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vicissitudes in the making of pastrami, by a hypochondriac neophyte

uriel529

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Hi y’all! My names’ Uriel and I’m new to the world of curing and smoking. During my first trip to NY (I’m Argentinian) I was so taken by the katz’s pastrami that I had to try make one of my own.

After some research (youtube, mostly gugga foods and binging with babish … because #millenial) I ventured into the making of pastrami.
Because I work a full-time job and I am still very much green with my Kamado (the only smoker-like grill/oven I own, as I live in an apartement), I decided to go with brine + sous vide + rubbing + finishing in Kamado.


So, I started by making a brine:
  • 3.7 liters of water, boiled
  • 409 gr salt
  • sugar, I forgot to annotate how mcuh…
  • 4 tablespoons (15ml) of pink curing salt
  • garlic powder
  • Coriander seeds
  • Mustard seed
  • Paprika
  • Bay leaves
  • Black peppercorns
  • Cinamon sticks
  • Ground ginger
  • Red chile flakes
First I Boiled the water, in which I dissolved the spices, then I cooled it down with 3.7 kg of ice, and to that I added 3 pieces of meat.


here be my main issues and questions I encountered:
  • because I felt it might need a bit more of pink curing salt, 1tablespoon or maybe 1 and a half, so, 75cm3-80cm3 of pink salt for 7.4 litres of water
  • the brisket does not exist as a meat cut here in argentina, therefore I had to use “tapa de asado” which would be the leaner part of a whole brisket.
    • I portioned 2 of these; it was around 4-5 kg for sure as a whole. one smaller, around 2 - 1.5 kg and the other around the remaining weight.
    • the first I took out of the brine at 4 / 5 days the brine was a liquid back then…
    • the remaining piece I had it rest for another week, a total of 11 days and a half. when i went to remove it from the brine, the brine had become slimy, much like a viscous substance
      • the smell of the brine was still nice, like pepper and cinnamon with salt.
      • the colour was darker but no blue or white
      • there was no visible bubbles of foam just small patches of a filmy substance, not unlike the one that appears over heated milk as it cools down.
      • the meat was not grey as I would have expected, but pink.
Obviously I freaked out. since I’m an hypochondriac as passionate of food hygiene as I am of food taste, I started looking around and read this might be ropey brine or the substances of the meat being extracted and replaced by the brine itself. that gave me peace of mind; so did the smell of the meat: it smelled much like the brine, of cinnamon and salt. would that be it?
as a precaution, I still rinsed it with vinegar and water, and then put it in a bath of water and ice to desalinate for 24 hrs. meanwhile, I found a new insecurity for my hypochondria to prey on : maybe it was too much curing salt! so I researched some more on curing salt and now I’m worried. in my country there is no distinction between n1 and n2 of curing salts. there is only one: n2 so, the salt has nitrite and nitrate.
Is this ok? I read n1 and n2 are not interchangeable and that “only number 1 should be used for wet curing” --> Is this true?
Is my brisket safe to eat? will I die from nitrate poisoning because of the amount the brine had?

yesterday, I bagged the brisket and cooked it for 10hrs at 82.2 degrees celcius, as the prior one I did at 61 C for 15 hrs and was not convinced with the results.
when it was done, I transferred the bag with its contents (the cooking liquid expelled from the brisket and the cooked brisket) to the fridge so it could rest the night and be smoked today at the evening.

today I will rub it using worchestiere sauce as a medium and smoking it at 100 C for 3 hours aprox.

the rub will be:

- salt
- sugar
- crushed coriander seeds
- crushed peppercorns
- paprika
- red chile flakes
- crispy onion flakes

any advice on the rub and smoking process with a kamado will be much appreciated.

this is an experiment to me, I have some knowledge of cooking and good enough instincts but I am very much a neophyte when it comes to smoking, brining and charcuterie.

Thank you all for stopping by and your guidance! I promise I will post photos!
 

