On a recent weekend, Venison Pastrami and Smoked Pork Belly became friends on the smoker together.
The Smoked Pork Belly has been detailed here. Now we share the Venison Pastrami (hint: it’s the one wrapped in bacon). The basics of preparing pastrami are fairly simple: brine a two to three inch thick slab of meat overnight, coat with pepper and coriander, then smoke at 250 degrees until desired internal temperature is reached. Typically, this is prepared with a cut of beef brisket with a thick fat layer to keep the meat moist during the process. Michael Ruhlman shares a nice, traditional preparation at his site.
In this preparation, we are using a venison tenderloin. Venison is naturally lean and the tenderloin is particularly so, which is why we wrapped the venison with Nueske’s bacon during the smoking process. But we’re two days ahead of ourselves. The process starts with the brine. Desiring to play up the earthy elements of the venison, rather than disguise them, we have used dark molasses as the sweet element. We have not used any curing salt in this preparation as our intention was to consume the entire amount upon completion.
Home-cured Venison Pastrami
3/4 cups Morton’s kosher salt
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup dark molasses
5 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat side of a knife
2 tablespoons pickling spice (Penzey’s)
1 venison tenderloin
3 strips bacon
1 tablespoon peppercorn, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon coriander seed, toasted and ground
In a large pot, combine 1/2 gallon of water with kosher salt, sugar, molasses, garlic and 2 tablespoons pickling spice. Bring to a simmer, stirring until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and add ½ gallon ice to chill mixture. Pour brine into non-reactive container, of sufficient size to hold the venison and then place venison in brine. It should remain submerged, weight if necessary.
After at least 12 hours, preferably 24 hours, remove brisket from brine and rinse thoroughly. Refrigerate it for another day uncovered. Prepare the smoker. Combine the pepper and coriander and coat the brisket. Add a small amount of olive oil to help the spices stick. Wrap with bacon. Smoke at 250 degrees for 2 hours.
Slice thinly to serve. We chilled the pastrami before slicing and served it on cabbage leaves dressed with black currants. Under the venison was a dollop of a mixture of brie whipped with a puree of onions and apple cooked in bacon fat, again adding fat back to the preparation. The smoke played with sweet, the cabbage adding a nice crunch.