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traditional romanian pastramă

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 02 March 2010 at 14:38

traditional romanian pastramă is a cured, semi-dry smoked meat, historically made from sheep but also made from pork, beef or presumably any other animal that produces sizable cuts of meat - even geese! it is not to be confused with pastrami, which is cured and prepared in a very different way and has a very different flavour.

the time-life series, foods of the world," has this to say about pastramă:

Quote romanian pastramă sounds like but has little to do with, the meat known in the united states as pastrami, which is made of highly-spiced beef studded with black peppercorns, and is in fact an invention of the slavic jews. the romanian word pastramă...derives from the turkish; păstra in turkish [correction: romanian, not turkish] means "to keep" or as we would say, to preserve [or] cure....except for lamb, any meat used for pastramă is first heavily salted and then smoked. americans usually steam pastrami to cook it, but pastramă is simply grilled, as are many other meats in romania....

the origins of pastramă reach far back into history, when the ottoman empire ruled wallachia and moldavia for hundreds years. the occupying turks imported their own dried meat, called pastirma or basturma, which was made from slabs of beef slabs of beef rubbed in a spice paste and then air dried in high mountain curing houses. this method of preparation was eventually adapted by the local citizenry.

pastramă is traditionally made by employing a dry cure; this is achieved by rubbing a cut of meat with a seasoning mixture consisting of crushed black pepper, nutmeg, sweet red pepper, saltpeter, salt, sugar, crushed allspice and garlic. some forms also include cinnamon, ground cloves and ground coriander seed. the rub is applied consistently over several weeks as the pastramă cures, traditionally in the mountain air. once this process is complete, the pastramă is smoked for flavor and as an aid in preservation.

pastramă is traditionally served sliced very thinly, much the same as spanish serrano ham or italian prosciutto, or grilled as mentioned above. because it is well-preserved, it travels very well can can be employed in a number of ways.

research on pastramă included this interesting account in the 10 may 1921 publication of the wisconsin rapids daily tribune:

Quote an interesting personal experience was an invitation to dinner with a real roumanian family (in bucharest). what seemed to me a countless array of dishes containing most delectable dainties was arranged on a sideboard in the apartment where we were received. first came pastramă, small pieces of mutton grilled with zuika, a kind of native rum. this pastramă has a marvelous flavor. but a person eating it for the first time cannot swallow it. he chews it and chews it like a piece of american gum, first in one cheek and then in the other, without knowing what to do with it. it is an embarrassing situation, because the pastramă is served in the reception room and you are expected to talk while you are eating it. i received my portion in an unguarded moment while conversing with an enchanting girl in a pompadour. then we went into the dining room.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 March 2010 at 14:40
now, all we need is a traditional romanian recipe for this. if anyone has any romanian contacts and/or can find a recipe and method for pastramă (as opposed to pastrami), please post.
 
i would very much like to try this with deer!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote exploromania Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 March 2010 at 06:29

Hi there,

I’ll give you the traditional mutton pastrama recipe, but I have some comments first.

Reading this thread I realized that people need to learn more about Romanians (history, traditions, etc.), which is no one's fault except our own. Mostly, because we loooove to talk, but we really hate to write. And I don’t mean common people like me writing in a forum. I think at scientists who should step aside and show their work, not only to their small community, but the whole world. However, this is a genetically trouble of Romanian people, over 2000 year old. Yes, history evidence written by Romanians is lesser than what foreigners wrote about us. And unfortunately for us, they aren’t always correct.

So… 

Note: To not repeat myself, please go to my Romanian pastrami recipe page and read there about pastrama origins. You also can find there some different pastrama recipes than that what I’ll post here.

Quote traditional romanian pastramă is a cured, semi-dry smoked meat, hisorically made from sheep but also made from pork, beef or presumably any other animal that produces sizable cuts of meat.

Correction: historically made from mutton and veal/beef (Because people living this land 2000 year ago where sheep and cattle breeders. If they knew what to do with sheep, they certainly knew this could apply to cattle, too.) and traditionally made also from pork and goose (Because a recipe older than 170 years can be considered traditional.)
Quote it is not to be confused with pastrami, which is cured and prepared in a very different way and has a very different flavour.
 
