Pastrami

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Slices of pastrami
Pastrami sandwich at the Carnegie Deli

Pastrami (Turkish: pastırma, Romanian: pastramă, Yiddish: פּאַסטראָמע pastróme) is a popular Jewish delicatessen meat usually made from beef, and sometimes from pork, mutton or turkey. The raw meat is brined, partially dried, seasoned with various herbs and spices, then smoked and steamed. In the United States, although beef plate is the traditional cut of meat for making pastrami, it is now common to see it made from beef brisket, beef round, and turkey. Like corned beef, pastrami was originally created as a way to preserve meat before modern refrigeration.

Etymology and origin[edit]

The word “pastrami” comes from the Turkish pastırma,[1][2][3] itself from the Greek "paston."[4][5][6] Some sources claim an intermediate etymology from Romanian a păstra, “to preserve”.[7]

Wind-dried beef had been made in Anatolia, modern Turkey, for centuries, since at least Byzantine times, when it was called "paston" in Byzantine Greek.[8][9][10][11][12] Culinary historian John Ash states, "Having inherited pastirma from the Byzantines, the Turks took it with them when they conquered Hungary and Romania."[13][14] Alternatively, Byzantine paston may have been introduced to Romanian culture even earlier, in medieval times, when Romanian speaking people were part of the Byzantine Empire. Similarly named cured meats (Armenian basturma, Albanian pastërma, Serbian pastrma, Greek pastourmás) are still common throughout the cuisines of the former Byzantine and Ottoman realms.

The specialty meat was introduced to the United States in a wave of Romanian Jewish immigration from Bessarabia and Romania in the second half of the 19th century, via the Yiddish: פּאַסטראָמע (pronounced pastróme). Early references in English used the spelling “pastrama”, closer to the Romanian original pastramă. The modified “pastrami” spelling was probably introduced in imitation of the American English salami.[15]

New York’s Sussman Volk is generally credited with producing the first pastrami sandwich in the US in 1887. Volk, a kosher butcher and New York immigrant from Lithuania, claimed he got the recipe from a Romanian friend in exchange for storing the friend’s luggage while the friend returned to Romania. According to his descendant, Patricia Volk, Volk prepared pastrami according to the recipe and served it on sandwiches out of his butcher shop. The sandwich was so popular that Volk converted the butcher shop into a restaurant to sell pastrami sandwiches.[16]

Romanian Jews immigrated to New York as early as 1872. Among Jewish Romanians, goose breasts were commonly made into pastrami because they were inexpensive. Beef navels were cheaper than goose meat in America, so the Romanian Jews in America adapted their recipe and began to make the cheaper beef pastrami.

The Oxford English Dictionary’s Etymology of pastrami, n.[17] quotes a 1914 advertisement from the Jewish Criterion (Pittsburgh)

Sardines and pimentos‥.Pastrami‥. Rye bread [etc.]

Preparation and serving[edit]

Pastrami pizza

Traditional New York pastrami is made from the navel end of the brisket.[18] It is cured in brine, coated with a mix of spices such as garlic, coriander, black pepper, paprika, cloves, allspice, and mustard seed,[19][20] and then smoked. Finally, the meat is steamed until the connective tissues within the meat break down into gelatin.

In North America, pastrami is typically sliced and served hot on rye bread, a classic New York deli sandwich (pastrami on rye), sometimes accompanied by coleslaw and Russian dressing. Pastrami and coleslaw are also combined in a Rachel sandwich, a variation of the popular Reuben sandwich that traditionally uses corned beef and sauerkraut.

In Los Angeles, classic pastrami sandwiches usually use hot pastrami right out of the steamer, sliced and layered on double-baked Jewish-style rye bread. Typically, the meat is served sliced very thinly, with some of the brine wetting the meat; traditionally accompanied by yellow mustard and pickles. At fast food stands, pastrami is typically served hot on a French roll. Pastrami may also be used as a topping on hamburgers.

