Pastourma Takes Patience (παστουρμά)

On many occasions I’ve referred to the Greek eating experience as being centered around many sample plates of foods that are shared over drinks, conversation among family and friends. Greek cuisine has alot of appetizers, usually simply prepared but the array is great and the diversity even more so.

One facet of Greek appetizers or “the meze” is the use of delicatessen meats. I remember when I was young and my mom would prepare for an entire week to prepare mezedes for the onslaught of family and friends who would drop by our house on the occasion of my father’s nameday, St. Nicholas.

It’s very common to see salami and other cold cuts on offer at a buffet table or as part of an array of appetizers like cheeses, bread, toursi (pickled vegetables) and the usual dips (like Tzatziki).

I’ve always liked deli meats be it Greek or non-Greek but today and in the future, I’m going to showcase some of Greece’s deli and cured meats.

There’s Kavourma from northern Greece, the Cretan delicacy of Apaki, Louza from the Cycladic Islands, Siglino from down south Mani way and today’s feature, Pastourma.

From my readings, Pastourma comes from Armenian cuisine but it’s widely enjoyed by Turks, some Arab countries and of course, Greece.

Pastourma made it’s way to Greece through the migration of Greeks who once resided in Constantinople and Asia Minor. Some of the best Pastourma I had was when I visited Istanbul (Constantinople) a couple of years ago.

The Greeks of Asia Minor have left a permanent stamp on Greek cuisine and as many would agree, our cuisine is richer for it.

What’s Pastourma? It’s the grand-daddy of Pastrami. It used to be cured by frontier horsemen who would carry a type of Pastourma in their saddles during their long treks away from home. In essence, it’s a beef jerky but now will get into the nitty-gritty.

Pastourma, it is said was once made of camel meat but that could be either urban legend or a fact of days of yore. Today’s Pastourma is mostly made from different cuts of beef. For this recipe, I used an inside round cut of beef…lean, no silverskin and ideal size for some who wants to enjoy it with family and friends.

Pastourma takes about a month to salt cure and dry age to perfection. From my research, there are some quick-cure recipes out there but it appears the slow method garners the best results.

Pastourma is not for everybody. The crust is known as “tsimeni” or “trigonela” and it’s a paste that contains garlic and spices, the predominant one being fenugreek.

Personally, I love the aroma, the taste of Pastourma. For those not in the know, fenugreek is a spice used heavily in Orient and it’s derived from Methi leaves, which my Indian friends will attest to using in their dishes quite often.

Pastourma is best when it’s sliced thinly, it has that texture of prosciutto or bresaola, very tender and buttery kind of experience. In it’s rawest presentation, it’s served thinly sliced on a plate with some bread and cheese and washed back with an Ouzo or Tsipouro aperitif. I’ve also found dry Greek reds to pair well with Pastourma.

Pastourma also makes for a wonderful omelet, which often is served as a dinner option for those late night Greek meals.

The most famous use of Pastourma has to be Caesaria Pie, which contains a filling of pastourma slices, Kasseri chese and often tomato.

Pastourma can be found at Middle Eastern markets, some Greek food marts sell it, Armenian and Turkish patronized stores will also certainly carry it. If you’re in a city or town that is nowhere near any of these stores, no worries….the home version is here.

Once again, my core belief in food is sharing and I’ve held no recipe back and nor will I ever. I present to you Pastourma, the home-cured version…enjoy!

Pastourma (παστουρμά)
(recipe adapted from Mark Marcarian)
33 days preparation

1 piece of inside round beef (about 2 lbs)

approx. 1/4 cup sea salt (granulated)

3 Tbsp. of ground fenugreek
1/2 tsp. red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 tsp. of salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 Tbsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground allspice
3-4 cloves of minced garlic