SmokinEdge

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Welcome from Colorado.
The mixture of nitrite and nitrate is a interesting question. Do you know the percentage of each as it is in the curing salt mixture? For instance here in the states our cure #1 is 6.25% nitrite And 93.75% salt.
Lots of folks here brine with Morton tender quick, which contains both nitrite and nitrates, and they make corned beef and pastrami with no ill effect.
next, what temperature did you keep the brine at? The ropey brine mostly comes from the sugars and other impurities like spices in the brine. Your brine sounds fine that way. If the temperature of the brine was below 40 F then the nitrate does not break down. We need good bacteria cultures to break down nitrate and they are dormant in the 40’s and below F.
I wouldn’t get too concerned just yet. Tell us the make up in percentage of your curing salt.
 

uriel529

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Joined Sep 20, 2021
Welcome from Colorado.
The mixture of nitrite and nitrate is a interesting question. Do you know the percentage of each as it is in the curing salt mixture? For instance here in the states our cure #1 is 6.25% nitrite And 93.75% salt.
Lots of folks here brine with Morton tender quick, which contains both nitrite and nitrates, and they make corned beef and pastrami with no ill effect.
next, what temperature did you keep the brine at? The ropey brine mostly comes from the sugars and other impurities like spices in the brine. Your brine sounds fine that way. If the temperature of the brine was below 40 F then the nitrate does not break down. We need good bacteria cultures to break down nitrate and they are dormant in the 40’s and below F.
I wouldn’t get too concerned just yet. Tell us the make up in percentage of your curing salt.
Thank you so much!

the brine temp, I can attest it was cold enough that my hand hurt every-time I turned the brisket around. around 1-3 celcius (below 40f), except for the last day and the night prior when , I think, my girlfriend upped the temp of the refrigerator to 7-10 c because she had something to do with some seeds she's trying to grow. even then, I don't think the fridge temperature reached 10c.


the ratio of product is declared as "90% salt, 10% nitrite and nitrate"... that is as precise as specs will go in this country... seriously, the packaging doesn't even give percentages, I had to ask the vendor...

also, I just weighed the cooked meat with it's gelatines water and fat (essentially the bag with all the cooked brisket) and it weighed in around 2,400kg,
 

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SmokinEdge

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Ok Uriel, looking at the curing jar, I would say you are safe for the brine. Our cure is used at 0.25% your cure looks to be 0.30% per Kg. Our USDA allows maximum of 3.84 oz. per gallon of water, or about 4 Tablespoons heaped. We assume a 10% pick up, as does your cure saying “per 10% weight” so looks to be same process yours is just a little 0.05 more than ours. Just so you know, you don’t need to use near that much to achieve a good cure. You can successfully cure with 1/3 the amount suggested, or roughly 1 heaping Tablespoon per gallon of water. What you used, 4 Tablespoons for 2 gallons of water, is about half the amount allowed here by the USDA.
I say carry on, welcome again, and post up some pictures when done.

Most people here rub yellow mustard from a bottle and coat with course black pepper before smoking.
 

jcam222

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How much does 4 tablespoons of that cure weigh?
 

uriel529

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Ok Uriel, looking at the curing jar, I would say you are safe for the brine. Our cure is used at 0.25% your cure looks to be 0.30% per Kg. Our USDA allows maximum of 3.84 oz. per gallon of water, or about 4 Tablespoons heaped. We assume a 10% pick up, as does your cure saying “per 10% weight” so looks to be same process yours is just a little 0.05 more than ours. Just so you know, you don’t need to use near that much to achieve a good cure. You can successfully cure with 1/3 the amount suggested, or roughly 1 heaping Tablespoon per gallon of water. What you used, 4 Tablespoons for 2 gallons of water, is about half the amount allowed here by the USDA.
I say carry on, welcome again, and post up some pictures when done.

Most people here rub yellow mustard from a bottle and coat with course black pepper before smoking.
i used 6 tbsp on 2 gallons so I should be golden. Your knowledge has made my life so much more easy! Thank you!!!

Tommorrow I will rubb and smoke, photos will be posted as well

Also, even if I went above 4/gallon, I’d still be ok if I didnt eat the whole meat by myself, right? (To tell the truth I just might eat the whole thing by myself)

again, thank you so much
 

SmokinEdge

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i used 6 tbsp on 2 gallons so I should be golden. Your knowledge has made my life so much more easy! Thank you!!!

