In an effort to continue to find ways to eat a healthier diet, I decided to make my own pastrami. This way I could start out with what I like to call "happy cow" (humanely raised, grass-fed, organic, local and sustainable) beef. I could also skip the nitrates because I don't care if mine has an unnatural pink hue. What I care about is that it tastes good and that it is good for me.

To begin you take a beef brisket and you let it marinate for about 3 weeks in a brine that has brown sugar, salt, garlic, onions, bay leaves, and pickling spices. Here's what I used.

12 Cloves Garlic, sliced
1 Large Onion - Thinly sliced
3 Quarts Water
1 Cup Kosher Salt
2 Cups Brown Sugar
2 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Black Peppercorns
2 Tbsp Pickling Spices
4 Bay Leaves

Combine the water along with the rest of the ingredients in a large pot and heat and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Cool Completely. (You can speed up the process by heating 2 quarts of water initially and once the salt and sugar have dissolved, adding the last quart of water in the form of ice. This will help cool your brine down faster. Once it is cool, place your brisket in a large brining bag and pour in the brining liquid. Seal and place in the refrigerator for 3 weeks. Check on it occasionally and add additional water if necessary to ensure the meat stays completely covered.

Basically you have to make corned beef before you can make pastrami. If you want you can cut your brisket in half and enjoy one half at the corned beef stage and continue on with the second half to create pastrami. I opted to go all the way to pastrami with the whole thing. So after removing the brisket from it's three week long bath I dried it off and covered it with a dry rub. After reading many different versions, this is the combination I put together:

4 T Fresh Ground Coriander
4 T Fresh Ground Pepper
1 T Onion Powder
1 T Granulated Garlic
6 Cloves Minced Garlic
1.5 t  Fresh Ground Yellow Mustard seeds
2 T Kosher Salt
1/4 c Brown Sugar
2 T Paprika
1 T Ground Dried Ginger

I ground the ginger, mustard, pepper & coriander myself.

After removing the brisket from the brine, I rinsed it and dried it off with paper towels. Then I covered it with the rub and let it sit out on a drying rack until the surface looked shiny. This shiny film is known as a pellicle and it is important for the final step in this process to be most effective - that is the smoking. I smoked the brisket using a charcoal smoker and mesquite wood until it reached an internal temperature of between 165 and 170 degrees (about 8 hours). If you don't have a smoker you can rub the surface of the brisket with liquid smoke before adding the dry rub and then cook it in a low oven until the desired internal temperature is reached.

Then I let the meat rest and cool. I wrapped it in foil and placed it in the fridge overnight before slicing.

It may sound like a lot of work - but it really isn't. It's more a matter of time than anything. But believe me when I say that the results are worth it!


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