Explanation: well, US pastrami is a confusion, itself. Why? Let’s take its history threat. But first you have to understand that pastrama it isn’t a meal. It’s a method of preparation, like the stew, grill, boiling, etc. The method consists in tendering and cleaning the meat by keeping it in salt for long time, then drying in the wind. Now, looking at mutton, veal, pork (this isn’t yet on my page, but it’ll be some day) and goose pastrama recipes it’s easy to see that they are pretty different (except, they are all salted and dried meat). And somehow this is normal, because of the different taste and texture of the meats. But looking at the veal pastrama I can tell you this is the oldest recipe. Why? Except the hot pepper (what I think it’s red pepper in English, only this kind of pepper is green in Romania, so, it’s difficult to call them red), all the other ingredients could be found on this land 2000 years ago. But people are creative and love different tastes. So, they added different kinds of spices. The only foreign spices used in all Romanian pastrama recipes are:
  • cinnamon what can be a Turkish influence, while they love it so much
  • paprika, a Hungarian influence and
  • allspice probably from Germans/Austrian people 

Please, don’t tell me that garlic is an Asian spice because I already know this. What you don’t know is that I use even today the wild garlic (known as bear’s garlic, too) in my meals. I love it and it’s everywhere in Romania. And scholars say it originates in Central and Eastern Europe.
 
When the pastrami launched in US those Jewish made their own recipe, on their own taste. Here come some differences. And, as much time their recipe has huge success, I really believe it was good. The trouble with the taste of today US pastrami is the industrial preparation.

Quote the romanian word pastramă...derives from the turkish; păstra in turkish means "to keep" or as we would say, to preserve [or] cure....
 
To keep = korumak in Turkish, to preserve = korumak in Turkish, to cure= tedavi in Turkish. If you don’t believe me just go and check at any online dictionary. None of this words are even close to “păstra”.

More, the “ă” letter and sound from Romanian language doesn’t exist in Turkish language. Some people say this sound has Slavic origins, others that originate in Dacian language. 

Quote pastramă is traditionally made by employing a dry cure; this is achieved by rubbing a cut of meat with a seasoning mixture consisting of crushed black pepper, nutmeg, sweet red pepper, saltpeter, salt, sugar, crushed allspice and garlic. some forms also include cinnamon, ground cloves and ground coriander seed.
 
Comment: Read the traditional Romanian recipes and you’ll see they use lesser ingredients. All adds are creative cooking ways of people, not traditional recipes.
 
Quote pastramă is traditionally served sliced very thinly, much the same as spanish serrano ham or italian prosciutto
 
Of course, because…
 
Quote a person eating it for the first time cannot swallow it. he chews it and chews it like a piece of american gum
 
The dried meat becomes somehow elastic. If you take a big piece of pastrama in your mouth, you simply can’t cut it with your teeth. That’s why we use to prepare pastrama from young meat, being much more tender.
 
Quote now, all we need is a traditional romanian recipe for this
 
Mutton pastrama recipe
 
I have to tell you I never tried this recipe. I have it from a shepherd from Piatra Craiului (King’s Stone) Mountains, Romania. But I found one later in a book with traditional recipes, pretty much the same.

The recipe measures are in spoons. Wooden spoons. A wooden spoon it’s about 1 ½ of a tablespoon. Well, shepherds craft themselves these spoons. So, they can differ from a shepherd to another.

Important note: Reduce the meal contact with metal and plastic as much as you can.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 young sheep (in one piece)
    coarse salt
    5 garlic loafs
    5 spoons of savory or thyme (dried and crushed)
    2 spoons of sweet paprika
    1 spoon of hot paprika
    1 spoon of black pepper powder
    1 spoon of basil (dried and crushed)
    1 spoon of crushed allspice
Wash the mutton and hang it for an hour to dry.

Prepare the rub. Crush the garlic gloves in a mortar (if you don’t have a wooden mortar, that made from glass it’s OK). Rub it to let its juice. Add all the other ingredients (except salt) and mix them. 

Take the mutton and make some incisions on the leg, where the meat layer is thick. Make them deep, to the bone and long enough to reduce the layer thick. Hardly rub the mutton with the prepared spices' mix. Do it vigorously on all surfaces, inclusive in every incision you made. Salt the whole surface with a thin layer of salt.

Now it turns difficult. How much salt? Too much will make the meat harder. Too little means your meat can spoil. That’s why our peasants/shepherds prepare the pastrama at low temperatures. It happens generally in mountains, or, in other areas (where the weather is warmer) they do it from late fall to early spring (except cold winter). So, how much? It’s a matter of experience. Sorry, this is what the shepherd answered me. This is what I tell you. The written recipe I found tells only about salt, but not a word about how much.

Roll the mutton with the fat outside and put it in a trough. Shepherds cover it with another trough, or a cotton towel and let it outside (at 6-8 Celsius degrees) for 3-4 days. If it’s colder (not less than 2-3 Celsius degrees), they reduce the time.  The mutton will let a juice. So, turn the whole surface of the meat through that juice once a day, and then roll it back.

