Housemade Pastrami: brined, spiced, smoked

Pastrami on rye with mustard, a simple pleasure, no?

No, not really simple at all.

Saul's has been in business since 1985. Serving Deli in Berkeley. Early on, Saul's got pastrami from New York. It arrived in a plastic bag, and we steamed it to order. It traveled three thousand miles. In the 1990's Peter & Karen took over and we procured local, hormone free and antibiotic free meat but sent it to Los Angeles for curing.  Most, if not all of the New York Delis have partnerships like this with outside pastrami makers. Then, we started having trouble with supplies of this special arrangement.

Finally, we decided to bring pastrami production under our roof.

Now many permutations and decisions.

For the rub: Red or black? Definitely coriander, black pepper, paprika. What proportion each? Allspice, clove, garlic?

What kind of smoke and how much? Pastrami is a smoked meat after all. A whole generation is used to pastrami out of a plastic bag with only a distant hint of smoke.

Cut of meat? Navel or brisket. One is too fatty, the other too dry.  Strictly grass fed or corn finished?  Cow or steer meat?

About the brine: Pump and float or just float or just dry rub? Minimize nitrates and risk the perfect pink color?

We are aiming for a pastrami that is never too dry or fatty (although this is very subjective), peppery, spicy, smoky and essentially on the fatty side. Please remember that in every piece of pastrami, even assuming the most skilled slicing, there will be sublime to less sublime and then sublime again, in one piece. Hopefully you get a perfect combination of slices on a perfect pastrami day. If not let us know.

With so many variables it becomes a rather complicated and changeable process. We hope you will join us in this journey, still very new.  Your feedback is always welcome, especially written form and shared with love and positivity for the future of deli.

San Francisco Magazine Taste Test: Pastrami by the Pile