I discovered this Ashkenazi Jewish specialty in New York's delis. We use brisket from longhorn breed cattle, reared by Tim Wilson in the British region of Yorkshire. The animals are grass-fed, which gives the meat nice marbling. It’s the fat present in the beef that allows the flavor of the spices and smoking to be diffused.
- 1 (4-5 kg/8 lb 13oz-11 lb) beef brisket
- 6 l-1 1/2 gal. water
- 375 g (13.23 oz/scant 2 cups) brown sugar
- 350 g (12.35 oz/1 1/3 cups) curing salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 g (0.17 oz/2/3 tbsp) pink peppercorns
- 5 g (0.17 oz/scant 1 tbsp) fennel seeds
- 120 g (4.23 oz/1.5 cups) coriander seeds, crushed
- 100 g (3.52 oz/3/4 cup) peppercorns, crushed
- 60 g (2.11 oz/1/2 cup + 2 1/2 tbsp) fennel seeds, crushed
- 60 g (2.11 oz/4 1/4 tbsp) mustard seeds, crushed
- 60 g (2.11 oz/3/4 cup + 1 1/3 tbsp) juniper berries, chopped
- 20 g (0.07 oz/scant 3 tbsp) ground pink pepper
Step 1: Brining
At least 12 days ahead of time, dissolve the salt and sugar in a large stockpot of boiling water. Add the bay leaf and spices, then cool the mixture in the refrigerator. Add the beef brisket into the brine, weighing it down to keep it immersed. Brine for at least 12-14 days, turning it over every two days.
The day before smoking, take the meat out of the brine and let it dry uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.
Step 2: Smoked Pastrami
Preheat the smoker to 85°C (185°F). Mix all of the spices together and cover the brined beef with a generous amount of the mixture. Put the meat into the smoker. Smoke at 85°C (185°F) for 6 hours, adding more wood chips after 3 hours. The beef is cooked when it is firm but not hard. Take it out of the smoker and quickly cool to 3°C (37°F) in the freezer.
Preheat a steam oven to 85°C (185°F). Vacuum seal the cold brisket in a sous vide pouch, then put it into the oven for 6 hours.
Take it out of the oven and quickly cool to 3°C (37°F) in the freezer or in ice water. The pastrami is ready to use, either cold in thin slices, or heated in a steam oven at 85°C (185°F) for 1 hour and served thickly sliced.
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