Is pastrami made from beef or pork? This age-old question has been the subject of much debate among food enthusiasts and deli sandwich lovers. In this article, we will unveil the truth about pastrami’s origins.
For those seeking culinary clarity, pastrami is traditionally made from beef, particularly from the brisket cut. However, in some regions or variations, it may also be crafted using pork or other meats.
Stay tuned to find out more about this mouthwatering cured meat and satisfy your curiosity once and for all!
Etymology and Origin
The name “pastrami” is believed to have originated from the Turkish word “pastırma,” which is derived from the Turkish and Azerbaijani verb “bastırma,” meaning “to press” or “to cure.”
However, the roots of pastrami can also be traced back to Romania, where a similar product called “pastramă” was made with pork or mutton.
The early versions of pastrami were thinly sliced, cold-smoked, and cured meats. These meats were traditionally rubbed with a blend of spices, including coriander, pepper, and paprika.
Over time, pastrami evolved into the two main variations we know today: pork pastrami and beef pastrami.
Pork Pastrami: A Romanian Tradition
In Romania, pastrami was originally made with pork or mutton. The meat was cured and smoked to preserve it before the invention of refrigeration.
But, when Romanian Jews immigrated to the United States, they adapted their recipe to make use of the more readily available beef.
This shift from pork to beef resulted in the creation of the popular beef pastrami we know today.
Beef Pastrami: The Deli Favorite
Beef pastrami is the most common and widely recognized variation of pastrami.
It is typically made from beef brisket, although other cuts such as the deckle or navel may also be used.
The beef is first brined in a mixture of salt, sugar, black pepper, cloves, coriander, bay leaves, juniper berries, and dill. This brining process helps to infuse the meat with flavor and moisture.
After brining, the beef is coated with a spice mix, which often includes black pepper, coriander, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and sometimes fresh garlic. This spice coating gives beef pastrami its distinctive blackened appearance.
The meat is then smoked over hardwood, which adds a smoky flavor to the pastrami.
Finally, the beef is steamed until the connective tissues within the meat break down, resulting in a tender and juicy texture.
Pork Pastrami: A Lesser-Known Delight
While beef pastrami may be more widely consumed, pork pastrami still holds a special place in Romanian cuisine.
Pork pastrami is made using a similar process as beef pastrami, but with pork instead of beef.
The pork is brined, seasoned, and smoked, resulting in a flavorful and succulent meat.
Due to dietary restrictions and cultural preferences, pork pastrami is not as commonly found or recognized as its beef counterpart.
Key Differences: Flavor and Texture
One of the key differences between pork and beef pastrami lies in their flavor and texture.
Beef pastrami is known for its rich, robust flavor and tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture. The combination of the spice rub and the smoking process gives it a distinct smoky and peppery taste.
On the other hand, pork pastrami tends to have a milder flavor compared to beef pastrami. It may have notes of sweetness and tenderness due to the nature of pork.
But, pork pastrami can still offer a delightful eating experience, especially for those who prefer a lighter and more delicate taste.
Serving and Enjoying Pastrami
Regardless of whether you choose pork or beef pastrami, both variations can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.
The most iconic and popular method is to have pastrami on rye bread, often paired with a light smear of mustard. This classic combination showcases the flavor and texture of pastrami perfectly.
Pastrami can also be used as a versatile ingredient in various dishes. It can be sliced and added to salads, used as a filling for wraps or sandwiches, or even incorporated into pasta dishes for a unique twist.
The options are endless, and pastrami’s bold and savory taste can elevate any recipe.
In conclusion, pastrami is primarily made from beef, specifically beef brisket. However, pork pastrami is also a delicious and lesser-known variation that holds its own unique charm.
Whether you prefer the robust flavor of beef pastrami or the milder taste of pork pastrami, both options offer a delightful culinary experience.
Next time you visit a deli or decide to make your own pastrami-inspired dish, you can confidently choose between beef and pork pastrami, knowing the distinct characteristics and flavors each brings to the table.
Thanks for reading.