Project “A” 2016 (6) – Pastrami, Pastirma, and Chorizo

Fermented Sausages: Pastrami, Pastirma, and Chorizo

Includes Recipes and Recommendations for Other Fermented Products and Sausages

Don’t neglect to read the Introductory Chapter !

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You can review the posts from the original Project “A” (135+ pages, divided into thirds ) by clicking one of the following:
Wisdom Gleaned from the Original Project “A” (part 1)     (part 2)     (part 3)

Origins of Pastrami, New York Deli-style Pastrami, Turkish (Armenian) Pastirma:

See the multi-page posting at  for a comparison of pastirma, pastrami, and some recipes.

Pastirma is a fermented form of beef which is still made the old fashioned way by rural Armenians and Turkish Armenians. As pastirma production migrated westward through Eastern Europe Jewish communities and ultimately to New York City, it changed considerably. You may enjoy fermenting beef in this old-style recipe. Then again, you may prefer to imitate the pastrami from Katz’s Deli in NYC. The recipes are in the collection.

Pastirma is made much the same way that summer sausage is- –  natural fermentation. You may enjoy thinking about the grandma of the house hanging a chunk of beef out back, shooing the flies off, hoping for the right weather…  As for me, I’ll use my trusty fermenting/curing chamber. What we’re doing here is aging beef, much like you would pay a premium for in an up-scale food store in the US.  …hope you enjoy it.

And as for the pastrami recipe, the cooking process is very close to what we do when barbecuing a brisket in central Texas, so it’s bound to be good. The combination of long, low-and-slow smoking and the curing process adds some interesting depth to the flavor. CW and I tool a corned beef package left over from Saint Patrick’s Day (“such a deal…!”) and made “Meathead’s” recipe, abbreviated. We soaked the brisket in two changes of water over eight hours, applied the rub and waited overnight, then smoked it the next day for about nine hours. We used the “Texas Crutch,” foil wrapping, and cooked to about 200 degrees F. We let it rest, cooled it down in the refrigerator overnight, and had wonderful pastrami and mustard sandwiches the next day. You’ll love the results of the pastrami recipe.

If you try an abbreviated recipe, follow these warnings: (1) If the instructions on the package call for soaking in water, be sure to do so before proceeding with the rub and applying cure. (2) If cure #1 was not used, you won’t find nitrite on the list of ingredients. Be sure to calculate the proper amount and include it in the dry rub. Without the cure, it can’t be pastrami! (3) Note that a dry rub assumes that all ingredients are absorbed into the meat. For best results, re-pack the brisket and its rub in a plastic bag, and massage it several times daily for two to three days. If you use liquid, most of the cure will remain in the liquid, so make it a dry rub. (3)Dry for half an hour at 100 degrees F. Then go ahead and cook “low and slow,” 230 to 270 degrees F, until Internal Meat Temperature (IMT) reaches 200 to 204 degrees F. Yes, it sounds high compared with a normal roast. This is decidedly NOT a normal roast! You will experience a “stall” at around 140. This is normal. Just wait it out- –  it’s the water in the beef, evaporating. If you use a “Texas Crutch” to cook through the stall, be sure to open the foil for the last hour or so of cooking. Otherwise, there will be too much fluid. (4) Be sure to rest the meat for an hour before carving, so fluids can be reabsorbed.

Chorizo – New-World vs. Old World:

See the multi-page posting at for chorizos of the New World. This sausage type originated in Spain as a fermented, dried sausage. The peoples of Mexico, Central, and South America did not have the same ingredients available, nor the environmental conditions, so they substituted and innovated. Therefore, these sausages are either fresh sausages or cured-and-cooked smoked sausages. You can find regional preference notes and recipes in the above reference, as follows:

  • Tex/Mex (Chicano) recipe
  • Mexican recipes
  • Colombian récipe
  • Argentine récipes
  • Brazilian traditional & modern recipes

But it’s different in Spain. Chorizos are of the fermented, dried variety. To sample the chorizos of Spain, please see a really wonderful reference mentioned above, written by Jeffrey Weiss, titled “Charcutería, The Soul of Spain,” 460 pages, Surrey Books (Agate Publishing), 2014. Weiss takes us on a tour of pigsty after farmhouse, all across Spain’s many culinary regions, in great detail. We here in the US cannot obtain the acorn-fed pork that is jamón Ibérico, but now that you and I can ferment and cure our own sausages, we can imitate their wonderful chorizos.

…but honestly, it would be best to go there. Turkey and Spain, in particular, are delightful places with friendly people and wonderful food. They have vine-ripened vegetables and tree-ripened fruits and free-range pork (in Spain, anyway). What a concept! We seem to have lost that, here. Suggestion- –  seek out the fresh stuff, the special stuff, for your sausages and your table in general. You’ll be amazed at the difference.

I made some “Chorizo Riojano” using Weiss’s recipe, beginning 2/25/16. Here’s what my Chorizo looks like at “harvest,” 3/22/16. …no evidence of casechorizo riojano 3-22-16 hardening. They were covered with white mold, but I washed most of it off with water, then vinegar. You can see a bit of it remaining on the casing. It will be removed when the casing is peeled.

Unfortunately the circulating fan “salted up” and quit while I was away visiting CW, so I’ll blame him for any shortcomings. However, I can’t find any, other than too much weight loss. Both pairs of sausages lost 52% to 55% of their weight, which makes them plenty shelf-stable if you ask me.  (…but don’t- –  I vacuum packed and froze them.)

The taste is good- –  intense meat flavor and plenty of “zing” from the lactic acid, plus an unexpected bite from the paprika. (The Rioja province of Spain is known for its hearty red wines. …good chorizos, too.) Next time, I’ll try to catch it at 35% weight loss. These are a bit too dry. …but still tasty. This recipe is well worth doing again.
Onward to Next Chapter

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