approx. 1 cup of water

  1. Ask your butcher for an inside round cut of beef, lean and no silverskin. Rinse and pat-dry your meat and place in a container that will fit in your fridge. Using an upholstery needle, thread some butcher’s twine through one end of the meat and tie a knot so that you may later hang the meat for curing.
  2. Cover the the entire area of meat with sea salt and place in your vessel. Cover with plastic wrap and use either a brick or 2-3 cans of tomatoes to weigh/press down on the meat. Place in the fridge for 3 days and turn once each day.
  3. Upon completion of day 3, rinse the meat of the salt in cold water and allow it to then soak in cold water for an hour. Allow the water to drain off the meat (30 minutes) and press between some cloth towels to remove any remaining moisture.
  4. Wrap the meat with one layer of cheesecloth and hang in a cool, airy place to dry for 2 weeks. My Pastourma was hung to dry in a cool, dry cellar that was 15-18C and humidity of about 60-65%. Check on your Pastourma from time to time, you might get a slight foul smell but that’s okay…change the cheesecloth ( I did 3 times).
  5. After 2 weeks, remove the cheesecloth and rinse and pat dry. Now mix all the ingredients (except the water) for the Tsimeni in a large bowl. Slowly add the water a bit at a time while you mix the ingredients until a thick, gloopy paste has formed. You’ll use anywhere between 1/2 to almost 1 cup of water (the Tsimeni should be thick so that it adheres to the meat).
  6. Put on some gloves and slather the meat with your Tsimeni mixture. Take your Tsimeni-coated meat back to where you hung the meat and allow to cure for another 2 weeks. If you like (optional) the wet finish to Pastourma, you can make some extra Tsimeni and rub it all over the outside.
  7. After a total of approx. 33 days, your Pastourma is ready to be eaten. Cut the Pastourma in half and slice thinly against the grain from the inside towards the outer, tapering end of the meat. You may also refrigerate or freeze your Pastourma for future use. Wrap well in plastic wrap and that for 5 minutes to soften and go on and slice what you need before placing back in the freezer.
  8. Serve thin slices at room temperature as part of an appetizer plate with some cheese, some bread and an aperitif like Ouzo or a dry Greek red wine.

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© 2007-2009 Peter Minakis

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Peter Minakis

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59 Comments for “Pastourma Takes Patience (παστουρμά)”



You MADE this? I’m impressed. I don’t know why, but I always think of meat curing as kind of a lost art. Probably because the last folks I saw doing this were my grandparents. Actually, they made Italian Salami (kind of like soprasata). Anyway, your mezze meat looks terrific. I’m fascinated with how you described the texture. Ah, now I’ll need to taste this! YUM!



You are amazing Peter!! I am even lost for words! (for once in my life lol)
A great job you’ve done there, very clever indeedy.

Nina Timm


You are one dedicated son of a …..Greek mother!!! Wow, Peter you just never seize to amazed me with what you will come up next!!!

Mediterranean kiwi


i was once walking along evripidou st and the smell of pastrouma coming from a shop was so pungent, that i just had to stop and take it all in. good work on yours too!



Wow Peter! My admiration!!! What a hard and long preparation… preparing the snails is like a kids game compared to your Pastourma :D
Thanks so much for sharin such valuable info! By the way… very nice pictures chico :D



I love bastourma – I used to get it on pide at a Turkish place. So I am keen to try it! I should do it now while it is cold and dry in the garage. I thought fenugreek was the seed of the plant that also gives methi leaves.



I’m wholly impressed that you made your own pastourma. And that spice combination looks great! Tis the season to try this, non, with a cold root cellar it would be much easier to age safely.



Wow Peter, incredible. I have never tasted this and look forward to it. Looks incredible and I love home cured meats!



Im so impressed. This is something I would love to try and make. However I dont have a dry cellar. I wonder if CS would be mad if I used his mans room to cure this? ;-) Seriously, great post.



never heard of this, but I love a really good cut of pastrami (which is hard to find actually).
It looks like it tastes insanely good.



I am so impressed! Excellent and informative post.

I just picked up a Greek cookbook from the library and I can’t wait to try a bunch of the recipes.



the color on that is so vibrant and lovely. it sounds delicious… i’ve never had it but certainly want to give it a try!



OMG, my husband will love this very very much. To be honest with you, I am already discourage with the long process. I guess I am not there yet Peter.



This is one of the mezedes I don’t like personally but I know a lot of people who are crazy about pastourmas. BTW lountza is the Cypriot name and in the Cycladic Islands they call it louza.



Kudos on your diligenece here Peter. Very nicely done. My dad used to rbing pastourma home quite often when we were young.

Marc @ NoRecipes


Wow I’m so impressed Peter. Bravo!

I’ve always wanted to make my own cured meats, but given the size of my apartment I worry that the neighbors might complain about the smell… Maybe when I move back west.



In Russia, we used to have “Pastrama”. My father always went for a day trip to Odessa and brought us some home. It had this amazing crust on it as well…lots of black pepper and garlic. This reminds me a lot of that and takes me back!