Israeli Pastrami sandwich, made with pita bread, harissa, and roasted peppers

Greek immigrants to Salt Lake City in the early 1960s introduced a hamburger topped with pastrami and a special sauce. The pastrami burger has remained a staple of local burger chains in Utah.[21]

Variations[edit]

Turkey pastrami is made by processing turkey breast (pale pink) or thigh (dark pink) in a fashion similar to red-meat pastrami, in an effort to simulate the red-meat deli product.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd Edition, 2005, s.v. 'pastrami'
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Dicţionarul explicativ al limbii române, Entry for Pastramă
  4. ^ Smith, Bruce Kraig ; Andrew (2013). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Oxford University Press. ed. Retrieved 21 October 2014. "When the Ottomans settled in Istanbul they also adpoted a number of Byzantine dishes, one of which was a form of cured beef called paston and which the Turks called pastirma…It became and remains a specialty of Kayseri in Cappadocia in west central Turkey. When the Turks conquered Hungary and Romania, they brought pastirma with them where it became a specialty of the Jewish communities who call it pastrami, a staple in U.S. delicatessens." 
  5. ^ Anagnostakis, Ilias (2013). Flavours and Delights. Tastes and Pleasures of Ancient and Byzantine Cuisine. Armos. p. 81. "paston or tarichon…Cured meats were either eaten raw or cooked in pasto-mageireia with bulgur and greens, mainly cabbage." 
  6. ^ Underwood, Irina Petrosian ; David (2006). Armenian food : fact, fiction & folklore (2. ed. ed.). Bloomington, Ind.: Yerkir Pub. ISBN 9781411698659. "In Byzantine times, the city was called Caesarea Mazaca. There and throughout Byzantium, the technique called pastron was an accepted salt-curing tradition. Turks reintroduced pastron as pastirma." 
  7. ^ Pastrami. Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved 2 August 2012 from CollinsDictionary.com website: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/pastrami
  8. ^ Smith, Bruce Kraig ; Andrew (2013). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Oxford University Press. ed. Retrieved 21 October 2014. "When the Ottomans settled in Istanbul they also adpoted a number of Byzantine dishes, one of which was a form of cured beef called paston and which the Turks called pastirma…It became and remains a specialty of Kayseri in Cappadocia in west central Turkey. When the Turks conquered Hungary and Romania, they brought pastirma with them where it became a specialty of the Jewish communities who call it pastrami, a staple in U.S. delicatessens." 
  9. ^ Underwood, Irina Petrosian ; David (2006). Armenian food : fact, fiction & folklore (2. ed. ed.). Bloomington, Ind.: Yerkir Pub. ISBN 9781411698659. "In Byzantine times, the city was called Caesarea Mazaca. There and throughout Byzantium, the technique called paston was an accepted salt-curing tradition. Turks reintroduced paston as pastirma." 
  10. ^ Zubaida, Sami & Tapper, Richard. A Taste of Thyme. I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 1994, p. 35 & 39.
  11. ^ Wright, Clifford A. (1999). A Mediterranean feast : the story of the birth of celebrated cuisines of the Mediterranean, from the merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs : with more than 500 recipes. New York: William Morrow and Co. p. 742. ISBN 9780688153052. "Cheese, horek, and pastirma were all known to the Byzantines" 
  12. ^ Andrew Dalby, Siren Feasts, p. 109, 201
  13. ^ Ash, John (2006). A Byzantine journey ([2. ed.] ed.). London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks. ISBN 9781845113070. "Having inherited pastirma from the Byzantines, the Turks took it with them when they conquered Hungary and Romania," 
  14. ^ Sax, David (2009). Save the deli : in search of perfect pastrami, crusty rye, and the heart of Jewish delicatessen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 25. ISBN 9780151013845. "Its origins, which may date back as far as Byzantium, can be found in Turkey, where basturma was a form of pressing spiced meat." 
  15. ^ Harry G. Levine, "Pastrami Land, the Jewish Deli in New York City", Contexts, Summer 2007, p. 68
  16. ^ Henry Moscow, "The Book of New York Firsts", [2], p. 123
  17. ^ pastrami, n. Third edition, October 2008; online version November 2010
  18. ^ Gil Marks, "Encyclopedia of Jewish Food"
  19. ^ "Pastrami rub": seasoning for pastrami
  20. ^ Pastrami seasoning mix
  21. ^ Edge, John T. "Pastrami Meets the Patty in Utah" New York Times (July 28, 2009)
Further reading