Pastourma Takes Patience (παστουρμά)

Jan 27th, 2009 | By | Category: Armenian, Beef, Charcuturie, Curing, Greek, How To, Recipe, Salt, Spices, Turkish

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)

Tsimeni
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
cheesecloth

  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.

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.blogspot.com then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.
© 2007-2009 Peter Minakis

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58 Comments to “Pastourma Takes Patience (παστουρμά)”

  1. RecipeGirl says:

    You continue to amaze me! Interesting stuff. You’re a wealth of knowledge.

  2. Paula says:

    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!

  3. Jan says:

    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.

  4. Nina Timm says:

    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!!!

  5. Rosa's Yummy Yums says:

    OMG, I LOVE dry meat! This Greek speciality looks delicious and so does your omelet!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  6. Rosa's Yummy Yums says:

    OMG, I LOVE dry meat! This Greek speciality looks delicious and so does your omelet!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  7. Rosa's Yummy Yums says:

    OMG, I LOVE dry meat! This Greek speciality looks delicious and so does your omelet!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  8. Rosa's Yummy Yums says:

    OMG, I LOVE dry meat! This Greek speciality looks delicious and so does your omelet!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  9. Rosa's Yummy Yums says:

    OMG, I LOVE dry meat! This Greek speciality looks delicious and so does your omelet!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  10. Rosa's Yummy Yums says:

    OMG, I LOVE dry meat! This Greek speciality looks delicious and so does your omelet!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  11. Mediterranean kiwi says:

    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!

  12. Happy cook says:

    wow i never thought they made this home. Just thought people always bought from the meat shop.

  13. Núria says:

    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

  14. Foodycat says:

    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.

  15. Julia says:

    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.

  16. Judy@nofearentertaining says:

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

  17. glamah16 says:

    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.

  18. Mary says:

    I love to visit here! I always leave knowing more than I did when I came in.

  19. Maryann says:

    I have my eye on that frittata :)

  20. Dawn says:

    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.

  21. kat says:

    Wow, home cured meat. If Matt sees this I’m afraid we’ll have one hanging in the basement soon.

  22. Pam says:

    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.

  23. Stacey Snacks says:

    I would like a pastrami w/ mustard on rye, please.
    I can’t believe you made this.
    You are the real DELI KING!

  24. Heather says:

    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!

  25. Anonymous says:

    ekseretikos mezes! dystyxws meta tin apolaysi, erxete k i myrwdia! xixi.. tin omeleta, tha tin fame..stin ygeia sou!

  26. Elra says:

    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.

  27. StickyGooeyCreamyChewy says:

    Curing your own meat! I am duly impressed! It is a beautiful thing, to be sure!

  28. Ivy says:

    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.

  29. maria says:

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

  30. diva says:

    wow, if i could do this in my own home, i’ll be in cured meat heaven :) just looking at this is making me hungry.

  31. Grace says:

    very cool, peter. i’ve never seen so much meat in one post. :)

  32. Marc @ NoRecipes says:

    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.

  33. Mila says:

    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!

  34. History of Greek Food says:

    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.

  35. MaryAthenes says:

    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 ?

  36. Georgia says:

    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.

  37. Helene says:

    This is something. I haven’t heard of pastourma before. What can’t you do in the kitchen Peter?

  38. Pam says:

    This is wonderful! I want to try something like this so bad, but I just don’t have the nerve!

  39. Joan Nova says:

    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!

  40. chuck says:

    Great informative post. Now I can go to bed because I learned something new today lol. Wonderful post thank you!

  41. Peter G says:

    I can’t believe you made this. Well done! Love it with the omelette!

  42. LaDue & Crew says:

    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!

  43. Choosy Beggar Tina says:

    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!!

  44. Bellini Valli says:

    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.

  45. Christine says:

    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?

  46. Nicole says:

    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!

  47. Kevin says:

    Curing your own meats sounds like fun and that certainly looks good!

  48. peter says:

    Very nice. I’m planning bresaola soon, but I’m intrigued by the stronger flavor profile here.

  49. Cynthia says:

    Can I come live with you? :D

  50. Antonio Tahhan says:

    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.

  51. Jeanne says:

    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!

  52. Laurie Constantino says:

    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!

  53. […] November 16th, 2009 Earlier this year I introduced you all to the pre-cursor of Pastrami – Pastourma. It’s an air-dried beef that’s flavoured by spices and lots of garlic and paprika. […]

  54. Rosa says:

    Thanks for the link! I will add it to my post!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  55. Arlette says:

    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….

  56. anna v says:

    Your recipe differs from the one I have from my greek -Kappadocian grandmothers. You can find mine in http://www.sintagespareas.gr/sintages/pastourmas-tis-theias-doras.html .

    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.

  57. Vicky says:

    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.
    Vicky

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