Corned venison is classic this time of year. Taking it a step further to make venison pastrami is even better. While the process takes a few days for the venison to brine, it isn’t very difficult.
Despite the name, there is no corn in corned venison. The term corn in this instance derives from the Old English definition where it meant “any small grain” and was commonly used to describe the coarse grained salts used to preserve the meat.
The process begins by submerging the venison in a liquid cure. My favorite recipe uses Instacure #1 as the cure, but many recipes call for Morton brand Tenderquick, either will work. Since the meat is cured, it will remain pink, even though it is cooked through.
Any cut of venison roast will work for the recipe; just trim most of the fat and silverskin before brining. If the roast is thick, I normally cut it into roughly a 2-inch thickness to allow the brine to penetrate. Goose or turkey breasts will also work well in this recipe.
Brine the venison in a plastic tub with a tight-fitting lid. Just make sure there is adequate room for the meat to fully submerge in the brining liquid. If the meat floats on the surface, weight it down with a plate or saucer so that it is completely submerged. Keep the meat refrigerated during the brining process. At the end of the five-day cure, rinse the venison well.
The corned venison can be used for any number of dishes at this point, venison hash is great, but to be true pastrami, it next needs to be smoked then steamed. Any style of smoker will work, from electrics like Masterbuilt, to pellet smokers from Traeger, or kamado styles like those from Grilldome. As long as you can keep the temperature between 225 and 250 degrees, you can make pastrami.
After the meat comes off the smoker, it needs to be steamed in the oven. To accomplish this step, simply rest a wire cooling rack over a pan full of water. Lay the smoked venison on the rack above the water and place into a 275 degree oven for 1.5 hours. After steaming, I use my Weston brand slicer to cut the pastrami against the grain.
For 4 to 5 pounds of meat use
2 quarts of water
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Instacure #1
1 cinnamon stick, broken
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger or ½ teaspoon dried powdered ginger
4 tablespoons cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon Monterey Steak seasoning
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
Mix all rub ingredients well
Place all ingredients for the brine into a large stock pot. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the brine to cool completely.
Place the meat into a plastic or glass container large enough to let the meat be completely immersed in the brining liquid. Pour the cooled brine over the meat, cover the container tightly and refrigerate for five days. Open the container and flip the meat daily so that everything brines evenly.
After five days, rinse the meat well under cold running water, pat dry and coat the meat with the dry rub.
Place the meat into a smoker set at 250 degrees over hickory smoke. Let the meat smoke until an internal temperature of 150 degrees is reached. Smoking times will vary according to the thickness of the meat and the consistency of the smoker temperatures. This is another case where an instant-read or remote meat thermometer comes in extremely handy. For most applications, smoking time will be from two to three and a half hours.
After the meat has smoked, it needs to be steamed before it can be labeled as traditional pastrami. Simply place a wire cooling rack over a baking dish filled with water. Place the pan on the center rack of a preheated 250 degree oven and spread the smoked meat evenly over the rack above the water.
Let the meat steam for one and a half hours. Once cooled, slice it, across the grain, with a sharp knife or a rotary slicer like the Weston Realtree Model. Stack it up for a Reuben sandwich, serve it alongside cabbage and potatoes or fold it up in a tortilla with some shredded cabbage, diced onion and pepperjack cheese for a dandy taco.
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