History of Greek Food


I am very impressed!!!!
BTW, though usually considered Turkish, pastourmas is byzantine in origin. It’s Greek name is apokti and during Byzantine years was made with various meats, including pig, goat, wild goat, sheep, billy goat, even fish or cuttlefish. We are introduced to the word ‘pastourmas’ for the first time in the Narh Defteri, dated on 1624. The layer of tsemeni is an innovation of the past 150 years, however the simply salted pastourma (without tsemeni) is still found, under the name Roumeli pastirmasi.



I’m not so friend with pastourma, which I’ve tasted for first time this year at Christmas !
I was waiting so many years but was a little bit dissapointed… You think they all have the same taste ?



Peter, you brought back so many memories! My uncle’s tavern’s cellar at the village was practically a factory of pastourma, lokanika, etc., Of course I was too young to appreciate all this wonderful delicacies at the time. My husband has mastered his family’s recipe of lokanika and prepares at least 50 lbs every year for family and friends. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your recipe and your information.

Joan Nova


Very informative. i’ve had and continue to have my share of Greek food but this is the first time I heard about deli meats. I’m sure it’s delicious with some greek cheese drizzled with olive oil, a crusty bread, and a glass of wine. Oh, and olives!

LaDue & Crew


I am in heaven! What an amazing place you have here- I will definitely be a returning for more. I once was told to use fenugreek to cure a cough- I didn’t know it was a spice to cook with. Oh I so need some culinary education… more reason to return. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Choosy Beggar Tina


You KNEW I would love this post, Peter! Okay, so I’ve been working on Mike to let me cure (and hang) meat in the house for a few months now. I’m getting nowhere, and I really THOUGHT that this article of yours would be enough inspiration to push him over the edge into gracious acquiescence….but then you mentioned a ‘foul smell’, and such was the shattering of my dreams.

Your Pastourma looks fabulous!!

Bellini Valli


I applaud you for creating your own cured delicacy Peter. I did try something on Kea at Aglaia’s home but don’t recall what they called it. All I remember is the taste sensation and butteriness.



You know I’m going to have to make this Peter. After the dried sausage you did a while back, which was a huge success – no way am I NOT going to try this! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe.
I have one question: after you pack the meat in the paste, do you wrap it again in cheesecloth or just let it hang as is?



I am not familiar with this but I do love cured meats, pastrami and the like and am not put off by any spices thus far, so my guess is I’d love it! And I don’t know what it is but lately I want eggs … eggs eggs eggs so the omelette looks perfect!

Antonio Tahhan


I’ve been wanting to make my own bastirma for the longest time. Your awesome, Peter!! Have you ever tried bastirma in pita bread brushed with a tiny amount of mayo? I know it sounds weird, but that was my favorite growing up.



I love how practically every culture has its cured meat, invented by frontiersmen as a matter of necessity and now adored by gourmets. This looks like a must-have on a meze platter!

Laurie Constantino


Great post Peter! (Although that picture of the black pastourma looks a little scary to me – just proves I’m a wimp.) I’m impressed!


Hello Peter
I just saw the link to the Bastirma Recipe at Rosa’s Posting.
This is something I grew up eating in Lebanon. When we were
children, there was an old Armenia man with a big wicker basket ,
he used to walk in the neighborhood selling Chamani. The children
will be waiting for him to buy a scoop. Oh my Lord it was something
we look forward every Sunday after church.
Your recipe is very similar to mine, I also got it long time ago from an
Armenian Family. Never put it to test yet. Maybe its about time.

Thanks for your great post….

anna v


Your recipe differs from the one I have from my greek -Kappadocian grandmothers. You can find mine in .

The difference is in that after taking the meat out of the salt I put it in a “press” for two days or so, between cloths, increasing the pressure two or three times a day until the screws turn no more. Then the dehydrated pieces are hung floured in sweet paprica . The decision to unhang them comes when they have become wooden-like, tested by knocking. Then the spice bath includes a lot of garlic milled fine. The meat is left for a weak in the spice bath. Then it is hung again as in your recipe floured also with paprica.

This is the fifth year I am doing it. Last year I omitted the fenugreek because I was given some seeds instead of powder when I ordered it. It did not show in the taste because the garlic predominates.

I put it on the net because younger members of the family are not interested in making pastourmas and I did not want the recipe to disappear. No copyright. Happy to have it out there to inspire somebody.


Anna, thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your yiayia’s recipe for Pastourma. I too feel it is important to preserve and share the old ways of preparing our food. I will try some elements of your recipe the next time I make Pastourma.


Hello peter
I came over from Ozlem’s Turkish table and I found this absolutely fascinating. I have always wondered how pastırma was made – thank you for sharing.

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