oven to 120 degrees Celsius. Prepare a baking dish with a roasting rack by pouring in enough water to come up about 3cm.  When the pastrami has finished smoking, remove it from the smoker and place it on the rack in the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil, you want the meat to steam.  Bake at 120 degrees for 3 hours. You might need to top the water up, I check every hour or so and top up if necessary.

Slice your pastrami thinly and enjoy hot or cold.

Is it cheaper to MOO pastrami? Oh, yes. I buy corned beef for $5.49/kg. The spices cost approximately $1.52, the mustard is $1.99 - total cost for 2 kilos of MOO pastrami is $14.49. That's $5.51 less than the price of deli pastrami per kilo when I stopped buying it (it was $19.99/kg).

It's not a quick MOO, but it is a worthwhile MOO, especially if you love good pastrami. If you want to speed the process up, you can skip the brining. Corned beef has already been brined but it is worth the extra step for the flavour and tenderness.

This meat will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days. I slice it, vacuum seal it (you can double wrap in clingfilm) and freeze in 100g packets. It keeps in the freezer for up to six months.




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