Up until three years ago I had never eaten pastrami.

I don’t know how this happened. I’m Jewish, I’m from Long Island, and I spent most Sundays of my childhood eating dinner at a Jewish deli in Brooklyn. For shame, so much shame.

It takes a little bit of time but it's easy to make your own Pastrami. Full recipe on BigTasteTinySpace.com

It’s not like the Mill Basin Deli didn’t have pastrami. We’d go with my grandparents to end the weekend and as soon as we sat down at the table, bowls of coleslaw, hopefully not too liquidy for my sister, and bowls of pickled cucumbers and tomatoes would appear in front of us. The adults would order Corned Beef or Pastrami sandwiches on Rye and eat the sour pickles while my sister and I were content with brisket sandwiches with gravy, and only the greenest barely pickled cucumbers could touch our lips.

I’m endlessly stubborn so this no pastrami policy carried on for years and it eventually extended to rye bread. The idea of the caraway seeds annoyed me in the way that they mottled the soft crumb of the bread. But things change, you grow up and people want to split sandwiches with you in deli’s and they don’t really want brisket when they could be having corned beef or pastrami.

So I gave up the pastrami blockade and haven’t suffered any ill-effects. I won’t say that it’s better than hot brisket doused in gravy but I probably wouldn’t turn away a pile of pastrami on rye if you want to split lunch.

A flavorful brine will get you on your way to homemade pastrami. Full recipe on BigTasteTinySpace.com

The story would end here if it weren’t for my extreme laziness. There is good pastrami in Baltimore but it requires leaving the house. I had eyed and bookmarked a homemade pastrami recipe from Food52 nearly two and a half years ago that taunted me with how easy it looked. The only thing keeping me from making it was the list of random spices that are aren’t in my usual repertoire. Luckily, the Whole Foods in the ‘burbs sells bulk spices so I was able to look like a crazy person at the register with a million baggies of tablespoon increments of whole allspice, cloves, peppercorns, and other aromatics. I NEED THEM FOR PASTRAMI, PEOPLE! The hardest thing to find was Shiro Dashi but I substituted some beef dashi that I picked up from the noodle place near where I get my hair cut. I’m sure if I made more of an effort Shiro Dashi could have been procured.

And this recipe was actually pretty easy. The most annoying part was the time commitment. Probably an hour of effort was spread over the better part of a week. Day 1 was toasting and grinding spices for a deeply savory brine that the piece of brisket hangs out in for a few days. Food52 recommends a 5 pound piece of meat but I cannot commit to that much and more than halved the recipe. After 4 days the meat looked discolored, like it had gone bad but I held on to the belief that the brine did its job and things were supposed to look kind of weird. It was also nearly midnight when I allowed the meat to emerge from the tupperware full of saltwater so my tired eyes might have also had something to do with things looking less than fresh.

Peppery Spice Crust for Homemade Pastrami. Try the deli favorite at home. Full recipe on BigTasteTinySpace.com

No matter how weird the brined meat looks, it quickly gets covered in a peppery crust and spends another night in the fridge. Then I poured over my beef dashi and tightly covered the meat in foil and added a little bit of water so it could roast in a very steamy environment. A four hour trip in a low oven finally got me something that looked like pastrami.

Thick slices of homemade pastrami. Full recipe on BigTasteTinySpace.com

Your story could end right there and once the pastrami cools down enough to slice, it can be piled on some bread. But since I had already spent 5+ days watching beef brine and steam, why not make fresh rye bread to really be ridiculous and over the top.

Queen Deb of Smitten Kitchen can do no wrong and in theory lives in Jewish Deli mecca, the lower east side of Manhattan. So her take on Rose Levy Beranbaum’s rye bread was a perfect pair for my pastrami experiment. 

Slices of Homemade Rye Bread for a pastrami sandwich. Full Recipe on BigTasteTinySpace.com

Just like the pastrami, the rye bread was easy to put together but did require a bit of waiting. I got the bread started when I woke up in the morning, and other than a few checks to nudge along yeast rising, it was super hands off. And honestly, if you’re being a weirdo and making homemade deli meat just make the damn bread too. My crazy stops at homemade condiments, the store can make mustard for me.

