A Deli Counter Favorite: All About Pastrami

Smoky and salty pastrami is more than just a great sandwich filling. The next time you go to your local deli, pick up a few slices of this flavorful cold cut and see if you can experiment with some of these ideas.

History of Pastrami 

A staple of American Jewish cuisine and a local favorite in New York delis, pastrami actually has its roots in Romania.

Romanian pastramă, like many other delicatessen meats, started as a method of early meat preservation. It was brought to the United States during the mid-1800s by the migrating Romanian Jewish population and became more popularly known as pastrami.

Flavor and Appearance of Pastrami

Image Credit: Stilfehler – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Pastrami is served sliced, as thin strips of reddish pink meat with a dark outer crust of toasted black pepper and spices. The flavor of pastrami may vary depending on the kind of meat and the seasonings used, but its distinctive flavors are briny, smoky, piquant, and tangy.

Pastrami Production

Pastrami in the United States is usually made with beef brisket, but varieties made from lamb, turkey, and other cuts of beef are also available.

The meat is first cured in brine for a few weeks then coated with a mix of spices. The specific blend varies across distributors, but it typically contains black pepper, coriander, brown sugar, garlic powder, paprika, and mustard seeds. The pastrami is then smoked over hardwood, sometimes for as long as 3 days, then steamed and sliced before serving. Buy pastrami at the grocery store or make it yourself.

Pastrami Uses

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The pastrami and rye sandwich is the most iconic use of the deli meat. The signature New York sandwich consists of a thick pile of sliced pastrami on rye bread with a smear of spicy brown mustard and a kosher dill pickle on the side. 

You can take pointers from this classic combination when deciding what to pair with your pastrami. Complement pastrami’s fattiness and smoky-salty flavor profile with something fresh or tangy. Pickled vegetables, spicy and sour condiments, and pungent cheese are just a few of the flavors you can incorporate.

You don’t have to limit yourself to sandwiches, either. Use pastrami in vibrant salads, herbaceous pasta, or even in place of bacon next to hash and eggs.

Feature Image: Elke Schlemm from Pixabay

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