St. Patrick's Day and the arrival of Spring mean one thing at my house, homemade pastrami! Pastrami is smoked corned beef that originated from Central Europe and was brought to America by Romanian Jews in the late 19th century. Kosher butcher Sussman Volk, who had immigrated to New York from Lithuania, claimed to have created the first pastrami sandwich in 1887. Volk had inherited the recipe from a Romanian friend in exchange for storing the man's luggage while he was out of the country. (Don't you use your luggage when travelling?) However, this is disputed by legendary Katz's Delicatessen in New York City, who opened in 1888 and claim to be the first. I guess it doesn't really matter since Katz's is still going strong and Volk is just a memory in time.
My husband was the first to discover this recipe for "Close to Katz's Pastrami" from amazingribs.com. You can check the recipe out there, although it seems a lot more informative and might scare away a pastrami novice, so I've simplified it here to coax you to try it. In fact, I have made a few changes. Instead of smoking the corned beef at 225 degrees, I keep it at 250 degrees. I don't make my own corned beef either, rather I buy it at the store in those cryovac packages, which grocers everywhere are marking down post-St.Patrick's Day. In addition, I recommend making more than one, since it takes a lot of your time! Don't worry, it freezes very well.
You need to start the process 3 days before you plan on serving. The first day you soak it refrigerated in cold water to help remove excess salt. The second day to pat dry, apply the dry rub, and refrigerate overnight. The third day you smoke it for about 5-6 hours, cool, and refrigerate. And finally, on the fourth day you steam it for approximately 2 hours, then eat! It may seem like a lot of work, but it's so good, you just might become verklempt!
Close to Katz's Pastrami
Makes approximately 4-5 sandwiches. (I like mine with mustard, pastrami, Swiss cheese, and coleslaw on toasted rye. Pickle on the side.)
For the Pastrami
1, 4 lb uncooked corned beef brisket
4 tablespoons freshly coarse ground black pepper
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
For Smoking and Steaming
Smoker or Grill (I use my beloved Weber, see Gadgets.)
Disposable aluminum drip pan (I use the cheap ones from the grocer for roasting.)
Entire bag of charcoal
4-8 ounces wood chips, soaked in water (I like cherry wood.)
Steamer basket or steamer insert (I use the cheap ones from the grocer and remove the center handle/lifter thingy.)
Day 1: Remove corned beef from package, rinse, and throw away the spice packet. Trim excessive fat off the corned beef and any membrane that might remain. (Leave at least 1/8-inch fat on it!) Place the corned beef in a large pot. Cover it with cold water and refrigerate overnight.
Day 2: Remove the corned beef from the water and pat dry with paper towels. Mix together the pepper, coriander, mustard, brown sugar, paprika, garlic and onion powders. Rub all over the corned beef, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
Day 3: Prepare a charcoal grill or smoker for low heat (250 degrees). Place an aluminum drip pan half full of water in the center of the fire bed. Sprinkle some of the soaked wood chips on the coals. Place the corned beef, fat side up, on the grill rack over the drip pan. Insert a grill thermometer, see Gadgets. Cover and smoke the corned beef, maintaining 250 degrees, and sprinkling with wood chips/charcoal occasionally until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Wrap with foil and return to the grill until it reaches an internal temperature of 195 degrees. Remove from grill, let cool slightly, and refrigerate overnight.
Day 4: Set up your steamer, or bring a couple inches of water in a large pot to a simmer, insert steam basket. (Tips: If you don't have a steamer, you can wad up foil to hold the now pastrami out of the water. I place a piece of foil between the steamer and pastrami to contain excess mess.) Cover and steam the pastrami over medium-low/low heat, adding water if necessary, until it reaches an internal temperature of 203 degrees, approximately 1 1/2-2 hours.
Let rest on a cutting board for at least 10 minutes before thinly slicing against the grain.
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