When done, hang it in the wind for one day. Now it’s ready to eat/prepare. Don’t keep it in the fridge. We keep pastrama in the store.

Many shepherds don’t smoke the pastrama. They can preserve it until in spring by keeping it rolled in sealed with clay barrels. The best pastrama is that grilled in the first week after drying in the wind.

From all hardwoods, the shepherds use only oak to smoke the pastrama.

Quote i would very much like to try this with deer!

I know nothing about deer/venison. But I found a recipe in a Romanian book with venison recipes. It’s pretty much as veal pastrama, nor mutton pastrama.

Deer pastrama recipe

Ingredients:

  • 22 g salt
    2 g crashed black pepper
    1 g saltpeter
    2 g sugar
    5 g sweet paprika
    2 g coriander
    30 g crashed garlic

All quantities are for 1 kg of meat.

Cut the meat in 2-3 cm thick and 4-5 cm wide pieces. Let it as long as is given by the cut. Mix the spices and rub the meat with a part of them. Put the meat in a vase. Press it well. Sprinkle the rest of the spices on top. Cover it with a piece of wood and add a heavy stone over to keep them pressed. Put them this way at cold smoke for 2-3 days. If you use hot smoke, it needs about 3 hours. Serve it cold, in very tiny slices.
 
Well, this is all. Your call now! I’m really interested in your feed back. So, if you give it a try, please come back and post your experience.

Don't only travel in Romania, exploring is much better.
http://www.exploringromania.com
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 March 2010 at 07:01
hello, exploromania! and thank you for sharing your traditional recipes!Clap
 
we are glad to have someone here who knows the real facts about such things. as you can see, the information from reading books and "google" is no substitue for being there.
 
i look forward to trying these, and appreciate you posting them. we hope you come back often and are eager to learn more about romania!
 
for those of you wanting more detail and a few different recipes, please click here for exploromania's website:
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 November 2010 at 10:16
here are some additional notes i received on pastramă from our own Carmenuka:
 
Quote I know all about 'pastrama' or I wouldn't call myself a Romanian

PASTRÁMĂ, păstrămuri, Noun s/pl.   is mainly the meat from: sheep/goat/pig/goose, that is mutton/goat meat/pork/any poultry meat (most usually will be mutton/lamb meat), which has to be salted, smoked, dried, and strongly seasoned (pepper, paprika,thyme, pressed garlic, 1/2 cup of white wine. Can be either dried in the sun, but most usually marinated like this for a week before actually grilling it or anything else.(eg. baking, chopped and added to pizza, etc.)

Just as English has so many phrases, Romanian does too, Latin rooted it is a wonderful language spoken by wonderful people if I can say so myself.

So actually PASTRAMA is the name of thus prepared meet, but you can encounter the word in many collocation such as:

A tine la pastrama(keep someone in 'pastrama'), meaning keeping somebody in jail; or, a pune la pastrama( set it to 'pastrama', more or less), meaning kill somebody; or, a se face pastrama (even harder to translate, to transform into 'pastrama'), meaning lose a lot of weight...

So enjoy weather or not you decide to cook it any time soon and let me know if you liked it! 

Cheers,

Carmen

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 December 2011 at 12:03

Here's another historic entry from exploromania's website:

Quote Veal Pastramă
  • a whole veal, without bones
    course salt
    1 liter of red old wine
    15 tbsp saltpeter
    20 garlic loafs
    10 tbsp cumin powder
    5 dried hot peppers  

First of all, this is a traditional recipe that I never tried. I took it from an old Romanian cookbook (1841). In fact this is the first cookbook printed in Romania.

Second... yes, you red it right. It's about whole veal. As I know, the meat from a veal has to weigh about. So, you'll have to adjust everything to your needs.

Cut the meat in 3-5 cm thick pieces.

Give them plenty of salt and leave them in a trough for 8-10 days. Turn them upside-down 2-3 times a day.

Then wash the meat in three water and put it under press: one cotton towel at the bottom, then the meat pieces one next to the other, another towel, a wooden platter (or more, to cover them all) and a big heavy rock . Keep them this way for 24 hours.

Mix in the wine the saltpeter (Potassium nitrate), the cumin powder, the garlic (crushed ) and the hot peppers (made powder).

Rub the pastrami with this paste and then let it to take a good whiff for 2-3 days, in the trough. Turn it over and over again on both sides.

Drain it and place it in wind to dry well (for one day), then hung it in a dry and cool place.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 December 2011 at 13:01
I was finally able to make this, and provided what I hope is a thorough, complete tutorial on making your own pastramă.
 
anyone interested can check it out here:
 
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