Tommorrow I will rubb and smoke, photos will be posted as well

Also, even if I went above 4/gallon, I’d still be ok if I didnt eat the whole meat by myself, right? (To tell the truth I just might eat the whole thing by myself)

again, thank you so much
Again just to say again on the cure amounts. You don’t need that much cure to successfully cure meat. Use caution to the lighter side. No need to push the limits.
 

uriel529

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Again just to say again on the cure amounts. You don’t need that much cure to successfully cure meat. Use caution to the lighter side. No need to push the limits.
I kinda realized afterwards the whole thing about the pink salt and the dangers of nitrates
 

smokerjim

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I'll add you shouldn't add cure to boiling water, wait until your brine cools then add cure.
 

kit s

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Hi y’all! My names’ Uriel and I’m new to the world of curing and smoking. During my first trip to NY (I’m Argentinian) I was so taken by the katz’s pastrami that I had to try make one of my own.
Hi Uriel
I use a quick tool for measuring out my cure amount.
I use this site (made by one of the members of this site) to calculate cure.
Season as you would but use site to calculate cure ratio.
There are a couple other sites posted here somewhere but not sure where.


The ratio will be the weight of meat plus the weight of water. Don't recommend changing any thing else. You do not have to add sugar if you don't want it, and well all else can be changed but again don't recommend it.
The two things I change is salt amount and sugar.
 

uriel529

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I come bearing photos!
Today was the fateful cookery of the meat in question.

I decided on a pretty filled up rub


I forwent the salt because hypertension and diminished the pepper because not everyone in my family stands the resulting spiciness
The base for the rub, thus, became crushed coriander seeds, mixed wirh pulverized crispy onion, some poppy seeds, as well as sugar, paprika
and garlic powder.

It came out a bit too tender, like seriously can’t be cut properly. Next time I will go with with a lower temp and time on the sous vide. C6AEDC2A-0F78-49A0-8DDD-7D8F56D5011D.jpeg 5B8C7E1A-FD2C-4E7F-AE48-D5707FB02AEC.jpeg 5A2476DF-FB7B-43CD-A58A-589C28AFBFC4.jpeg
 

SmokinEdge

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That looks delicious. A seriously sharp knife would be your friend. This makes a huge difference. Otherwise wise the final rub sounds delicious. Nice job.
Remember to slice against the grain of the meat.
 

uriel529

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Thanks, I can corroborate it tastes delicious as well 👏🏻
Thanks, I’m rather pleased with my outcome considering I’m new to this world
I swear I made a mark to make sure I knew which way the grain went, but then I forgot where it was (the same way I’m unsure about how many spoons of pink salt I used). I’m a very forgetful person 😂
 

SmokinEdge

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Thanks, I can corroborate it tastes delicious as well 👏🏻
Thanks, I’m rather pleased with my outcome considering I’m new to this world
I swear I made a mark to make sure I knew which way the grain went, but then I forgot where it was (the same way I’m unsure about how many spoons of pink salt I used). I’m a very forgetful person 😂
Uriel, you are doing great. Stay with it. This is a craft. It takes time to become comfortable with what you are doing, but this forum is a great place to be for direction and support. You will do fine, I’m sure of it.
 

uriel529

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Thank you so much for the warm words of encouragement and welcome, as well as all the help !
On my next endeavour I’ll go for smoked brisket alla texas style, as well as pork, either belly or ribs.

then I might try to make something like dry chorizo too (argentinian style) this is not a barbecue or a smoked meat but a charcuterie, and something I’m eager to try 👏🏻
 

forktender

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That looks outstanding, nice work brother Uriel.
Get in the habit of writing down every thing that you use in your recipes. It will be very helpful if you ever need to adjust, tweak or trouble shoot your method or recipe.

Keep up the good work.
Dan.👍👍👍
 

uriel529

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Thanks Dan!
I will, I’m the kind of cook that goes “by feel”… unless the recipe can become dangerous (like with ramen noodles, or this one). I did not know this thing was dangerous beforehand, and the recipies I researched did not specify either, something rather regrettable because, to those uninitiated and too eager (like me), the danger of not following suit exists.
What I take as a bottomline is that if I ever pass on a recipe that contains instruction o a dangerous ingredient, I’ll be conscientious enough to note it’s dangers and propper manipulation to the reader 🤷🏻‍♂️

worse yet, i didn’t even bother to write down how much I used because I thought it was an unimportant quantity to remember. Now I’m fretting over how many darn spoons I used. Were they 4? 4.5? 6? I’m sure i didn’t use 10 spoons, but I might’ve if i have had no common sense (or taste) whatsoever.

truth be told, on the upside of things, I’m taking all the time in the world to eat it 😂



How much does 4 tablespoons of that cure weigh?
1tbsp=18 gr/0.635 oz
 
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