Try your hand at making Pastrami from scratch. Full recipe on BigTasteTinySpace.com

Homemade Pastrami
If you're not afraid of investing a little time then this is a great recipe to try at least once. I've broken up the steps and ingredient amounts by day to help you keep things straight.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon and 1 tsp black peppercorns
  2. 1 tablespoon and 1 tsp ground coriander
  3. 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  4. ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  5. ¼ tsp allspice berries
  6. ¼ tsp whole cloves
  7. ⅛ tsp ground ginger
  8. 1 bay leaf crumbled
  9. ¼ cinnamon stick crumbled
  10. ½ cup kosher salt
  11. 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon pink salt
  12. ½ cup granulated sugar
  13. ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  14. 2 tablespoons honey
  15. 3 garlic cloves minced
  16. 2 quarts water
  17. 2 lbs beef brisket
  18. 1 tsp ground fennel
  19. ¼ cup shiro dashi
Ingredients for Day 1
  1. 1/4 tsp peppercorns
  2. 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  3. pinch of coriander
  4. ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  5. ¼ tsp allspice berries
  6. ¼ tsp whole cloves
  7. ⅛ tsp ground ginger
  8. 1 bay leaf crumbled
  9. ¼ cinnamon stick crumbled
  10. ½ cup kosher salt
  11. 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon pink salt
  12. ½ cup granulated sugar
  13. ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  14. 2 tablespoons honey
  15. 3 garlic cloves minced
  16. 2 quarts water
  17. 2 lbs beef brisket
Day 1 steps
  1. In a small skillet, toast ¼ teaspoon of the peppercorns, ¼ teaspoons of the mustard seeds over medium heat until the air is perfumed with the scent of the spices.
  2. Grind the spices in a spice grinder or put them in a plastic bag and bash them to pieces with a heavy pot.
  3. Put the ground spices in a large pot over medium heat and add, a pinch of the coriander, pepper flakes, allspice, cloves, ginger, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, kosher salt, pink salt, granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, garlic, and 2 quarts of water. Cook the brine until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
  4. Cover and cool the brine in the fridge.
  5. Once the brine is cold, add the the brisket. You want to weigh the brisket down the a plate and maybe a can or two, to keep the meat fully submerged in the brine. Cover and refrigerate the brine and meat for 4 days.
Ingredients for Day 4
  1. 1 tbs ¾ tsp black peppercorns
  2. 2 ¾ tsp mustard seeds
  3. 1 tbs coriander
  4. 1 tsp fennel
Day 4 steps
  1. Grind the peppercorns and mustard seeds in a spice mill or break them up in a plastic bag with a heavy can.
  2. Combine the peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander, and fennel to make a spice rub.
  3. Remove the brisket from the brine and discard the liquid.
  4. Dry off the meat and coat it with the spice rub.
  5. Cover the meat with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours.
Ingredients for Day 5
  1. 1/4 cup beef dashi or Shiro Dashi
  2. 1/2 cup water
Day 5 steps
  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F.
  2. Put the brisket on a rack in a roasting pan. Sprinkle over the beef dashi. Then add 1/2 cup of water to the pan and tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil.
  3. Cook the brisket for 3 to 4 hours. You will know the meat is done when you press on the brisket and it feels tender. You could also stick a fork in the meat and if it starts to shred then it's done. But don't shred it, we want to slice the pastrami.
  4. Let the meat rest for at least 2 hours at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve, transfer the pastrami to a cutting board and cut against the grain into thin slices. Pile on toasted slices of rye bread slathered with mustard
  5. The original recipe says the meat can be kept in the fridge for up to a week but I ate mine before the week was through.
Adapted from Michael Anthony
Adapted from Michael Anthony
big taste TINY SPACE http://bigtastetinyspace.com/

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