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Old 01-11-2005, 10:52 AM   #1
is one Smokin' Farker
Join Date: 07-28-04
Location: Elizabeth CO
Default Homemade Corned Beef and Pastrami

Homemade Corned Beef and Pastrami

Just a little more then a week ago I took the plunge into making my own Corned Beef and Pastrami—thanks to brother Cayenne for the inspiration. Or was it that I was bored and looking to cook something new other then ribs, pork shoulders, chicken, and briskets? Anyways…being a long time fan of Rubien sandwiches, good New York style Pastrami, and good quality Corned Beef, this little project was right up my alley. I learned several things from this recent venture—easy little lessons that will surly pay off next time. Those little tricks and lessons I will pass down to the brethren, Amen! I think more importantly I had a lot of fun and want to share the experience with my fellow brethren.

You’ll need several things prior to taking on the task of curing your own beef brisket. Minus the brisket, smoker, utensils, and associated spices you’ll need a nice sized Tupperware type container, preferably the size of a 600 (six inch deep) hotel pan and some space set aside in your refrigerator. For those who are not familiar with kitchen equipment it is a pan the size of a cookie sheet with is about 6 inches deep. You’ll also need an injection needle if you don’t want your brisket swimming around in a pan of brine taking up more space in the refrigerator. Also, these Tupperware containers can double up as your containers used to brine big batches of Chicken, Duck or Turkey.

Since I look to cook in batches, and my folks don’t really eat a lot of Beef, I also made some Turkey Pastrami. Both Beef and Turkey held up well using the same recipes but I did alter the recipes a little to adjust the flavors.

Turkey Pastrami-

Turkey Brine:

1 quart water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon whole cloves
3 bay leaves

The only difference between the Beef recipe and this brine was that I omitted the pickling spice. Also, I only brined the Turkey for only 24 hours. In my personal opinion Turkey is very delicate and tender so exposing it to a brine/cure for to long is a bit of over kill thus leaving you with an overly salty end product. After 24 hours in the brine I simply wash off my birds, season them up, and in the smoker they go!

Pastrami Rub for Turkey:

5 tablespoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
8 cloves garlic, minced

Combine coriander seeds, peppercorns and mustard seeds in a spice grinder. Grind coarsely. Add in remaining ingredients and mix well. Rub is now ready to use. It may be stored refrigerated in an airtight container.

I omitted the Juniper Berries from the recipe simply because it was just “to much flava” alla the latest KFC Hot Wing commercial—good stuff. =)

The brine was made a few hours in advance and aloud to cool significantly before adding the Turkey breasts. I cooked the Turkey Pastrami as I would with any other Turkey. The meat was smoked till an internal temp of 165 was reached. The turkey pastrami will continue to gain flavor the longer you let it rest. You can wrap it tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Homemade Corned Beef and Pastrami-

Making Turkey Pastrami was by far much more fundamental then corning your own Beef. After I trimmed up my 9 pound brisket in the brine it went.

I used some regular bowls to aid in submersing the beef and Turkey breasts (note I kept the meat in separate containers). Otherwise, due to the high salt content on the brine/ cure the meat would just float to the top and you would have to rotate or flip it once a day.

When corning your own Beef you have to have the brisket in the brine for at least 7 days but can have it in the solution for up to 3 weeks. The typical 9 pound flat only needs 7 days. For cuts more then 2 inches thick keep in the brine one week per inch, round abouts.

Once you have corned beef you need to rinse the meat off. If you have brined it for a long period of time, like three weeks you might want to soak it overnight in fresh water to lift some of the salt out. With my little 9 pound flat I only soaked it for 30 minutes in a fresh batch of water. At this point some folks have hinted at smoking their corned Beef. But most people refer to steaming their Beef. In my case I handed over half the corned Beef to my wife in order to make some Corned Beef and Cabbage and the other half I made into smoked Pastrami.

When doing pastrami then apply a rub and place it in a smoker. The old fashioned way of preparing pastrami is to cold smoke it. This will give it a more pastrami like texture, but not that many people have the smokehouse to do this. A modern, "hot" smoker will do the trick. Smoke your brisket for about 45 minutes to an hour per pound. Keep this part in mind when selecting a brisket. A ten-pound brisket can take 10 hours to smoke. Once the meat has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees it is done. You do not need to smoke pastrami as long as you would a regular brisket. The long brining time will make the meat tender.

Here is how the brisket looked inside after 7 days of soaking in the brine.

If I had used some saltpeter in my brine the Beef would have been that red color we are used to when getting it from our local deli.

Beef Brine:

4 quarts water
2 cup brown sugar
1 cup kosher salt
12 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
3 tablespoons pickling spices
4 teaspoons thyme
8 bay leaves
1 teaspoon saltpeter (optional)

Saltpeter, or potassium nitrate is a food preservative. It will give the meat a pink coloring and reduce the chances of spoilage. If you are careful with your food handling and don't need the pink coloring you do not need to add the saltpeter.

Pastrami Rub for Beef:

5 tablespoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
1 Tablespoon Juniper Berries
8 cloves garlic, minced

When grinding the rub ingredients you don’t want to pulverize it but more so want a very coarse feel—similar to cracked black pepper.

Once the Beef was cured I applied the rub liberally and smoked it till it reached an internal temp. of 165. Being fully brined there is no need to foil or get your brisket up to 190 internal. Also, there is no need to place into a cooler for residual “carry over cooking”.

The long brining time will make the meat tender.

Homemade pastrami is one of those things you need to be careful with. Because you cure the meat for a long period of time the risk of spoilage is high compared with other smoked foods. Make absolutely certain that everything, including your hands, that come in contact with the meat is very clean. Make careful observations of the meat during the whole process.

Pastrami is kind of a hobby, experiment to find out what works best for you. I guarantee that once you've found your method, you won't want to buy pastrami again.

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