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Pastrami (Romanian: pastramă, Yiddish: פּאַסטראָמע pastróme) is a popular 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.
The Romanian specialty 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. The modified “pastrami” spelling was probably introduced in imitation of the Italian salami.
New York’s Sussman Volk is generally credited with producing the first pastrami sandwich 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.
Romanian Jews emigrated 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.
|This section possibly contains original research. (September 2013)|
Traditional New York pastrami is made from the navel end of the brisket. It is cured in brine, coated with a mix of spices such as garlic, coriander, black pepper, paprika, cloves, allspice, and mustard seed, 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.
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.
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